Banshee, Ep. 3.01: “The Fire Trials” – shots (and arrows) fired in strong season premiere

Banshee3.01

Banshee, Season 3: Episode 1 – “The Fire Trials”
Written by Jonathan Tropper
Directed by Loni Peristere
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax

Amid a full and explosive season three premiere that heavily features Chayton’s (Geno Segers) return to and influence on his Kinaho tribe, it’s a quiet exchange between father and daughter that sticks out to me:

“You came here for her.”
“I stayed for you.”

At this point, the man we know as Lucas Hood looks and acts the part. He is the sheriff of Banshee. He didn’t get the girl. He didn’t get the big score. But what he’s found in the post-Rabbit era of this story is that he belongs here more than he does anywhere else. Why not just leave and test that theory? Deva. Staying for her isn’t just a stab at fatherhood (no pun intended, but it’s too easy with a name like Hood) for the sheriff. It’s also a matter of guiding his legacy. There’s a time limit for a guy who is pretending to be someone who is dead. When Banshee is all said and done, Hood is probably killed or somewhere he can’t be around the people he loves, because protecting them and himself is too difficult to sustain over a lifetime of inevitable crime (more on that regarding Carrie later). What he can do while he’s here is embrace what’s in front of him–a daughter who is destined to carry on part of him to some extent. It can be seen and heard when he decides to show Deva how to case and rob a place instead of slapping her on the wrist and taking her home. Hood isn’t a cultured, learned man who can teach Deva about history or literature or sociology. He’s a thief, and he’s damn good at it. If that is something he can impart to Deva, then maybe coming back to find Ana won’t have been for nothing by the time he has to leave, willingly or otherwise.

This idea of choosing one’s own legacy defines Chayton as well (welcome back, Geno Segers; I’d like to think I watch a lot of TV and that it’s somewhat meaningful when I call Chayton the most imposing force in any show right now). There’s no taking back the lands of the Kinaho. That ship sailed centuries ago when the colonists landed and went full-on Manifest Destiny. What Chayton wants to show his people, though, is that they’re all able to use the little time they have on this earth to make a difference. Take something back. Anything. At some point, a line must be drawn, and “The Fire Trials” is Chayton doing just that. Something I’ve always loved about Banshee, even when I was trying to get into its groove in the first few episodes, is that its “villains” defy one-dimensionality. You need to rigidly define what you mean by “antagonist” and “antihero” and “bad guy” before you look at people like Kai Proctor and Chayon Littlestone. In the same way I think this show could completely pivot around Rebecca as the singular viewpoint character (but I’m glad it doesn’t, because this cast is superb), these other characters who stand in Hood’s way are interesting and nuanced enough to warrant their own episodes entirely. We watch and we understand Chayton’s motivations. More than that, they’re kind of admirable in a certain light. The carrying out of his beliefs might irk some people, but take a step back and consider that the opening of this whole season is our heroes executing a guy. Granted, I doubt many people sympathize with a neo-nazi, but it’s hard to root against Proctor or Chayton when Hood and the Banshee SD aren’t exactly model protagonists. How far all of these characters are willing to go will be one of the most important aspects of watching this season of Banshee in terms of gauging its moral compass.

In the meantime, helplessly sit back and watch the disintegration of Carrie Hopewell. Carrie spent the first part of last season behind bars as her life fell apart. Well…things haven’t improved much, shall we say? Hood calls himself Carrie’s only friend, and by the way everyone treats her in “The Fire Trials,” it’s hard to see it any other way. The saddest part is not the emptiness she feels by having meaningless sex with her guy, to me. What’s harder to watch, in a beautifully directed sequence by returnee Loni Peristere, is Carrie carrying out her robberies. The cutting between Carrie and Deva hammers home those ideas of legacy (and genetics, I suppose), but seeing Carrie go through the motions is like watching Gordon getting drunk. It’s a numbing process. Note that we don’t even see how Carrie uses the money she gets, because it probably doesn’t even matter to her. This is just her way of killing time by taking part in something she could do with her eyes closed (the irony is not lost that watching TV, for many people, is a similarly mindless event; luckily, anyone reading this does not fall into that category). If the events of “The Fire Trials” are more concerned with other characters, I think the heart of the episode belongs to Carrie. Ivana Milicevic has been outstanding since this series began, but that shift in tone from Carrie joking to Hood about lecturing her to admitting just how shitty her life has become shows a real talent at work. For the viewers’ sake, though, let’s hope Carrie’s fortunes start turning around.

