Banshee, Season 3: Episode 8 – “All the Wisdom I Got Left”
Written by Chris Kelley
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Airs Friday nights at 10 on Cinemax
While “All the Wisdom I Got Left” continues most of the sub-plots Banshee has set up this season, the success of the episode will ultimately come down to how it handles Chayton Littlestone in the eyes of viewers. Only Rabbit and Proctor, of the series’ other antagonists, have had meaningful arcs across multiple seasons of Banshee, and Proctor has moved so far away from pure villainy that it’s hard to put him into the same category as Rabbit and Chayton. With Rabbit, a long arc was ended in a surprisingly satisfying way. All of the normal strengths Banshee displays–action, parallel storytelling (often with past and present), big character moments–were a part of season two’s finale, “Bullets and Tears,” but the actual scene of Rabbit’s death was something else. It was quietly poignant, shirking the fanfare that you’d expect to accompany a major character’s departure. There are some similarities in how Banshee dispatches of Chayton, depending on which part of this episode you’re looking at, but Chayton has felt like a much larger presence than Rabbit since his introduction, giving “All the Wisdom I Got Left” a lot more to do to meet expectations and provide a similarly satisfying end to one of television’s most memorable villains of the past two years.
It’s no surprise that, given a greater emphasis on Sugar’s back-story, the Hood vs. Chayton fight winds up being a three-round bout. The first round, which takes place in the underground, almost feels like a flash-forward when we see it, as if the episode plans to tease us and build up to it as a bookending segment. After all, a fist fight between Hood and Chayton in which neither character has the opportunity to escape is about as tense of a prospect imaginable. Chayton has been presented as so indestructible recently, avoiding death by luck and other characters’ mistakes, that an underground fight not only allows both characters to thrive in their most primal states, but seeing Chayton finally lose to Hood in that way would make up for all the missed opportunities the sheriff has had. Banshee makes the honest decision, though, in not forcing us to believe that Hood could really beat Chayton one-on-one in a show of brute force; it took the entire SD to take him down when the character was introduced, and even then, they barely scraped by. This is not to say that Hood is a worse fighter, but only that he’s at his best when he has his surroundings to take inspiration from.
That’s why round one goes to Chayton and round two goes to Hood. In the hotel room, every piece of furniture, every random trinket and everything that can break or blow up is fair game, giving Hood an edge (several edges, actually, such as the broken bottle and knives). Hood’s position in this fight exemplifies the common saying that if you run up against an opponent who is stronger than you, you have to find a different way to win. Sometimes, that means being smarter or quicker. In Hood’s case, “smarter” is less important than “craftier” and “quicker” is beneath “tougher” (as in having more endurance) on the list of requisites. Aside from the fantastic directing (in what might be Greg Yaitanes’ final time behind the camera before he moves to his new series, Quarry), which includes a sequence that follows Hood and Chayton outside onto the balcony and back in the room, the second round works in the sense that it finally makes Chayton look mortal. He may talk the talk (“No man can kill me”), but he’s on the run once again without the benefit of being in familiar surroundings. Brock, who interrupted the first round so that Hood could live, interrupts this one as well, unintentionally allowing Chayton to live, but it’s clear that Hood has advantage in certain kinds of territory.
What follows is either material that will satisfy viewers craving for revenge or will come up short after building Chayton up these past two seasons. The final confrontation on the pier aside, the chase for Chayton itself is undeniably fantastic. With a minimal approach to sound and music design, it’s tense and meaningful in ways that action series don’t often have the opportunities to pull off, since chases are everyday occurrences in the genre. Whether Hood and Chayton are running through the grimy, town-of-day-drinkers part of New Orleans (like Banshee, a small part of town that is sparsely populated–the beginning) or a graveyard (representing the dead that Chayton has had to carry around, including Siobhan, since his transformation–the middle and turning point) or a post-Mardi Gras wasteland (with, with the vessel of the water, falls in line with rebirth into the afterlife and Chayton’s ramblings about his warrior spirit), it’s a fine piece of filmmaking that signals the end has finally come.
And Chayton winds up being gator chum. So, was Banshee better off because of his character and arc? That’s probably what many viewers will be asking, and although there’s a reasonable discussion about the progression of his character and the amount of time he’s terrorized so many of the series’ main characters, the answer is an unequivocal yes. At the very least, Chayton’s presence in Banshee has pushed Lucas Hood into new territories, and to have the benefit of that in a genre series with a deep cast of interesting minor characters is an absolute blessing. Hood remains compelling still, and even though Siobhan’s death had to be a catalyst to see a different side of him, the trade-off is worth it in the long run by instilling confidence that, even with his past inaccessible to us, he’ll continue to be one of the more intriguing characters on Banshee. Additionally, Chayton brought more meaning to the Kinaho’s place in the series. Following on from Ukrainian mobsters, the Amish, skinheads (who are still out there, of course) and a host of other thugs that Proctor’s dealings have lured into the series, the Kinaho reservation thrived as a hub of interesting ideas, with Chayton exemplifying one extreme (and Alex Longshadow a different extreme) and giving characters like Aimee a reason to be integrated. But, most importantly, Chayton gave us Geno Segers, who was just ridiculously good in this role, bringing a kind of presence that is reserved for the pantheon of action greats. He could be silent and unmoved, put on that deadened facial expression or go into a tirade about doing right by his people, and Chayton was always made real by virtue of the energy Segers managed to to muster. So, in that sense, “All the Wisdom I Got Left,” which finally gives Banshee‘s most wanted his just desserts while also taking away one of its best performers, winds up a bittersweet conclusion in a season that appears to have multiple built-in endings.
– Sean Colletti
Bullet Points and Tears:
– Also, the Breaking Bad nod for Chayton’s death is fantastic (apologies for the pun in the title of the review, but not really).
– Everything about Job and Sugar in this episode is A+ material. All of the pair’s missions together and bickering this season have shown exactly what kind of friendship the two have. Frankie Faison is rarely called on to do much more than be a consistently reliable presence in the show, but when Sugar gets story beats like this, it’s a great reminder of how talented Faison really is and how he can command the screen so fully. Good for Sugar to get the episode title honors, too.
– Burton is apparently an eunuch, so that’s a thing (and a lack of a thing). The flashbacks we get in this episode are from the most recent Banshee Origins segments, and even though it’s too hard to sympathize with a machine, it’s great to see why Burton has stood by Proctor all this time. If I were Rebecca, I wouldn’t be counting on her uncle choosing her over his bodyguard.
– Connecting those two, both Sugar and Rebecca get the “Do what you have to do” line, but Sugar sounds much more intimidating. He is a pugilist, after all.
– “What do you think she would have wanted, huh?” Brock’s allowed to use this line, because he knew Siobhan first, but come on. That’s just asking to get punched in the face.
– And there’s Stowe, piecing together the events of the Genoa heist like a ghost hovering over these final episodes. An extremely dangerous ghost.
– “In youth we learn, in age we understand.” If that’s true, it has more to do with age and youth being measurements of mental ability than actual numbers of years. All the same, it’s another line from the bishop that can be applied pretty much anywhere in Banshee.