There are few current shows providing such a readily-watchable mix of memorable acting, strong storytelling, and straightforward exploitation than Cinemax’s Banshee. The third season began airing recently, so now is the time for a refresher (or to catch up) via the Blu-ray release of Banshee: The Complete Second Season. Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) is still the sheriff of the Podunk town of Banshee, PA. The real Hood died at the beginning of season one, with series’ lead Starr portraying a hardened criminal who assumes Hood’s identity. His unorthodox law enforcement style slowly earns him the respect of those in his department, all of whom believe to be their rightful sheriff (Hood hadn’t reported for duty yet at the time of his demise). The ersatz Hood continues to keep most of those he encounters in the dark about his ruse, though those “in the know” lead to some of the series’ most compelling moments.
Truth be told, season one was arguably more addictive and more fun as it established the means by which Hood and his associates, including his former partner Anastasia/Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Miličević) and current partner Job (Hoon Lee), pull the wool over the largely Amish community of Banshee’s eyes. Season two bogs down a bit with a somewhat convoluted story tracking the Native American community leaders and their strained interactions with Banshee’s crime boss Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen). Their tussling over construction of a casino makes Banshee feel at times like a low-rent Big Love.
Remember the end of season one, where Hood is nearly killed by Rabbit (Ben Cross), Anastasia’s father? The aftermath of those events holds a heavy presence throughout season two, with Anastasia even doing some jail time. The chemistry between Miličević and Starr continues to run high; Anastasia and Hood have a complex relationship that provides the series with most of its depth. Proctor’s niece Rebecca (Lili Simmons) is still sleeping around, providing much of the T&A that Banshee is well-known for. As an R-rated soap opera of sorts, Banshee excels. But overall it’s a jumble of crowd-pleasing sex and violence that seems content to remain an underachiever rather than a truly A-level show.
HBO’s Blu-ray presentation is outstanding, with each episode looking richly cinematic. Clarity is never an issue, nor is contrast. Banshee is a well-produced show and every bit of that production value is onscreen. The cinematography (mostly by Christopher Faloona, according to IMDb) is on-par much higher budget shows and films, so it’s a real treat seeing it rendered so beautifully.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes pack quite a bit of punch. Methodic Doubt’s music is always slamming, just one of my elements cranked up for maximum visceral impact. If you didn’t already know, Banshee is an action-heavy show (and if that really is news to you, definitely start with season one), and all the gunfire and physical combat rings out nicely throughout these mixes.
A fair amount of special features accompanies Banshee: The Complete Second Season, with more “Banshee Origins” arguably leading the pack with a dozen prequel-based short segment that total about 45 minutes. Five of the 10 episodes include audio commentaries featuring various cast and crew members (two additional episodes boast “Twitter” pop-up commentaries). There are also “Inside the Title Sequence” text-based features for each episode. Deleted scenes crop up throughout the set (only about 7 minutes in total) and all but two episodes have “Zoomed In” featurettes (very brief, a couple minutes each).
The 10 episodes of Banshee: The Complete Second Season are spread over four Blu-ray discs. The package also includes a downloadable digital copy of the entire season.