It was the end of times, and—as is so often the case with TV finales–it was the worst of times. Cinemax’s “Banshee” was one of the most consistently underrated shows on television, and in fact many readers of this article may not have even heard of the series, let alone watched it. I want to be clear about two seemingly contradictory things: the final season of Banshee was the worst of the series, but you should still watch it. I’m not kidding, even the “worst” season of Banshee is still only a B- while the rest of the series is firmly in the A-range. It’s seriously worthy of your time, and I hope you’ll think about it…
The Fourth and Final Season…a.k.a. “the worst”…Sure, it’s the worst season, but it’s also the shortest (only eight episodes) and exists mostly to give closure to all the characters we’ve grown to love. There’s a hogwash subplot about a satanic serial killing-cult—whereas most of Banshee’s villains are more criminal—and the season’s other main villains, a white supremacist brotherhood, are never as well-developed as past season’s villains, but it’s still nice to take one last trip with the “Banshee” crew. The final season would probably be better as a two-hour movie minus extraneous subplots, but I’m still grateful for the time spent. Grade: B-
The First Season…Perfectly sets up the insane world and far-fetched premise without ever becoming laughable. I instantly fell for the great cast of characters (where else can you find a banished-Amish crime Lord and a sexually ambiguous Chinese hacker and a Ukranian crime princess hiding in suburbia all in the same episode?) and riveting fight sequences, the best on Television. People who praise “Daredevil” for their fight scenes have clearly never watched an hour of “Banshee.” The lone sore spot of the season: Lucas Hood doesn’t really make sense yet and is pretty much just there to power the plot while the more interesting supporting cast is busy. Grade: A-
The Second Season…To me, this one is just a little bit better than the first season, and that’s due largely to a satisfying conclusion to the Rabbit (the Ukranian crime kingpin whose hatred of his daughter and her boyfriend’s betrayal powers the first two seasons) vs. main characters storyline, and the introduction of the series best villain: Native American supremacist Chayton Littlestone, leader of a reservation gang called the Redbones. Add in a crazy armored truck heist and conflicts between ex-Amish crime lord Guy Proctor and the reservation’s casino chief, and it’s a near-perfect season. Grade: A
The Third Season…a.k.a. “the best one”…Most of the best “standout” moments I really think about happening in “Banshee” seem to happen in this one fantastic season, from Burton and Nola’s incredible fight (again, if you think “Daredevil” has good fights, just check out this 5-minute showstopper) to the robbery of a crooked army base shot entirely in character-cameras to a confrontation with an obese gangster who lives in an 18-wheeler to Hood’s relationship with two very different women. A season that has so much going for it I can’t even think of a “best” moment, scene, episode, or even storyline, but satisfying resolutions to Chayton vs. Hood, Proctor vs. black Philadelphia gangsters, and most of the main characters vs. a corrupt army unit of elite killers are right up there. Simple amazing, and it’s only because this season is so strong that season 4 is a comparative letdown. Grade: A
End Note: The fact that it took me less than half as long to write the article as it did to decide which pictures I wanted to use–because there were dozens of great action shots–should tell you something about how many good scenes this show has produced.