Saturday, March 15, 2014

If you aren't watching Banshee, you should be

Banshee is a terrific, well conceived show on Cinemax.

SPOILER ALERT: Some info about both seasons is revealed here. It is not a pure review, so there aren't many, and you can probably read this if you haven't seen the show yet. (Hopefully it will get you to watch it). But there are some general details about characters and plot that are unavoidable. Also, it is definitely an R-rated type show, so if you aren't about that...)

If you heard Friday's Blitz, you heard Matt Rauch, who plays Clay Burton on the show, a delightfully creepy, sinister Tom Hagen to Ulrich Thomsen's Michael Corleone.

The show is unique in that it features a cast of characters that are complex, full of secrets and not afraid to cross the line. But with each of them there is a sort of nobility -- a code -- that makes them likeable.

A sheriff can be a complete phony and a master thief, yet you love the character and root for him.

An Amish mob boss who kills at the drop of a hat and is on the verge of committing incest might be he most compelling character on the show.

And that's just two of the remarkably crafted characters. Show creators Jonathan Tropper and David Shickler have done a masterful job of storytelling, but the characters themselves are the true gems of this show. (They have also done a fantastic job of casting. Other than solid character actors Matt Servitto, Frankie Faison and Thomsen, most of them are newcomers, and all are wonderful actors. Rauch is terrific, as is Hoon Lee -- whose character Job is my favorite on the show -- and the delightfully sexy Lili Simmons, who plays Rebecca. She also played Beth in True Detective).

All of the characters -- no matter what their flaws -- have a base code that inexorably links them, whether they are at odds or on the same side. It revolves around family, and a deep seated need to protect that. In this case, there is both natural family and earned/surrogate family, and the same code exists between both. I believe it is this base human construct that makes all of the characters so likeable. No matter what, there is a nobility and honor. It connects because they are like all of us; they are flawed, have secrets, and make questionable decisions. In the end, though, they do have redeemable qualities.

The Kai/Hood relationship will remind you of Boyd/Raylan in Justified. OrOften at odds, sometimes on the same team, always with a matter of respect.

When I was a professor teaching media studies, I often lectured on levels of consciousness. (I mention this in the True Detective review) On the base level (1), you ca enjoy this show for its pure action, shooting scenes, violence and gratuitous sex. But if you dig deeper, you are tapping in to a commonality of emotion; of secrets and desires. It will take you as deep as level 6 or 7.

Season 2 ended Sunday night, and if you haven't seen it, Banshee is a terrific binge watch. It reminds me in some ways of another HBO produced classic, Deadwood.

It remains to be seen if the show can continue on that arc (season 3 is already in the works), but so far, it's been fantastic.

It's simply a clever, well-conceived show and it is worth the watch.


On another note, several people have asked me if I have any interest in writing or producing a movie or TV series. It's always intrigued me. I once wrote a Tales From the Crypt that never saw the light of day because the show ended. Once Jesus is finished, we're hoping to convert it to a script and make a movie out of it. We potentially have the funding and I think it could happen fairly soon. (And yes, it is close to being done. I could also see Matthew Rauch as Louis). I'm also thinking Dust to Dust might have some longterm potential in a visual medium. It's probably why I like edgy, quality shows that take chances. I admire people who do it well and am frustrated by those who miss opportunities.

I do think this is the golden age of television. HBO raised the bar with The Sopranos and Deadwood, and FX has taken it and run with it as well, as has AMC. They take chances. They pull together compelling characters in bizarre situations and aren't afraid to tackle difficult subjects. BBC is brilliant at it as well. For those of us who enjoy great dramas, this is a terrific time to be alive, and yes it would be fun to be involved with that someday.

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