Cinemax's pulpy thriller returns for a third season with the requisite livewire characters, gonzo violence, cultural clashes and bed-rattling sex. Banshee has not mellowed, and con-cum-sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) slips further back into his old lifestyle thanks to lucrative opportunities that fall into his lap. Hood is joined in poor decisions by former lover and sometimes partner Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic) and behind-the-scenes guy Job (Hoon Lee), whose character is explored in greater depth this season. The racial and cultural tension in Banshee, Pennsylvania, boiled over into a bloody climax last season, and the warring factions show no signs of backing down this year. Banshee excels at obliterating any moral compass that exists. There are no good guys and bad guys; only people with guns, money and scores to settle.
A subtle, family friendly program Banshee is not. The whole premise is ridiculous really: Would an ex-con be able to assume the identity of a murdered small-town sheriff without anyone credible calling his bluff? I guess so, because that's what Hood has done for three years now. He is actually getting pretty good at the gig, though this town has enough drama to fill a thousand pulp paperbacks. Everyone's favorite creepy Amish dropout and businessman, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), continues to bang his niece, Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons), who may be the craziest character on a show filled with wackos. Mouth off to her and you'll catch a bullet. The Native Americans on the local reservation continue to war with Proctor over business ventures, and Hood has to shake down criminals out of his jurisdiction to keep them in line. Tightly wound Colonel Douglas Stowe (Langley Kirkwood) appears on Hood and Hopewell's radar, and beleaguered District Attorney/Mayor Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell) struggles to hang on to any threads of his failed marriage to Carrie.
I like a lot of things about Banshee, not the least of which is the show's willingness to swing for the rafters. Creators Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler have coddled a seedy little potboiler, and Banshee is never not entertaining. Things have a way of unfolding in the most dramatic manner, often at heightened reality. Witness the slow-mo, comic-book style gunfight Rebecca starts during a business meeting or the so-awkward-it's-funny scene where a Neo-Nazi auditions for an open spot at the sheriff's office. And he gets the job! Newly single Carrie spends the first few episodes moping and bedding more of the locals, including the bad colonel, and Hood has to shepherd his biological daughter, Deva Hopewell (Ryann Shane), back to adopted father Gordon, who fears she will abandon him, too.
This third season of Banshee is comprised of ten binge-worthy episodes, and the season ends with an explosive question mark. The fourth season is set to be the show's last, and I doubt all of these characters will ride into a peaceful sunset. Banshee is the most entertaining show no one I know watches. It's not for a lack of me telling them to, either. There is so much happening here that it's nearly impossible to get bored. Sometimes the show is too chaotic, but that's most of its charm. The acting is again strong; these folks truly commit to these roles and the story. The editing and pacing are impressive, too, and Banshee again proves Cinemax is an underdog contender in the pay-cable struggle for TV domination.
Each 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is impressively detailed and textured, and the transfers complement the stylized and often frenetic visuals. Close-ups reveal a plethora of fine-object detail, from Hood's uniform to Carrie's flesh to Proctor's suits. Wide shots are deep and clear, pans are crisp and clean, and skin tones are accurate. There are some intentionally pushed highlights, but colors are well saturated and blacks inky, with ample shadow detail. I noticed some minor noise in darker scenes, but, overall, these are solid HD presentations.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes offer theatrical-level immersion, with plenty of effects panning, subwoofer rattling and directional dialogue to surround the viewer. Dialogue, effects and score are all perfectly layered, and each mix feels big. The range is good, and quiet, dialogue-heavy scenes are as clean and pronounced as action sequences. French and German 5.1 DTS tracks and a Spanish 2.0 DTS mix are included, as are English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian subs.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
HBO and Warner Brothers release Banshee: The Complete Third Season on Blu-ray for Cinemax. This four-disc set includes all ten season three episodes and a heap of extras. The discs are packed into a dual-hinged Blu-ray case, which slides into a cardboard outer box. The set also includes an insert with codes to redeem both UltraViolet and iTunes digital copies of each episode.
Extras include Banshee Origins (24:25/HD), a set of featurettes highlighting several character backstories; Banshee Origins Saga (54:33/HD); Making of the Episode 2 Title Sequence (1:49/HD); Zoomed In (3:41/HD), which looks closely at certain scenes and characters; a Deleted Scene (0:28/HD); and an Audio Commentary for Episode 1 on Disc 1. Disc 2 includes Burton vs. Nola Stunts (3:49/HD); Burton vs. Nola Camera Movement (0:53/HD); Zoomed In (6:51/HD); and Audio Commentaries for Episodes 3 and 5. On Disc 3 you get The Heist (20:10/HD); Zoomed In (6:51/HD); Deleted Scenes (5:11/HD); and an Audio Commentary for Episode 7. Finally, Disc 4 offers Genoa Rehearsal (4:50/HD); Zoomed In (2:22/HD); a Deleted Scene (1:44/HD); a Sins Promo (1:11/HD); and an Audio Commentary for the Finale.
As bloody, pulpy and ridiculous as ever, Banshee: The Complete Third Season is ten hours of frenetic entertainment with likeable, morally ambiguous characters and a heightened reality. Ex-con turned small-town sheriff Lucas Hood is a compelling anti-hero, and the plethora of villains, rogues and killers loitering in Banshee, Pennsylvania, is impressive. Highly Recommended.