The second season of Banshee‘s been a little more heavy-handed than the first: with less time spent digging into Hood’s violent past and a bigger focus on character emotions and motivations, the show’s just felt a little more serious (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Not “Ways to Bury A Man”, though – from the pen of writer Doug Jung comes the most fun episode of the show so far this season, a witty, adrenaline-soaked hour that feels a lot more like the show’s best episodes of season one, with the tighter writing and plot development of season two layered on top.
When Banshee is running on all cylinders, it’s using wit to undercut its brutality, giving some edge and personality to the many dark, violent events accentuating the show’s story lines. That dissonance is what makes the show addicting: it’s a nasty, nihilistic show, but one that has so much fun doing it, it’s impossible to turn away – and that dissonance is front and center in “Ways to Bury A Man”, a dour title that spawns some of the season’s funniest material, like Siobahn calling out Brock over the police radio (“You’re pretty familiar with the layout,” she tells him after he notes all the entrances to Proctor’s strip club), Proctor at his very darkest (“Sure you don’t want anything to eat?”) or anything Job has to say about anything.
That wit goes a long way: there are parts of “Ways to Bury A Man” that tread familiar ground for the series, be it Proctor and Hood butting heads or the Banshee police heading out to white supremacist country so Emmett can be berated by skinheads. The former works best, the humor of Proctor’s arrogance igniting Lucas’s short fuse (a recurring motif in the episode, literally and symbolically) to endlessly entertaining ends, using Proctor’s most prickly, quip-friendly bits of character to drive forward one of the show’s central conflicts (a conflict deepened by the disappearance of Jason, who Lucas knows disappeared, but doesn’t know where: Proctor’s meat grinder). The latter doesn’t quite have the same impact, being the self-contained adventure of the episode (and the character beats it repeats with Emmett), but where it can, the dialogue and camera work punches up the predictable: Lucas singing “But I’ve got your arrrmmm” to one of Proctor’s former drug mules the obvious highlight of the sequence.
Even Gordon gets a bit of this: watching him attempt to fight Lucas brought necessary humor to an extremely predictable plot – and ultimately, catalyzes an important moment for Gordon that gives me renewed hope for the character. Getting his butt kicked is not the wake-up call Lucas wanted to give him, but it’s the one he needed, especially when it’s compounded by the discovery he failed his children. Again, it’s not a terribly original bit of plot, but thanks to the combination of Rus Blackwell’s performance and the way the episode uses its white-knuckle, cynical DNA to deliver a rewarding character moment, it makes the Hopewell-filled corners of “Ways to Bury A Man” much more pleasant to watch.
Most importantly, “Ways to Bury A Man” stays true to its titular credo, exploring the many different ways in which men can bury themselves and each other. Some men like Lucas are buried by who they are: as he openly admits, he is a con pretending to be a cop , two completely different frames of mind that is starting to compromise the careful realities he’s constructed for both. Others, like Rabbit and Gordon, are buried by their own regrets and perceived failures – and other still like Proctor and Longshadow, are constantly in fear of being buried by their own insecurities, the very things that drive them to do the terrible, self-serving things they do. All these characters have buried themselves in one way or another, right down to the most minor characters on the show: as we’ve seen with Siobahn’s past and what we’ve heard about Sugar and others, the characters of Banshee have plenty of experience with using shovels in the woods late at night, in some form or another. “Ways to Bury A Man” only reinforces this idea – and does so in the only, wildly entertaining and bloody way it knows how.
– man, the cold open is an unpleasant scene to watch. Almost too effective.
– the one moment of emotion Ana shows when consoling Deva at the hospital is Ivana Milicevic at her finest. Just a wonderful depiction of inner strength.
– it is odd how quickly Rebecca embraces the Proctor Persona… the episode seems to open with her completely uncertain and uncomfortable with what she just participated in, but then she’s firing shots at Lucas like it ain’t no thang moments later.
– “My name is Platinumm… two M’s, as in ‘Mm, she looks good’.”
– When Sugar suggests a long fuse, Job reminds him “this isn’t a f*cking Road Runner cartoon.”
– so when is Clayton going to poke his head up again? I kind of miss him.
– single funniest moment: as Brock moves in to touch the fence outside the ecstasy warehouse, Lucas points out that it’s electric, and Brock tries to play like he was scratching his head. Hilarious.
– looks like Kai’s hooker turned rat: anyone taking bets on how long she lives for?
– “When I come for him, I come for you.”
[Photo via Cinemax]