Banshee, Ep. 3.04: “Real Life is the Nightmare” is the calm before the storm

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Banshee, Season 3: Episode 4 – “Real Life is the Nightmare”
Written by Justin Britt-Gibson
Directed by Magnus Martens
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax

Considering the ending of this episode and last week’s unfathomably entertaining Banshee entry, “Real Life is the Nightmare” has the misfortune of being sandwiched between television that redefines high adrenaline. Instead, what we get–among several other things–is a quieter meditation on parenting that shows some of the difficulties that Carrie, Gordon and Hood have either had to overcome or are currently trying to overcome.

There’s an easy dichotomy to point out between the way that Gordon is seen literally running and Carrie spends much of the episode figuratively running. “We need to do better,” Gordon tells Carrie. But whereas the Gordon of a few weeks ago would be saying those words out of frustration (or straight-up aimed at Carrie and worded as “You need to do better”), this Gordon takes responsibility for the mess of a household he’s helped build and destroy. For a character who doesn’t exactly fit into the more macro-level concerns of Banshee‘s third season, “Real Life is the Nightmare” presents a great case for why Gordon deserves screen time as much as anyone else. It’s rare that we see characters in Banshee genuinely improve their lives. Often, movements are lateral or else things tend to go downhill. Here, Gordon gets his act together following the somewhat unsurprising epiphany that his kids are worth ditching the self-destruction and -pitying. And while I certainly enjoy how this episode uses Gordon to emphasize how far Carrie has strayed, it’s sometimes just nice for the audience to see a character succeed and feel good–especially after losing a fan favorite in Nola. Gordon’s return to form, capped by his decision to go after Proctor with any litigation he can, is cathartic as a rebuilding process now that so much of Banshee has changed since he learned the truth about Deva, and of all three parental figures who orbit her, Gordon is the one who is both most capable and most willing to make the effort to better her life even if she would rather try to connect with her biological father at this point.

Carrie, meanwhile, is cracking under the pressure of it all. Things for Carrie didn’t exactly ease up on the level of stress following her imprisonment last season. Unfortunately for her, it’s been a steady stream of personal conflict that forces her to disassociate, because that’s the only way to continue day-to-day without exploding from being inside her head too long. Granted, it makes for great television to see Carrie kick the crap out of some scumbag and steal his bike to piss off the cops, but just as Gordon’s scenes are able to make viewing easier for the audience, Carrie’s are almost designed to make that audience uncomfortable. Banshee has become much more of an ensemble drama since its origins, but Hood and Carrie will always feel like the hero and heroine. So, to see that heroine have to reach so far just to numb the pain and terror of her waking nightmares is hard for anyone sitting there rooting for her to also succeed. The final scenes she gets with Hood and Deva are small rays of hope–one beautiful and touching for how pure the love between the two characters has become, the other a great example of how well Carrie knows her daughter. But for the most part, Gordon and Carrie are opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, proving that it’s far too difficult to help the others around you if you don’t help yourself first (or as Emily puts it to Proctor, “The downside to being strong for everyone else is that you never get a moment for yourself”).

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Hood’s dilemma regarding Deva is entirely different, and their major scene together is actually much more important than it lets on during a first viewing. For one, Hood admits that he just didn’t know how to word things before, so everything came out wrong (a huge surprise, because Hood is known for being a wordsmith…). What’s even more surprising is the way in which he brings up his father, which sounds completely earnest. We don’t get background on Hood, so this is kind of huge to be able to hear him say that his own dad didn’t care about him and that he hates him because of that. In just a couple lines, including Hood telling Deva that he doesn’t want her to hate him, we get more shades to Hood’s personality than we usually do several episodes at a time. It’s telling that Deva–just as Carrie is able to tell that Deva is still dressed in bed–knows immediately that Hood is leaving by the way he chooses his words. There will always be that biological data that ties them together even if little else does (although it seems like Deva’s inherited a handful of her dad’s characteristics and interests). And while Carrie’s side of things is just difficult to watch, Hood’s is frustrating, because you get the sense that he really could become a better parental figure for Deva if he had the time to spare for her. One could easily make the case that time for something like that should just be made regardless of the other things going on in one’s life, but now that Hood’s identity has been compromised, he’s somewhat exempt from that criticism.

All three of these characters can offer Deva different things at this point, but the thing they’re not thinking because of how tumultuous everything in Banshee is right now is that all three should be able to offer Deva different things all at once, and I suspect some amount of harmony will be reached now that Gordon is back on the right track and Hood’s departure has been…postponed, shall we say?

– Sean Colletti

Bullet Points and Tears:

– There’s not really a good description for that ending. Talk about two cliffhangers in a row. If any of you have been considering trying to turn people onto Banshee, this upcoming episode is the one. If it doesn’t win them over, nothing will, since it’s an early contender for best TV episode of the year. Grab the popcorn and/or whiskey.

– The other person Hood has to say goodbye to before leaving? Proctor. And he says his goodbye with a gun, fist, buzz saw and almost a hammer. This isn’t quite on the same level as Hood and Proctor’s first brawl together, but the effect of the ringing each time Proctor gets punched in the ear is disarming and kind of hilarious.

– Also kind of hilarious: Rebecca and Burton teaming up. Superb decision and great acting to see Matthew Rauch put the smile on during their game of chicken with the Kinaho guys taking Tommy’s body back. Everything about the pair is excellent in their scenes, and let doubts be squashed for anyone wondering if they could continue to co-exist given Rebecca’s loose canon evolution.

– Nerd alert: Nintendo Power is sadly discontinued, so whatever game store that is that Deva robs, props to them for keeping old issues on the shelves. I would have stolen those instead of Forza.

– “Does it matter that I want you to stay?” Ryann Shane doesn’t get a whole lot to do per episode compared to her costars, but this is an example of maximizing what’s there. Great writing, great acting.

– As always, don’t forget to check out our Banshee podcast here at Sound On Sight, Under the Hood.

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