Pilot Perception: Banshee

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Banshee, Fridays at 10 on Cinemax and at 11 on HBO Canada

The Pedigree: The series is executive produced by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) and Greg Yaitanes (House), and created and written by novelists David Schickler and Jonathan Tropper. The pilot was directed by Yaitanes.

The Cast & How You Know Them: Banshee stars Antony Starr (Outrageous Fortune, Tricky Business). The cast also includes Ivana Milicevic (Vegas, Casino Royale), Trieste Kelly Dunn (Canterbury’s Law), Matt Servitto (The Sopranos, Harry’s Law), Rus Blackwell (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ryann Shane (Lights Out), Daniel Ross Owens (The Lying Game), Ulrich Thomsen (Season of the Witch), and Frankie Faison (The Wire).

The Premise: “Lucas Hood” is a thief and ex-con who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, a town in Pennsylvania Amish country, all while continuing his own criminal activities and being hunted by other criminals.

A Taste:

What Works: The world created within the show is vivid and intriguing; I’m especially interested in learning more about the dynamic between the Amish and English communities in Banshee. (Whether that will actually be handled in an interesting and nuanced way is another question.) There were hints at interesting backstories for a few of the characters, which made me want to learn more even when their current motivations are unclear. And honestly, the whole set-up of the main character impersonating the sheriff is so absurd that it circles back around to making me want to see where they go with it.

What Doesn’t: This is Cinemax, so there’s lots of sex and violence and cursing – which I don’t have a problem in and of itself, when it feels organic to the story. The issue here is that it often doesn’t; it feels like writers said “Hey, let’s make sure no one forgets we’re on Cinemax.” It feels disjointed. And the central conceit – the criminal pretending to be the sheriff – is not sold well enough to make me buy into this guy. I guess he’s sort of doing it because of something to do with his ex, and/or because he thinks a badge will help him rob people, but it’s all pretty hazy. “Lucas” himself remains a cipher; Starr isn’t bad but he isn’t given much to work with. Pretty blue eyes and nice abs aren’t enough to make me invest in an antihero. (Or in a hero, for that matter.)

Our Favorite Line: “Now tell me you’ve got some kind of master plan here.” “Well, I usually get by on my charm.”

You Might Like This if you like True Blood, according to the way it’s being promoted, but I’ve never actually seen True Blood so I can’t say for sure. It did not remind me of Alan Ball’s other show, Six Feet Under. What it did remind me of a bit was Justified, if Raylan were replaced by his evil twin. Although, to clarify, it’s not as GOOD as Justified, just similar in look and tone. And gun skills.

If You’re Interested: Banshee is rerunning several times throughout the week, so check your local listings! Then tune in to episode two next Friday.

(Photo courtesy of Cinemax.)

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