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Banshee, Ep. 2.01: “Little Fish” opens the season with precision

Banshee, Ep. 2.01: “Little Fish” opens the season with precision

Banshee - 2.01

Banshee, Season 2: Episode 1 – “Little Fish”
Written by Jonathan Tropper
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax

“You’ve taken this sheriff thing about as far as it should have gone. Sooner or later, someone’s going to figure out who you are. Or at least who you are not.”
“The thing is…he’s all I had. I leave here…I don’t know, I feel like I’ll disappear or something.”

The “he” that our main character had is Lucas Hood, a dead sheriff whose identity has been taken by the ex-con/conman anti-hero of Banshee. Lucas Hood joins several other recent television leads who go by names that don’t belong to them – the Jennings couple on The Americans and Spartacus from the Starz series of the same name. It’s an easy way to inject an identity crisis aspect to a narrative, but that ease doesn’t make it any less interesting. What makes characters uninteresting, especially in an action series like Banshee, is writing that ignores them as people. Banshee, which is Cinemax’s first original production on their own, began its story last year as just that – an action series that didn’t show much interest in the people who were a part of it. Then, as the first season progressed, mystery turned from distraction to intrigue and caricature turned from trivial to essential. Even if the characters in this series don’t reach beyond the tropes they stem from, they’re all a part of the cog that makes Banshee run so well, at least since the back half of its first season. So, when “Little Fish” begins and you get a huge portion of the episode devoted to doing right by those characters and the events they faced last year rather than piling on action and sex scenes, a sigh of relief runs through you if you were one of the people who actually got around to seeing Banshee and accepting it on its own terms.

Most of the first twenty minutes of “Little Fish” is rehashing the showdown with Rabbit from the first season finale and doling out the consequences for those characters who took part in it. Zeljko Ivanek (Oz) steps in as Racine, who is living out his ninth life in the later stages of cancer and hoping to bring down Rabbit before he bites the dust. Ivanek fits into this world perfectly, and it’s a testament to the casting department that they’re able to bring in another character to an already-full cast who feels like he’s always been a part of the show. This first half is heavy on the flashbacks, but whereas many of those scenes that are alluded to were played as heightened, emotional action pieces, they occur in “Little Fish” as more heavy, darker versions of themselves as if these people were genuinely affected by what went down (as they should be). Finally, when we do get a more familiar Banshee kind of sequence in which Hood, Job and Anastasia rob an armored truck, it feels much more earned and not superfluous after all the quieter scenes that take place before it.

Banshee faces an uphill battle for anyone new who comes to it, I think. I don’t leave myself out of that, since I dropped the show after its pilot and didn’t come back to it until several weeks later by chance. It’s not a story in which you would expect to find real characters and compelling situations in which they interact. But at this point, people like Hood and Proctor feel more at home with opposing forces like Raylan and Boyd on Justified. There’s a long way to go before Banshee ever reaches that level of mature writing, but it’s already a show that’s much more fun to watch than Justified was in just one season. And given that “Little Fish” does the smart thing by reigning in all the ridiculousness that made the earlier, more pulpy version of the show hard(er) to like, that can only be a good sign.

– Sean Colletti