Banshee ended a truly special four year run tonight, and the TV world’s a bit less exciting without another season of this twisted, violent, sentimental, brutal, romantic, tragic, hilarious, vicious, thoughtful masterpiece to look forward to. I could have thrown another fifty adjectives into that sentence and still been right. Banshee was all those things, even in the face of contradiction. Especially in the face of contradiction. It was the greatest mindless action show on television. It was the most subtle, thoughtful, character driven meditation on television. It was The Ballad of Sheriff Punch. It was Identity. It was whatever it wanted to be, and it was excellent.
And now it’s over. I wrote about it two weeks ago, meant to write about it more since, and will doubtless write more about it in the weeks to come. There’s much to say not only about the show as a whole, the final season, and the beautifully damaged and bizarre citizenry of that strange little town, but for tonight I’m just going to ride the emotional buzz of saying goodbye, and spit out bullet points about the finale as they come to me.
* The Brockzooka absolutely had to be the first thing I mentioned. That may be the single most Banshee sequence in the history of Banshee, and it beautifully echoed Brock’s Season One “They picked the wrong fuckin’ town!” while simultaneously showing how far he’d come and how much he’d changed since then.
* There’s been a lot of grousing about the serial killer subplot this season, and I suspect with tonight’s reveal that Burton, not Declan, killed Rebecca, said grousing will only intensify. The serial killer stuff always felt a little off- a little false- and that’s going to bug some people no matter what I say… but it was off, and it was false, because they had the wrong guy. It was off and false on purpose, telling us every step of the way that this wasn’t the truth, this wasn’t what was really happening, this wasn’t what Hood was supposed to be doing. That kind of thematic format-screw is nothing new for Banshee, with episodes like The Truth About Unicorns or The One Where Chayton’s a Bastard and Kills The Best Damn Character employing similar structural devices. This is the farthest Banshee’s ever taken that kind of conceit, and there’s a case to be made that the payoff wasn’t worth the investment. However…
* That investment also gave us Eliza Dushku’s Veronica Dawson, so it was 100% worth it to me. Dushku’s always been talented, but she’s never been better– and has for much of her career seemed to have the worst fucking agent in the world– and Dawson was such a perfect role for her, and such a perfect foil for Lucas Hood, that I was perfectly wiling to put up with Declan to get her. That she had perhaps the best line of the finale– a line that perfectly sums up the show’s passion of hijacking an old cliché and reinventing it as something newly vicious, beautiful, funny, and melancholy all at once– is a credit to just how well that late arriving character fit in.
* That line, of course: “The butler did it? Seriously?”
* Speaking of Dawson, when it came to her and Hood, borrowing a play from the Buffy playbook of all things, Banshee let the question of “did they or didn’t they” up to the viewer.
* Dawson was Hood’s last romantic interest, but Ana was his first, and the finale wisely circled back around to that relationship after giving it a lot of room to breathe over the course of the season. Anybody expecting the two of them to ride off into the sunset together is possessed of a shocking capacity for missing the point entirely, but the show wisely avoided the other easy way out of killing one of them off and denying them resolution. These two people love each other, and they understand each other better than anyone else on the planet, but it’s time for them to walk away; their love has too high a bodycount– including both Anastasia Rabitov and whoever Hood used to be– so goodbye, Ana.
* It’s Carrie.
* That farewell was one of several scenes that stitched together clips from throughout Banshee’s run, giving us every tragic little piece of their romance. It was a perfect use of that device, and it wasn’t alone there.
* Hood’s reverie in the middle of his battle with Burton was the visual equivalent of Veronica’s butler line, giving us everything that made Banshee great in quick succession, from the Sanchez fight that was perhaps the first truly distilled Banshee moment to the clashes with The Albino, Rabbit, The Fixer, and Chayton... to the tragedies of Emmett and Siobhan, to the even more important quiet, romantic moments with Siobhan, to… Deva, the television world’s pluckiet MacGuffin, the thing that kept Hood in town in Season One and the thing that keeps him alive long enough to leave it in Season Four.
* That such a romantic, violent, bittersweet digression came in the midst of the show’s most anticipated fight scene is, of course, something that would only happen on Banshee and therefore worked perfectly.
* Speaking of that fight scene, it wasn’t quite the technical marvel of Hood’s fight with Sanchez or Burton’s duel with Nola, nor should it have been. Those fights were between fresh opponents with little emotional stake in the battles; this was two men at the end of their respective ropes, two men who’d been through the ringer (Burton physically, Hood emotionally), and two men who’d always known at some level that it was going to come to this. The emotional intensity of the scene more than made up for the relatively shorter runtime, while still finding time to play a bit of combat karaoke with some of the series’ best pugilistic set pieces.
* Speaking of karaoke, much of this last trip through Banshee was shot, framed, or otherwise contextualized to take us back to where we’ve been before, whether it was the literal flashbacks, the visual echoes of battles past, Hood running Proctor off the same road they were run off together back in Season One- and trying to kill him for something he didn’t do instead of trying to stop someone else for killing him for something he did- or echoed lines of dialogue, none better than Job’s final line…
* “Banshee, Pennsylvania… suck my tit!”
* I’ve gone back and forth over my time watching Banshee on whether or not it’s technically noir. I still don’t really know, but luckily for me nobody actually knows what film noir is exactly, so I just get to say it is and no one can stop me. It had all the best parts of noir, at any rate, even if it ended on a lighter note than your average noiry pulp crime story… but then, while Banshee was certainly a noiry pulp crime story, it was never average.
* Obviously there’s too much to cover with any real brevity, so this bullet is for glossing over some of the other wonders of our last round: the Bunker vs. Bunker dogfight, Deva accepting her shitty father because he’s the only one she’s got left, Sheriff Brockzooka making his peace with Sheriff Punch both literally and philosophically, Kai Proctor going out like the Amish Gangster Butch Cassidy he was, Rebecca in the stream, Job’s gift to Sugar, Burton dying at the hands of the only man that could really hurt him, Sugar closing down the bar and the series, and Lucas goddamn Hood literally vanishing as soon as he left the Banshee city limits because Lucas goddamn Hood doesn’t exist without Banshee.
* There’s plenty I left out, too. Banshee was never for everyone, and was even less for everyone in this final season, but the people it was for got, I suspect, everything they wanted out of this last ride. I said in the title of this piece that Banshee was the best show on television, and that was true, because Banshee was every show on television, and Banshee was the only show on television. It did at least a little of everything, and it did most of it in a way no other show ever had. Yes, sometimes it was The Ballad of Sheriff Punch and sometimes it was Identity, and often it was both, but in the end, it was something more than that, too.
It was Banshee. There go the motherfuckin’ neighborhood.