Banshee, Season 3: Episode 3 – “A Fixer of Sorts”
Written by Justin Britt-Gibson
Directed by Magnus Martens
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax
“A Fixer of Sorts” is, to be clear, one of the best episodes of Banshee and a firm testament to the show’s deserved place among the best current TV has to offer as a medium of entertainment. There’s a laundry list of evidence to back that up here, and it’s all thoroughly convincing in my mind. Most people will surely point towards the surprisingly early fight scene between Burton and Nola, which…well, how would you put it? It’s certainly the best fight scene in any Banshee episode to date. It’s certainly the best fight scene in any episode of television to air this year. It’s maybe the best fight scene to air in an episode of television period (at the very least, it’s in that conversation). Others might point towards Banshee‘s continued use of the larger-than-life style of storytelling, introducing a character like Raymond Brantley who gets transported around in a semi-trailer-truck-turned-headquarters that has, yes, multiple rooms, including a waiting room and decked-out office (that is a sentence about actual stuff that’s in this episode). Others still would focus on how Hood’s cover is now blown, which similarly blows up the entire series. That it’s Siobhan looking at those files and tapes is an added, forceful twist of the knife. I’d rather look at Kai Proctor, though.
As a reader, I appreciate good writing. As a writer, I get jealous of great writing. As a human being, I marvel at fantastic writing and what it can bring out of people. This is fantastic writing:
“Oh, Kai. You could never disappoint me. I just wish I could believe you were content. Who will love you, Kai? Who will you love?”
What more could writer Justin Britt-Gibson have possibly done to make this scene between Kai and his mother, Leah, any more devastating? I sometimes worry that sticklers get caught up on certain kinds of details in stories that sour their overall positive experiences. The details in this case show that Kai is, when you consider it, a bad dude. He’s murdered people in ways that violate the average person’s moral code, extending well beyond any kind of eye-for-an-eye form of justice that some people might otherwise excuse. He’s a drug dealer who worries about his profit margin more than the lives of the people taking those drugs. He’s, we assume, having sexual relations with his niece (I guess this doesn’t necessarily make him bad, but it will be points against him in the sympathy column for most people). And yet, I so strongly believe that these are just details when understanding Kai. Sugar says in this episode that “Some people, you can know them before you know about them.” We learned about Kai before we got to really know him, and maybe that’s why it’s easy to think of Kai and say “I’m not buying into this.” Maybe he passed the point of sympathy for some people a long time ago. But I think to write him off in that way limits the viewing experience of Banshee to the point where one has to examine his or her relationship with every other character in this series. By that token, the viewer either has to not sympathize with pretty much everyone in this series or go down the slippery slope of trying to define what acts make someone more or less bad than another, and at what point does that dictate when you can comfortably say someone is not worthy of sympathy.
I think Kai is fascinating and wholly sympathetic, and if “A Fixer of Sorts” hadn’t included all those other things mentioned at the beginning of this review, it would still be one of the best episodes of Banshee if just because of Kai’s story in it. “Who will love you, Kai? Who will you love?” I’ll be damned if there’s one person out there who hasn’t asked some version of those questions even just in the past month. For a character who has been relentless in doing right by his Amish heritage by trying to protect his people and evaluate what’s best for them, it’s almost incomprehensible how meaningful it must be for him to be told that he’s not a disappointment by a mother who had previously taken part in the shunning of her son. It gives value to everything he’s done thus far regarding his family and the community he wants to help and represent within Banshee. That alone? Fantastic writing. Throw in Israel Proctor coming to his son’s house to spend time with his dying wife? Loss for words. Total, utter loss for words. As chaos hovers over Banshee in ever-diminishing circles with the looming presence of Chayton’s Kinaho army, there is this story happening at the heart of the season that redefines redemption. And as much as I love Nola, it’s these scenes at the Proctor house that move me most powerfully.
“Who will love you, Kai? Who will you love?” If the answer to those questions isn’t family, there isn’t a better alternative that’s been presented for Kai yet. Sure, that means Rebecca and whatever is going on there. It also means Israel, who puts pride aside for the right cause. It also means the Amish community in general, who may be willing to let Kai take Leah away with no real protest. It also means Emily Lotus, who can see the good in Kai and prays with him. It also means Burton, who is willing to lay down his life for the one who saved him from a tortured past. Whatever makeshift family Kai can gather around himself, those people seem to be what allows him to find the best version of Kai Proctor, to adapt what Siobhan told Hood at the end of last season. I doubt what kind of relationship Israel and Kai can form once Leah dies, but I don’t doubt for one second that every impulse that motivates Kai going forward will have to do with trying to love or be loved by his family. What’s most satisfying about that to me is that Kai also considers Banshee his family in his own way. So many people have run rampant in the series thus far, vying for this or that kind of power. Kai has always wanted to rule Banshee not strictly for nefarious reasons, but because he believes he can be the head of that family and allow for it to flourish and build a living legacy. Honestly, I have no argument against why he shouldn’t be allowed to do that, either. If I had to guess just based on how storytelling goes, it’s more likely to me that Kai doesn’t outlast Banshee and Rebecca steps into his role, but that road to hell is paved with good intentions. Those intentions are clearly implied by Ulrich Thomsen’s monumental work in this episode as he displays Kai’s heart on his sleeve more convincingly than any piece of emotion-based writing the series has pulled off thus far, including the transcendent “The Truth About Unicorns” and its long look at Carrie and Hood’s relationship. It’s weird to watch an episode like “A Fixer of Sorts,” which is so full of important things, and to feel the need to linger on this, but more than all of the episode’s other accomplishments, this writes and proves the thesis that Kai Proctor is Banshee‘s heart and soul right now and continues to be one of television’s most interesting characters.
If a television recap is designed to provide a point-by-point account of an episode’s plot, hopefully a television review provides some insight through analysis. What little insight I can impart has to do with the fact that even though, as this season’s motto proposes, old habits die hard, that doesn’t mean we should overlook change when it does occur. On the contrary, those moments where people can break out of habit and becoming something else are worth holding onto for dear life, and they’re likely the ones that stick in our minds until the bitter end. It’s no surprise, then, that Nola and Burton recall pivotal moments of change in their own pasts as death knocks on their respective doors. Israel’s old habits of being stubbornly dogmatic probably will die hard as well. Yet, this brief moment of change into a new person defines him much better than any recurring bad habits. In the same way, this episode and all the change it gives to Banshee will outlast any kind of repetition future episodes could possibly hold
– Sean Colletti
Bullet Points and Tears:
– There was another version of this review that was more comprehensive and set to be published last night, but the longer I thought about it, the more disingenuous it felt to not give Kai his due. We’ll talk about that fight and just about everything else in the next episode of Under the Hood. Thanks for humoring the slight departure here.
– Great addition of Denis O’Hare, who makes the Alan Ball-True Blood connection by following Zeljko Ivanek in the role of FBI pest.
– Huge, huge shout-out to the make-up team for what they did with post-fight Burton. Absolutely disgusting in the best way possible.
– If I was Wanda, I would have downed that old-fashioned immediately. Even with the extra sugar.
– Billy singing over Tommy’s body has been one of the best tags in the series thus far. Somber and effective at showing Billy’s connection to his Kinaho roots.
– Defending the Gaze: In all those strip club scenes, there’s is almost no nudity (what is there is in the brief shuffle after Tommy breaks in). Plus Brock’s dancer, Platinumm, gets to impart some sagely advice about women and getting involved with exes. All quiet on the gratuitous front.