Banshee Review: Cinemax's New Series Has Ball's... American Gothic Signature
Banshee is by no means Alan Ball's singular vision, the series was created (and is mostly written) by newcomers Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler, but the pilot does carry a stamp undeniably similar to shows that also bear the Executive Producer's name. Ball is famous for exploring the darker side of the American psyche with a large helping of humor, sex and violence and Banshee's pilot follows suit (not badly tailored) delivering a thoroughly enjoyable entrance into the series.
The freshman show falls somewhere between Ball's excellent but perhaps more, uh, stiff Six Feet Under and the increasingly soap-opera, supernatural fun True Blood. Banshee's pilot doesn't contain any outright supernatural elements but it does have a similar atmosphere, tone and world building as the first season of the his southern gothic vampire series. By the way, that's best one. Set in Banshee, Pennsylvania (hence the title, well, more on that later), the series follows accomplished criminal and renown thief who decides to steal a sheriff's identity just after his release from prison.
Steal is a strong word but I don't want to ruin how the old switcheroo comes to pass (whoa violence!) but this ruse not only helps Anthony Starr's protagonist to seek out his former lovers, crime and his beautiful partner played by Ivana Milicevic, but also hopefully avoid the gangsters who are still hunting them over a past betrayal. Of course, this means that the crook(er) turned copper with a heart of gold also finds himself facing off with the local crime lord. It's like Walking Tall and A History of Violence rolled into one which not only allows for a lot of action but also, structurally, two solid foundations to build the rest Banshee on going forward.
The pilot opens with a lot of energy and effortless cool as our mysterious and ruggedly handsome anti-hero leaves his harsh prison life behind and begins living his free life. Well, someone else's life. Starr's real name might remain a secret but the dialogue-free introduction still told us everything we need to know about his grey knight character. By no means an angel, having a quick shag and boosting another car, however, like many noir protagonists, the man soon to be known as Lucas Hood clearly has a code. He's a shady guy who lives in an even shadier world.
And one of the main strengths of the pilot, directed by Greg Yaitanes (LOST), is the way the writers managed to craft (the contrasting) world(s) of Banshee (and the big city ) and introduce all of the many, many characters without too much exposition. Starr is great as tough-talking, private-eye archetype and reminds me a lot of Ray Stevenson while the rest of the cast also did well with the limited material they were given. The material wasn't bad, it's just that so much time was devoted to 'Lucas Hood' that not many or the many supporting roles felt particularly memorable.
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