Banshee: Season 1
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Banshee: Season 1

Blu-ray

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Weekly original programming on television is nothing new; after all it has been an integral aspect of this entertainment medium since it first began some seventy years ago. What has appeared more recently is the expansion of this format to other forms of entertainment. Initially it proliferated on the premium cable networks, HBO and Showtime extending to basic cable like TNT and SyFy now landing on streaming media services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus. As the trend not only gain proponents in these alternatives to traditional stations the liberal standards pertaining to content has led to language, violence and sexuality that previously earn a movie an R rating not migrated to the TV-MA. Cinemax, another upper tier network, Cinemax, has joined the fray with show that are cutting edge, daring and exceptionally well-constructed. One home run recent hit by this former movie venue channel is ‘Banshee’. The name might suggest the mythological creature with a piercing voice but in this context it refers to a small town in Pennsylvania adjacent to a sizable Amish community. Not exactly the location you would normally associate with a gritty crime drama but in the creative hands of the people behind the series on both sides of the camera, it is an unqualified success.

The series opened with a man (Antony Starr), being released from confinement in a penitentiary. He walks away with a determined aimlessness. Landing in New York City he is almost immediately set upon by a gang. Although he comes across as a man quite capable of defending himself he find the better course to take is to quickly leave town. He heads west winding up in the small town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, ostensibly in search of his ex-lover and former partner in crime, Anastasia (Ivana Miličević). While he was incarcerated she adopted a new identity, Carrie, including a husband Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell). Together they have two children, a boy around eleven, Max (Gabriel Suttle) and teenage wild child girl, Deva (Ryann Shane). Heading off to drench his feelings at the local bar the man begins to talk to the owner, ex borer, Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison). Sugar, having spent time behind bars he instantly makes the man as a newly released con. He also meets Lucas Hood (Griff Furst), just hired sight unseen as the new sheriff for Banshee. Some toughs attempt to rob the bar, a fight ensues and the man manages to kill the robbers after one shoots a gaping hole through the palm of Hood. The man wants to stay close to his ex decides to assume the identity of Lucas Hood and become sheriff of Banshee.

The new Lucas Hood meets with his new boss the very young mayor, Dan Kendall (Daniel Ross Owens) and the town’s District Attorney, Gordon Hopewell, yes that very same Gordon. The reason the mayor reached out to out of town for the heads of the local law enforcement is most people in the town are either influenced or directly owned by the local crime king pin and former local Amish butcher, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen). In his line of work owning a meat processing facility can be very useful. While settling into to his new life Hood and Carrie are trying their best to avoid the notice of the infamous viscous gangster, Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross) boss of a huge organized crime family and father of Anastasia. She and the man did a jewelry heist making off with $15 million in gems. Far from being father of the year Mr. Rabbit dispatches hit men to find them and regain what is his as well as revenge against the star crossed lovers. Lucas turns out to be an effective sheriff albeit one with a perchance for unorthodox, frequently violent methods. His appointment rippled through the sheriff’s department with mixed result. The senior deputy, Brock Lotus (Matt Servitto) is angry he was overlooked for the promotion. Deputy Emmett Yawners (Demetrius Grosse) admires his ability to get results and Deputy Siobhan Kelly who quickly becomes enamored of the quick to action new boss.

It’s not as if Lucas, the only name associated with the character, is at a loss for feminine companionship or someone to share his bed for a night or two. His loft above the bar is a regular pathway for the proverbial walk of shame although the young ladies do usually depart with a big smile on their face. He does reunite with his ex in one of the most tumultuous and betrayal ridden relationships ever. He also beds barely legal Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons), wild club girl at night and Amish young woman by day. To complicate matters further she is also the favorite nice of Proctor. Also a regular underage regular of the local rave scene is Carrie’s daughter Deva whose Goth inspired heavy make-up and overly revealing outfits present a constant source of concern for her parents. She is fully capable of getting into trouble without the aid of risqué attire; she is held hostage along with others in her school just for being in the wrong place.

There is no dearth of brutal action here. Bikers invade the peaceful town, hit men come to town and when a passing rap star rapes a teenage girl the sheriff goes toe to toe with him trading beatings that in any other context would have been mutually fatal. Even Carrie gets the opportunity to reunite with an employee of her father in a protracted fight scene more brutal than much of what is depicted in action films. What sets this series above some many crime thrillers is the blatant violence and frequent nudity is supported by a strong scaffold of a story. Initially going into to watching this show I dreaded the possibility of its premise being conducive to a one note premise; ex con hiding from the mob as a small town lawman. The danger here was to infuse and, more importantly, maintain a sense of believability. The show creators Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler in association with an incredible team of writers and directors craft a tightly woven tapestry where each individual thread is a fully developed and intriguing story on its own. When combined in such an expert fashion as achieved here the result is gripping, exciting and instantly addictive. On this Blu-ray/ DVD edition you can give in you your compulsion and make a marathon of the entire first season.

Juxtaposing the idyllic setting of the simplistic Amish with an organized crime thriller is genius. It provides an incredibly novel twist on one of the oldest genres in film and television. The contrast between the strict religiously based faiths with the code of the code of the gangster is fascinating especially in the context provided here. The success of all of these factors rests on one thing; its execution and in that quarter you could not dream of a better cast. Each of these actors is cast perfectly from the stoic persona emanating from Starr to the intensely emotional chemistry he maintains with Ms Milicevic is not only powerful in the conventional sexual sense but is psychologically taut adding a dimension to the series not seen before on TV. This astonishing combination of story lines and the unexpected twists infused in the character development make this one of the best new series to come around in s very long time.

Posted 07/22/2013

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