As our resident Banshee reviewer, I was pleased to receive the fourth and final season in my mailbox to screen. I respect the showrunners for allowing the series to go out on a high note instead of running the pulp spectacle into the ground. After the botched heist at the end of last season, Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) is no longer sheriff of Banshee, Pennsylvania, and instead nurses his wounds at a secluded cabin on gangster Kai Proctor's (Ulrich Thomsen) property. In a bold and unexpected twist (do not read further if you want to know absolutely nothing about the storyline of this season), catalyst-for-trouble and sexpot Rebecca Bowman (Lili Simmons) has been murdered, which devastates Uncle Proctor and rattles Hood. Turns out the troubled woman comforted Hood in his time of need and was making plans to branch away from her uncle's business. The season sees Hood searching for Rebecca's killer, fighting Neo-Nazis and reuniting with old friends. This final, eight-episode run is an exciting and appropriate send-off for a wildly entertaining show.
Banshee has never caved to convention, and I have trouble neatly summarizing its plot and merits when recommending the show to friends. It is violence, sex, humor, the Amish, cons, gangsters, Neo-Nazis, murder, seduction, etc. I was surprised Banshee killed off Rebecca, but it makes sense. She somehow became the most tragic figure in a web of sin; a woman plucked from her conservative upbringing and thrust into a corrupting world. I think now that Proctor was not actually screwing his niece. The show hinted at the possibility last season, but the cold, hard gangster loves her in a different, less carnal way. The hunt for Rebecca's killer quickly focuses on a satanic cult, led by horned psychopath Declan Bode (Frederick Weller), and Eliza Dushku swoops in to help as Special Agent Veronica Dawson, a streetwise FBI profiler battling her own demons. Elsewhere about town, a new leader of the Aryan Brotherhood, Calvin Bunker (Chris Coy), emerges to battle Proctor for his business empire. Calvin's brother, Kurt (Tom Pelphrey), is a gone-straight Banshee deputy, and he joins the new sheriff, Brock Lotus (Matt Servitto), to finally rid Banshee of its criminal underbelly.
This final season is as unpredictable, crazy and over-the-top as ever, which is to be expected from Banshee. Proctor and Rebecca began to feud last season over Proctor's decision to allow the Aryan Brotherhood to operate his trafficking empire. Rebecca wanted the job, but Proctor had different plans. Once Calvin gets a taste of success, he begins having bigger dreams. Full of hate and unrestrained rage, Calvin is even more dangerous than Proctor. Further complicating matters, Calvin's wife Maggie (Casey LaBow) wants out of the life, and runs to Kurt for protection. There is, as always, a lot going on this season. Also addressed are the kidnapped Job (Hoon Lee), Carrie's troubled daughter Deva (Ryann Shane), and bar owner/Hood ally Sugar (Frankie Faison). These numerous plot threads might have tripped up a lesser show, but Banshee proves fast, furious and effective in weaving all these characters into the drama.
If nothing else, Banshee is a unique show that will not be easily duplicated. Cinemax is the perfect home for such a gonzo, pulpy series. The violence, sex and depravity of earlier seasons are here, too, but they never feel exploitative. This is an unrestrained show full of terrible characters and ugly realities. The acting is again strong, particularly from Starr, Thomsen and Dushku, whom I love. In a decidedly Banshee move, Dawson is a wounded bird who turns to crack cocaine to ease her job stress, a habit she picked up working undercover on inner-city streets. The Bunker brothers' storyline is surprisingly powerful, particularly when Kurt agonizes over how to deal with Calvin. When Hood reveals his ultimate deception to Lotus, the show offers another surprisingly affecting dramatic moment. The secrets of Rebecca's death are fitting for the character, and Banshee does a nice job laying down clues without revealing the killer's motive until the intended moment. This fourth and final season of Banshee is a fine and fitting cap to a decidedly unique and entertaining series.
If you've seen my reviews for the previous three seasons, you can guess that this season's 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfers are excellent. You'd be right, as the HD presentations support the varied cinematography with excellent clarity and fine-object detail. Sharp, crisp and clean, these transfers offer expansive wide shots, intimate close-ups and bold, perfectly saturated colors. Black levels are strong, shadow detail is good, and pans are mostly clear. Other than some minor digital noise in nighttime scenes, these are stellar presentations.
The discs provide theater-quality 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. As explosive and immersive as a blockbuster action mix, the soundtracks offer excellent dialogue reproduction and layering. Ambient effects like traffic, outdoor noise, and office chatter surround the viewer in each episode. The frequent action effects are bone rattling, in the best way. Gunfire whizzes about the room, a car wreck rocks the subwoofer, and an explosion levels the home theater. French and German 5.1 DTS dubs and a Spanish 2.0 DTS dub are included, as are English SDH, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish subs.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This three-disc set comes in a hinged Blu-ray case with two-sided artwork. Information about each of the eight episodes is listed on the reverse. The case slides into a cardboard slipbox with clever artwork that is thematically similar to that of earlier seasons. As with earlier releases, you get Episode Recaps, Deleted Scenes, and a couple of Zoomed In featurettes, all in HD, as well as two Audio Commentaries and Cast Retrospectives.
This Cinemax series is something I stumbled upon without prior knowledge, but it turned out to be one of my favorite shows of the last decade. This fourth and final season of Banshee is a fine conclusion for the show, and offers closure for the characters. The Blu-ray release is technically excellent and comes Highly Recommended.