A man gets out of prison, immediately gets into a gun battle in the middle of New York, legs it to Banshee, a small town in Pennsylvania and finds himself assuming the identity of the new sheriff. All because he’s chasing a girl, oh and 10 million dollars worth of diamonds.
This show has a classic problem in that it doesn’t want to give away the central character’s intention. He’s a classic strong silent type, not giving much away about what he’s thinking or feeling. The facts about him seem pretty worrying, but without knowing the why it’s hard to know if there’s more to the story. Why does he take the sheriff’s identity? To win back the girl? To settle down and form a relationship with his daughter? Or just to hide from those chasing him? We see that he has a talent for forming quick relationships, sometimes friendly, oftentimes violent, he seems to take an immediate dislike to the local crime boss but is that moral indignation or just a natural reaction to the competition? With all that uncertainty the character is left as a bit of a bland fence sitter, never giving anything away to either the other characters or the audience. Quiet and mysterious is ok, but it’s also very difficult to form any kind of bond with him.
It also leaves the show floating a bit, because you just don’t know what direction it’s going to go. Shows like House of Lies and The Shield gave it all away in their pilots, giving us characters that are presenting different personas all the time but revealing to the audience where their true allegiances and feelings lie. That’s not to say their allegiances might not change over the course of the series, but at least you know what you’re starting with. In contrast something like Homeland manages to keep you guessing over and over again. Each choice led to an interesting and engaging enough pilot that I came back for more in each case, but somehow it just didn’t work so well for Banshee.
But for all the lack of interest the main character generated, almost all the supporting characters really sparkled – the off the wall computer expert that’s helping with the new identity, the ex girlfriend who’s also been living an assumed identity in Banshee, the amiable but slightly scary bartender and the crime lord separated from his Amish roots. Each is a bit of a trope, but the performances had a depth and charisma that was mostly lacking in the main character. There’s also some originality in the setting and the potential for interesting stories around the Amish community and how they do and do not integrate.
On a technical note the series is well enough put together but there’s nothing particularly outstanding there either. I could do without the cable level nudity and sex which I really didn’t think added anything to the plot, but hey ho, whatever gets them their ratings I guess. All in all, I was left feeling rather ambivalent about the whole thing, there’s nothing to hate but also nothing to love. Whether or not I watch any more will be based entirely on whether there’s anything else on… which isn’t exactly high praise, but it could be far worse.
Banshee has a 10 episode first season which airs on Sky Atlantic on Mondays and it’s already been picked up for a second season.
Huffington Post – It’s a taut, propulsive series with a distinctive atmosphere, and “Banshee” does a good job of letting the mood and visuals tell the story while keeping the plot moving briskly.
TV Addict – BANSHEE will seduce and entrance viewers as it peels back layer after layer of its percolating evil.