Banshee, Season 2: Episode 3 – “The Warrior Class”
Written by Evan Dunsky
Directed by OC Madsen
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax
Last week’s episode of Banshee showed an unusually high interest in and appreciation of the series’ central female characters, finally fleshing out Siobhan to a degree that most television series can’t seem to execute even over the space of an entire season (Rachel on Justified is the most egregious example of this). “The Warrior Class” has Banshee returning to, again, take the time to develop some of the aspects of the story that have been largely looked over in favor of high-octane action pieces. In this case, the rivalry between the native Kinaho tribe and the Amish presence in Banshee provides a framework in which the main characters do their normal things (Hood still gets to punch people, and that’s all we really care about, right?). A less intelligent version of this show – the kind of show it was at the beginning of its first season – wouldn’t bother coming back to some of these concepts in this kind of depth. It would only use them to wring out extra story. What “The Warrior Class” does, though, is create a more clear image of Banshee than other city-centric series like Sons of Anarchy or Justified do. We get more scenes with everyday citizens here than we do in either Charming or Harlan, and – way, way more importantly – we also see some of the effects of the main characters’ actions have on their hometown. Considering how isolated Banshee is geographically, this only makes sense. But it’s amazing how rarely the history of an area gets useful characterization.
Again, from the first minute, “The Warrior Class” continues season two’s quality streak. Hood pays Anatasia a visit in jail and before he leaves, she thanks him – she never went to visit him after he got caught, and he certainly doesn’t need to be reminded of that. OC Madsen’s directorial work is fantastic throughout the episode at capturing characters’ emotions and thoughts, in this case lingering on Hood as he stares out the window out nothing while trying to find the right response to his once-upon-a-time lover. Picking up from last week’s impressive montages, Madsen closes the episode by shifting between Ana, Hood/Siobhan and Gordon. This is the only straightforwardly Cinemax kind of scene on paper, but Madsen classes it up entirely and gives it complete emotional weight and depth of character. The Gordon/Ana relationship is something we’re much less interested in than what’s going in Ana’s head, but it still serves as a strong reminder that Banshee is making its characters somewhat accountable this season. There’s still no making sense of how these people still have their jobs or their lives, but Banshee isn’t a show that concerns itself with reality to that degree and, thus, it shouldn’t be judged in that way.
“The Warrior Class” is overloaded with material that sets up threads for the rest of the season. Jason, the real Lucas Hood’s son, drops by to pay faux-Hood a visit. Chayton gets introduced as another larger-than-life bad guy that Hood’s going to eventually have to take down single-handed (the four members of the Banshee Police Department barely manage to subdue him together). Hood and Siobhan consummate their..whatever kind of relationship you want to call it. And Proctor gets thrown back into his familial past, caught between a rock and a hard place of pride and necessity. It’s almost too much to take in all at once, but each moment of the episode feels like it’s serving some kind of purpose. Spartacus, the precedent to Banshee in countless ways, wasn’t even able to get that high of a percentage of scenes to work at this stage in its run.
Of all the aforementioned threads, the Chayton fight is easily the one I’m most looking forward to seeing on the screen. However, Proctor’s story is going to be the thing that has the capability of elevating this season to peak values. His relationship with his Amish heritage, as we’ve always known, is troubled. But we’ve never see this amount of internal conflict in the man. His soft spot for his niece has mostly been the thing that’s humanized him, but Proctor essentially protecting his family’s people – simply by being in the right place at the right time, though it may be – is a highlight of “The Warrior Class,” and it’s joined by probably the highlight, which is seeing Proctor’s mother interact with him in spite of her husband’s firm stance of opposition. Banshee has almost always been the show that uses its fight scenes as centerpieces, and while the Chayton fight is absolutely fantastic in that way that only this series can pull off, I came away from the episode feeling like it had done right by Proctor. That says a whole lot about the maturity of the writing that it can shift the focus to the more subtle of interests and can turn what is initially a total caricature into an entity possessing wonderful depth while holding on to the entertaining aspects of that caricature.
I’m less confident that things will work out with Hood and Siobhan, even though that pairing is interesting in terms of how those personalities complement each other. And Jason doesn’t feel like he has much of a place in this series at this moment. But until Banshee screws that stuff up, it has earned its goodwill. In fact, the jump in quality of this series is so remarkable that I just don’t understand why more people aren’t talking about the show. I may be seeing things that aren’t there and that Banshee is so tuned in to what made Spartacus so good might be causing me to see things that aren’t there. But there’s nothing else on television that I am watching at the moment that has such a total understanding of what it is and how to execute episodes on that basis for what is now three weeks in a row.
– Sean Colletti