From Alan Ball, creator/EP of True Blood, this exciting new Cinemax action drama charts the twists and turns that follow Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), an ex-convict who improbably becomes sheriff of a rural, Amish-area town while searching for a woman he last saw 15 years ago, when he gave himself up to police to let her escape after a jewel heist. Living in Banshee under an assumed name, Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic) is now married to the local DA, has two children (one of whom may be Lucas’), and is trying desperately to keep a low profile – until Lucas arrives to shake up her world and rekindle old passions. Complicating matters is the fact that Banshee is riddled by corruption, with an Amish overlord, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), brutally building a local empire of drugs, gambling and graft. With the help of a boxer-turned-barkeeper named Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), Lucas is able to stay on even footing with Kai and his thugs, and even manages to bring a measure of tough justice to Banshee. But eventually, Lucas’ appetite for pulling heists pulls him and Carrie into a dangerous cauldron of duplicity, exacerbated when Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross), the NY mobster they once ripped off, closes in with vengeance on his mind.
Cinemax is still on the hunt for a golden show along the lines of Homeland
that will help them catch up to the gold standard of HBO originals. Enlisting a creative crew headed by Alan Ball, who helped establish HBO's reputation with Six Feet Under
and True Blood
, the cable channel made a good bet on Banshee
. The series has a nice concept of small-town corruption where criminals lurk in the seemingly bucolic landscape. Its outlaw hero is hiding in plain sight, a not-always-sympathetic protagonist who wears the disguise of a tough-guy sheriff. Fresh out of prison for a crime we learn about as the episodes progress, Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) lands in Banshee, Pennsylvania, looking for the loot that's owed him. He's also back on the radar of a sinister New York mob boss named Rabbit (Ben Cross, dapper and dangerous), who was the target of the caper that sent Hood up the river. Banshee is in Amish country, a detail that will assert itself in lots of interesting ways over 10 episodes. It's also the kind of place where a charming, determined criminal beast like Hood can disappear while plotting his moves and pulling heists. It's no accident that he ended up in Banshee, though a fortuitous twist of fate allows him to slip in on the lowdown and stick around. It's pure luck when he interrupts a bar fight that claims the life of a guy who has also just come to town--to be installed as the new sheriff. Hood doesn't kill him (though he does kill the killers), but he assumes his identity since the guy's been hired sight unseen by Banshee's young mayor (Daniel Ross Owens). This nifty setup unfolds in a roadhouse run by Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), an ex-boxer turned barkeep who hides Hood's new secret and helps him along on his duplicitous new life, not least by conveniently letting him move into the room upstairs. Hood pulls off his con for the most part, though his new underlings are puzzled and often put off by his unconventional policing techniques. Matt Servitto, Demetrius Grosse, and Trieste Kelly Dunn as Banshee's deputies all take part in keeping the entire ensemble cast a well-oiled machine. The female lead is Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic), who was romantic and criminal partners with Hood, but got away when he took the fall for them both after the big score against Rabbit 15 years earlier. Now enveloped in her new identity as the respectable wife of district attorney Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell), Carrie feels the pull of the old days with Hood around--the larceny and the romance both--she says she doesn't have the loot. Hood is skeptical, and he also has a fair amount of doubt over Carrie and Gordon's 15-year-old daughter (!!), with whom he establishes an unusual bond. The other big player in Banshee
's cracking good mystery/thriller threads is a local businessman named Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), who's not so secretly running an assortment of illegal enterprises. He's ex-Amish, which makes for some interesting character depth, as do the complicated relationships he shares with the mayor, the D.A., and now the new sheriff. A sadistic and ruthless presence, Proctor smells a rat in Hood (takes one to know one?), and the plot thickens considerably across the episodes with all the other players whose interconnected suspicions bristle and brew. There's a healthy portion of bloody violence in action-packed unfolding that wears its dramatic, big-budget cable credentials proudly. The same goes for the often gratuitous sex that has become a notable element of Cinemax-branded product. That's the only thing that makes Banshee
remotely creepy, even though there are plenty of ghosts in the dark corners and felonious minds of Banshee, PA. --Ted Fry