May 21, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “Banshee”


The fourth and final season of Cinemax’s BANSHEE felt more like an epilogue, or even a spin-off, than a climax.  It wasn’t the time jump between Seasons 3 and 4, or the shortened 8-episode order, or even the physical relocation from North Carolina to Pennsylvania (for tax credit reasons).  The focus, the center of gravity of the series seemed to shift.  There was remarkably little interaction in the final season between its core characters, ex-con and fake sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), his on-and-off lover Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic), their transvestite hacker partner Job (Hoon Lee), bar-owner Sugar (Frankie Faison), and Banshee’s gangster-in-chief Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen).  Instead, a major part of the season was spent on a Satan-worshiping serial killer story that could have come out of an episode of Criminal Minds, and another chunk was about the violent melodrama among Banshee’s neo-Nazis.

This version of Banshee wasn’t a bad show on its own terms.  Eliza Dushku, as a crack-smoking FBI agent in town to work on the serial-killer case, was as strong a cast member as any of the original regulars.  There was plenty of the show’s trademark over-the-top action, at its best a mixture of the disgusting and the exhilarating–watching Proctor’s henchman Burton (Matthew Rauch) carefully fold his glasses before slaughtering a roomful of people never got old.  It was a great season for Matt Servitto’s Brock, who not only finally got to be Banshee’s sheriff, but shared the season’s best fan service sequence, a duologue with Hood where Brock finally found out that he’d been deputy to a convicted criminal–and on top of that, Brock got to fire a bazooka into a truck full of drugs Proctor intended to sell to a cartel.  Chris Coy did exceptional work as the main neo-Nazi, a mess of repressed fury and middle-class aspirations.  But this wasn’t quite the Banshee of Seasons 1-3.  It lacked the emotional connections that the prior seasons had built up, and the crazy black humor that made it special.  If it weren’t for the intensity of the violence, much of the season would have felt quite conventional.

The series finale, written by co-creator Jonathan Tropper and directed by OC Madsen, made the most of its one big reveal, that the serial-killer plot had in a sense been a giant red herring, because Hood had only become involved with it since Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons), niece and incestuous lover of Proctor, rising gangster in her own right, and also pregnant by Hood, had been one of the victims.  But it turned out that she’d actually been killed by Burton, which led to an epic fight between Hood and Burton, although Hood considerately allowed Proctor to break Burton’s neck for the coup de grace.  The bigger surprise, though, was that Banshee gave all of its heroes not just continued life but happy endings, something so unexpected that a bit of meta dialogue even remarked on it.  In fact, for the first time in the show’s history, the final hour, with its stiff-upper-lip goodbyes once Hood and Job decided to leave town, and its  black-and-white flashback montages, felt like one of Tropper’s rom-dramedy novels, albeit one with a high body count.

Even a diminished Banshee was well worth watching.  Starr brought complexity to what could have been a standard action-movie role, and he was matched by all his fellow cast members.  To the end, Banshee had the best fight choreography on television, and its action sequences were often more exciting than those in movies costing twenty times as much to produce.  Tropper and the other writers were masterful at building dimensions into their warfare.  Like so many other great series, though, Banshee didn’t go out quite at its best.  Its criminals could have told their creators that it’s always risky to go after that one last big score.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."