January 11, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Banshee”


BANSHEE:  Friday 10PM on Cinemax

Cinemax’s gonzo-grindhouse extravaganza BANSHEE is back for its second season, seeming to flow directly from the ids of sensitive rom-com/dram novelist Jonathan Tropper and his fellow series creator David Schickler.

By Banshee standards, the season 2 premiere, written by Tropper and directed by Greg Yaitanes, was relatively sedate.  Mostly it picked up the pieces from last year’s thunderous finale, in which the ex-con masquerading as Banshee PA’s dead sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) was rescued from sadistic gangster Rabbit (Ben Cross) by a joint force that included “Lucas’s” ex (and sometimes current) lover, who’s actually Rabbit’s daughter Anastasia but lives as Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic), soccer mom wife of Banshee’s DA; Lucas’s deputies Brock (Matt Servitto), Kelly (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and Emmett (Demetrius Grosse); Lucas’s partners in crime Sugar (Frankie Faison) and Job (Hoon Lee); and Banshee’s own criminal mastermind, the formerly-Amish and now slaughterhouse-owning Kati Proctor (Ulrich Thomson).  In the premiere, most of them were hauled in front of FBI Agent Racine (the always-busy Zeljko Ivanek), who for some mumbled reason had jurisdiction.  He let them all go except Carrie, mostly to use them as bait for the inevitable return of Rabbit, who was shot twice by Carrie in the finale but refused to die (upon regaining consciousness in the woods, he instantly killed a woodland animal).  Oddly, though, the episode never mentioned the finale’s coda, in which the real Lucas Hood’s son saw a clip on YouTube of the imposter going under his name, which seems like something we’ll be seeing more of.

Banshee boasts some of the best action sequences (and stuntwork) around, and this episode featured a dynamite although relatively brief armored truck robbery in which Carrie, thrown out of her house by her husband and fired from her job, joined with Lucas, Sugar and Job to steal the receipts from the local Indian casino–only to be interrupted by a helmeted shooter who turned out to be Nola Longshadow (Odette Annable), sister of casino head Alex (Anthony Ruivivar), but–literally–in bed with Lucas by episode’s end, setting up complications for the season to come.  Somewhat shortchanged were Kai and his niece Rebecca (Lili Simmons), who had a couple of colorful scenes early in the episode but not much to do as it went on.

By the standards of most cable networks, Banshee wasn’t much of a success in the ratings last year, with 0.1-0.2 in 18-49s and under 500K total viewers.  But as a subscription network that doesn’t sell advertising, Cinemax cares less about eyeballs than about buzz, and Banshee developed vocal and enthusiastic fans that made its renewal a no-brainer.  Last season, the series was the very definition of mindless adult fun:  crazy sex and violence, with some wit and surprisingly involving characterizations on the side, delivered with complete seriousness by its sharp cast and at a blistering pace.   Now that the needed exposition for the season has been laid, no doubt things will liven up in the episodes to come.


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."