– Sean Colletti

Bullet Points and Tears:

– Welcome Afton Williamson (does not appear) and Langley Kirkwood (Colonel Stowe) to the main cast.

– Some thoughts on the Lotus couple: 1) Brock is the only one who seems fazed by the execution, but he did shoot first…like Han Solo, 2) check out this season’s Banshee Origins to see some more of his now ex-wife Emily, who drinks Jameson (I always considered Banshee a bourbon kind of show or at least a single malt one), 3) his drunk speech to Emmett’s grave would have been hokey under different circumstances, but I think most of us have had chats with ourselves a few drinks in and 4) Tanya Clarke makes an immediate impression with the delivery of “Then make me okay.”

– Stepping into Emmett’s shoes will be no small task for Billy Raven, who is also Kinaho and has no idea how to operate a phone. Brock lets him know what’s up, though: “Functioning. That’s us.”

– Here we go, playing this game again. I’m still not saying anything about Kai and Rebecca’s relationship definitively until I see something happen on the screen…even if they do sleep together…naked. Burton knows to knock first.

– I’ve always thought Banshee‘s closest contemporary in style is Arrow (Randy and I even wrote a piece about it), so you can imagine how I felt watching Chayton pull out the bow. Thus begins a season full of ridiculously good action set pieces.

– Nola is back, which also brings happiness to my life, because Odette Annable belongs here. Also refer to Banshee Origins to see an earlier meeting between Nola and Chayton.

– Defending the gaze: when I re-watched Spartacus with one of my friends a couple years ago, I felt like I had to defend its gaze through all the supposedly gratuitous nudity. Being a Cinemax series, Banshee receives similar criticism. So, each week (or whenever an episode calls for it), I think it’s important to look at how Banshee portrays the female body. The only times in which we get shots of naked women without seeing their faces are in the strip joint (which is understandable) and at the beginning of Carrie’s sex scene. With the latter, I think avoiding her face and focusing on her body is extremely important because of how it communicates her complete detachment. This is purely a carnal thing for her at this point because of how empty she is, so hats off to Peristere again.

– Following that sex sequence, by the way, we keep cutting between Carrie and Hood to show how different their lives are. The finishing touch: Carrie is the one serving eggs to others and Hood is the one being served by someone else (even though he doesn’t eat Sugar’s eggs; shame on him).

– Welcome back to Sound On Sight’s weekly coverage of Banshee. I’m unbelievably excited to announce that I’ll be co-hosting a podcast with Les Chappell, “Under the Hood,” as we dive into these season three episodes. Expect those to go up either Sunday evenings or Monday mornings following the Friday airings. If you follow me on Twitter, I will post links. If not, check back here at Sound On Sight. Les, who also writes for Sound On Sight, is reviewing Banshee over at The AV Club (his review of this episode is here). What this means for my written reviews is that they’ll be slightly less comprehensive than last year, since I want to hold some stuff for the podcast episodes (you don’t want to be hearing me say the same things I write about). So, expect these to focus on just a few key things each week. As a behind-the-scenes note for these, because I live on the west coast, I don’t get to see Banshee until 10 pm PST. Thus, written reviews won’t be available here until very late on Friday evenings or sometime Saturday mornings unless I’m able to get screeners. Thanks for your patience. As always, we encourage conversation here, so feel free to leave some thoughts or feedback. Cheers.




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