bill bodkin is livin’ in an Amish paradise…
Cinemax has never had a definitive series — an original show that has broken them out of the bonds of being the little brother of HBO and the network that shows a healthy amount of softcore films.
That is until Banshee rolled into town.
[For argument sake you could say, “Hey, what about Strike Back? That show started out as a UK-only based series and then was imported and co-produced by Cinemax. Banshee is one of the first, made-for-Cinemax series in the networks history].
Banshee is a truly unique taken on two television trends that are being done to death right now — crime dramas and shows about the Amish. Now, not technically set in Lancaster, PA, but the fictional town of Banshee — this show revolves around the criminal underbelly that’s supposedly seething in the land of The Mennonites.
The story revolves around just-released master thief, who, in escaping the Russian mobsters he stole millions of diamonds from, has fled to the town of Banshee, P.A., which is the town his ex-partner/lover (Ivana Miličević) who has now assumed the name Carrie Hopewell and is married with two kids.
While hanging at the local bar of a fallen-from-grace old time boxer Sugar (Frankie Faison), our hero encounters Lucas Hood (Griff Furst), the man who’s going to be appointed sheriff of Banshee and also happens to be a complete stranger in town. The reason? The mayor wants a lawman who’s not familiar with or can be put in the pocket of local crime boss Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen). The new-in-town do-gooder gets in a shoot-out with some of Proctor’s men and ends up dead. So our hero has an idea…assume the identity of the sheriff. It gives him a reason to stay in town and try to patch things up with his now-married lover and it’ll also take him off the radar of his Russian pursuers.
Now, with the assumed identity of Lucas Hood, the thief is now on the right side of the law and deals out his brand of fist-in-your-face; shoot first, type of law and order, much to the dismay and puzzlement of his small unit of officers. And as you’d figure, the new Lucas Hood is put in the crosshairs of Kai Proctor.
The end result of all this duplicity is a fascinating and engrossing story. Starr’s “Lucas Hood” is a very straightforward yet complex dude. He fixes problems with his fists, but he’s a man put into an odd position. He’s basically a fraud, a career criminal — yet he feels compelled to uphold justice in a town he’s just come into and he relishes in it. The motives can be attributed to his love for his former partner, but is there also some sort of greater moral tale to be told here? Will his battle of inner good and evil rear its head during the season? It’s something that really grabs you and you want to see how his inner conflict will manifest itself.
As Hood, Anthony Starr is a physical combination of Scott Speedman, Sam Worthington and that dude who plays Spartacus on STARZ. However, his devil may care smile, his action star moves and his smart-aleck meets bad ass charisma makes him more than just a generic leading man. He’s got charisma coming out of his ears and for his first U.S.-starring role, he proves he’s more than capable of taking a series on his back and running with it.
It should also be noted that the character of Kai Proctor is one of the more interesting “villains” in episodic drama. A former Amish, Proctor still holds onto some of the tenants (mostly dress) and respect for his former way of life, but he’s far from a peace loving Amish. He’s got a definite God complex (right down a massive back tat of a crucified Jesus) and he’s a complete butcher (literally owns a meat factory, literally cuts a dude up with a chainsaw). We’ve really only scratched the surface of this character and that’s exciting.
The show, created by the people who brought us True Blood, is very much like American Horror Story: Asylum in terms of creativity. The dudes who brought us Glee have brought us AHS, which is a completely different look at Americana and a completely different look at what they can create. With Banshee the creators of True Blood show they can aren’t all vampires and fairies or just can just write about sexy, pretty naked people. No, they can write compelling and complex drama spiked with a healthy amount of macho action.
Banshee is a show you need to put on your radar. It works, and works extremely well, as both an action series and as an engaging plot-twisting drama. It’s the kind of series that’s going to break Cinemax open as a haven for original programming much like The Shield did for FX and Mad Men did for AMC.