Yes, I know. As a responsible teacher and as an educated TV viewer I shouldn’t have liked Banshee, which surprisingly managed a 4-season run, but I did. Actually, it was one of my favorite series these past few years.
It was trashy. It was pulpy. It had tons of (mostly) gratuitous sex and explosive (+ inventive) violence which, if things went really well, lasted almost an entire episode. It took exploitation elements to a whole new level. Many characters were repulsive and the series often oozed a cynical worldview that made even mine look pale in comparison.
In short, it was dumb fun in Amish country.
Although the plot line was a rather simplistic one, the series threw some rather inventive characters and relationships at the screen and made them stick.
I’m not one to spoil things for others, so I won’t get into plot details. The basic premise was simple. A career criminal, by accident, got the chance to pose as the new sheriff in town. Aided by a few partners in crime, he tried to keep said town clean by methods far removed from anything that said “law” or “proper procedure”.
What attracted me to the series were several characters. Kai (Ulrich Thomsen), a ridiculously ruthless and evil man, raised Amish but ousted by his community, was an absolute highlight. So was his socio- and psychopathic sidekick, Clay Burton (Matthew Rauch). Both played their roles pitch-perfectly and it was a delight to watch them be evil and explosively violent, the former certainly more guardedly than the latter. Job (Hoon Lee), a transvestite with a bigger heart than he liked to let on, had a wonderful time trying to stay fashionable throughout and, last but not least, the lascivious Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons), who fled Amish confinement to become the incestuous angle of the series, salaciously sauntered and writhed across the screen that it was a pure delight.
If you switched your brain off, this was explosive fun in every sense of the word, and I sometimes sat mouth agape when they pulled off another feat I thought they wouldn’t dare throw up on the screen. But, of course, they did.
On top of that, Cinemax (despite their lacklustre attempts of the past, Cinemax was actually responsible for this stuff), rolled out a beautiful and inventive advertising campaign that actually made me save most of it to my hard drive.
Call me crazy, but I’m going to keep this series around for another binge week further down the timeline.
Again, if you are the sensitive type hailing from the conservative corner or anywhere within the bible belt, avoid this series like the bubonic plague, but if you want to have some serious fun with a world gone haywire, … beg, steal or borrow.
P.S.: Not sure if you want to embark on this journey? Here are some from-the-hip random links to reviews of single seasons or episodes:
“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. […] It is a story about attempts at transformation that are destined to run into trouble. I’ll admit that “Banshee” is very far from reinventing any wheels, but it gets a lot of basics right and it has a few distinctive touches: The cool, vicious villain of the piece comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch community that surrounds Banshee, the show efficiently sets up various rivalries, relationships and combustible dynamics, and there are nicely restrained performances from lead Anthony Starr and supporting actors Matt Servitto (“The Sopranos”), Frankie Faison (“The Wire”) and Hoon Lee as Job, a stylish hacker. […]” (Huffington Post)
“Banshee is a mangy mutt of a TV show and doesn’t care if you know it.” (TV Guide)
“[T]his Cinemax series knows it’s crazy. It delights in its trashiness, its pulpiness. There’s lots of crazy violence. There’s lots of crazy sex. There are lots of crazy gunfights. The actors, in particular Starr and Annable […] are crazy hot. And Miličević, as Carrie, delivers a gripping turn as the show’s moral compass. So, if you’re freezing your ass off and desperate for something to tune in to now that Breaking Bad has (sadly) left us, you should give this fun lil’ show a whirl.” (The Daily Beast)