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Banshee, Ep. 3.02: Perceptions matter in “Snakes and Whatnot”

Banshee, Ep. 3.02: Perceptions matter in “Snakes and Whatnot”


Banshee, Season 3: Episode 2 – “Snakes and Whatnot”
Written by Halley Gross
Directed by Loni Peristere
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax

If last week’s season three premiere suggested the importance of legacy in Banshee, “Snakes and Whatnot” is the companion piece that shows how one’s legacy can be controlled by perception. It’s said that history is written by the victors, and several characters here–Rebecca, Chayton and Nola chief among them–want to make sure that they’re both taken seriously and come out on top.

Nola’s naturally callous demeanor, while one of her most entertaining qualities from a viewer’s perspective, made it hard to gauge how much she cared about her brother Alex. She was there offering curt advice when he was slipping up, but her return to Banshee shows how deep sibling love goes and how it’s easy to be taken for granted. It’s not at all surprising to see her stand (and look) up to Chayton, who is just the next headstrong Kinaho leader to her. She’s proven that she gives no shits and is as lethal as anyone else in the world of Banshee. What’s mildly surprising is that her motivations so clearly revolve around her autonomy as the revenge-seeker. She is Kinaho, of course. But she’s also a Longshadow. Even if Chayton is capable of killing the ones responsible for Alex’s death, that’s not enough for Nola, because it gives the Longshadow name a negative notch in its history by Nola not being the avenger. The legacy of the Longshadows as power players within the Kinaho died with Alex. I don’t think Nola has any interest whatsoever in taking over or taking part in Chayton’s crusade. She does, though, want to maintain the perception that her bloodline is worthy and not subservient. What makes all this mildly surprising, to get back to that point, is that a character like Nola doesn’t exactly need any motivation beyond an eye for an eye to have an excuse to be here. That pride and self-consciousness push her into much more interesting territory, allowing her to appear just vain enough to be sympathetic and relatable (as if she needs that for audiences to love her; that scene in the diner with Carrie pretty much takes care of it for the rest of the series).

Chayton, Nola’s point of contrast, also deeply cares about the ways in which he’s perceived. It’s enough to be the best warrior and have convincing ways of saying things to keep his underlings in check, but when Nola shows up and challenges his place here, he immediately distances himself from everything Alex represented. That’s not who Chayton is, and it’s important that everyone knows it. This is, after all, how politics work. In the coming elections, you’ll see how candidates define themselves in opposition to what’s come before. It’s a despicable game of shattering the perceptions of forbears and competitors while bolstering one’s own perception. In that sense, Chayton proves himself to be a fit leader. Even if he makes the same mistake of underestimating Proctor by wasting two goons on a botched home invasion (admittedly, this also could have been done totally on purpose simply to send a message), he knows how to use his influence and which steps to take to ensure he has a place in this race for control over Banshee. Chayton’s not simply a thug or an imposing force worth a good brawl. Those were Hood’s former obstacles. This one is much more deserving of the build-up and the time spent on him, which is why making Chayton a series regular was a necessary move. That he does care about bigger things, such as how the rest of the splintered communities of the show’s world see the Kinaho, helps move him from a Boss Battle kind of role to a rival or arch-rival one.

Rebecca, too, gets caught up on perception, and it ends up getting the better of her (kind of) in “Snakes and Whatnot”. Banshee is quick to remind us that Rebecca is still young and, even though she’s made tons of progress as Kai’s protege, she’s utterly fallible. In a rash, emotional move, she pulls the trigger on the Cage son for insulting her uncle by describing how the rest of the world perceives him outside of the Banshee community. Kai seems like he wouldn’t really care about this as long as his businesses were functioning and he was carrying out his goals within the town. But Rebecca doesn’t want to be seen as weak or inbred or any other kind of mud that the city boys could sling. She’s too impulsive, still too immature…and yet she turns that uncontrollable passion into a show of assurance by looking directly at Kai as she finishes off the Cage boy. Someone could certainly make the case that Rebecca not looking her victim in the eyes as he’s killed says something about her lack of strength, but the way that Peristere shoots the sequence and the facial expressions of Lili Simmons more convincingly argue that Rebecca is even stronger than the rest of us thought. I’d hate to belabor a point, but it’s just dumb how thoroughly Simmons has immersed herself in this role. You could point to more veteran actors in more meaningful scenes in previous episodes of Banshee, but seeing Rebecca’s arc (even as she hasn’t completely transformed into someone else; Hood approaching her at the Proctor residence to see if she’s okay and her silence remind us of who she was a couple seasons ago) is beyond satisfying because of how perfectly Simmons plays each aspect of the character–cocky, terrified, embarrassed, innocent. I have to assume that working next to Ulrich Thomsen has a lot to do with it, since he’s turned Proctor into the show’s most complicated character, but it’s sill so impressive to see.

And, again, that brings us back to perception, which is something crucial to Banshee as a series. In the same way that these characters (and other ones) guide the perceptions of others through their actions, this series has firmly put its foot down in opposition to those who consider(ed) it a pulp romp. It certainly embraces its genre roots and qualities, but Banshee established its own legacy by making sure there is no way to look at it simply as escapist entertainment. Like the characters that inhabit it, the show is much, much more.

– Sean Colletti

Bullet Points and Tears:

– Just as a reminder, Sound On Sight is now doing a weekly Banshee podcast, co-hosted by Les Chappell and myself. The first episode of Under the Hood can be found here. The second episode, which will cover “Snakes and Whatnot,” will be published either Sunday night or Monday morning.

– Gordon is such a mess. And Rus Blackwell plays him so well. As touching as everything having to do with Kai and his mother is, the tear-jerking moment of the episode is seeing Gordon put up Deva and Max’s pictures after cutting ties with his escort. How Peristere moves the shot from a diagonal angle to one looking more head-on at the pictures is icing on that cake.

– How about that new intro.? At the LA screening of this episode that I was fortunate enough to be able to go to, Jonathan Tropper said that this episode in particular called for the change. So, don’t expect a new one each week, but be glad that the crew is recognizing all the little changes that can be made to enhance the whole Banshee experience.

– Kurt Bunker, who is seen here applying for the job that Billy Raven already got, is another character battling with his past (and, in case I didn’t use the word enough in this review) and how others perceive him. He’s obviously got a story this season, and this tease is almost as good as that cliffhanger.

– Speaking of that, holy shit, that cliffhanger!

– Great, great decision to make that parallel between the Amish’s attitudes towards modern medicine and other religions that have similar stances. Banshee is always respectful with these kinds of things, which is a feat in and of itself considering how many different minorities are represented in the series.

– “We can’t just go to the reservation.” Billy’s going to realize he’s on a steep learning curve when it comes to Hood.

Defending the Gaze: So, Chayton has a threesome with two Kinaho women. I don’t know if there’s much to defend here, since the ritualistic aspect of the whole thing separates it from a typical sex scene. But to go that extra step, how the episode paces the  action, climax and resolution of the attack on Rebecca with the sex is perfect. You even get the sense of one of the Kinaho women drowning in the same way that Rebecca almost does.

– And another solid scene for Ryann Shane as Deva, who is just trying to connect with her dad. This is something Hood’s going to really have to think about and deal with, because as much as he wants to protect Deva, I don’t know if it’s worth alienating her. This is a time in her life when she desperately needs him.