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Banshee - Season 1 Review




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Rating
Video:   9/10
Audio:   9/10
Extras:   5/10

Good Cop? You Won't Find One Here!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
7/31/2013

    From the creator 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.
This is another case of me going into a show virtually blind. Everything I knew about the series can be summed up by "An ex-con becomes sheriff of a small town," "Alan Ball produces it," and "it's on Cinemax, so there will be nudity." And really, that's all I needed to know about the show to decide that I should give it a shot.

This 4-disc set includes all 10 episodes of the show:

Disc 1 (1:50:28)
Pilot (59:33)
The Rave (50:55)

Disc 2 (2:35:30)
Meet the New Boss (48:04)
Half Dead is Better Than All Dead (56:34)
The Kindred (50:52)

Disc 3 (2:25:20)
Wicks (53:22)
Behold a Pale Rider (43:17)
We Shall Live Forever (48:41)

Disc 4 (1:41:13)
Always the Cowboy (44:30)
A Mixture of Madness (56:43)

Video

The 1080p widescreen image looks really, really good on Blu-ray. The only issue I had was a little tiny bit of noise in a few of the dark scenes, otherwise it looked excellent. There's a "play all" feature on each disc, and there's a chapter after the opening credits. I wish the set included one of the "fancy" play all options that kept track of where you were even if you stop the disc and come back to it later. Those are very handy with TV sets, where the content on a disc may not be watched all at the same time.

Audio

This English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is definitely a good one. I enjoyed all the directional sound effects, and the great, deep bass that provided a punch for explosions, and gun fights. But there are also plenty of subtle ambient effects as well. It's a great mix, and worthy of the DTS-HD Master Audio format. There's also a Spanish DTS 2.0 Surround track, and subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Dannish, Finnish, Norweigian and Swedish.

Extras - How we rate extras

Town of Secrets (3:54)
The cast and crew of Banshee talk about the secrets the town holds.

Banshee Origins (33:53)
A series of 13 shorts which appeared online, give some backstory to events in the show. You can watch these individually, or using the "play all" feature.

Comic Book
A prequel comic book worth reading, but do it after you've watched the entire season, as it may contain spoilers depending on where you are in the season.

NYC Bus Crash (2:27)
A behind-the-scenes look at the exciting "Bus Crash" scene from the pilot episode. The work done in the scene was extremely impressive.

Inside the Title Sequence (13:48)
I always skipped the opening credits, but apparently there are some significant photos shown in each one. This interactive feature allows you to press the "enter" button while a significant photo is displayed to read the meaning behind the photograph. Very interesting feature, and shows the amount of thought that went into the opening credit sequence. Episode 1 (1:18)
Episode 2 (1:25)
Episode 3 (1:18)
Episode 4 (1:24)
Episode 5 (1:24)
Episode 6 (1:24)
Episode 7 (1:24)
Episode 8 (1:23)
Episode 9 (1:24)
Episode 10 (1:24)

Commentary Tracks
The commentary tracks are quite interesting to listen to. There are lots of tidbits that are revealed in the tracks, but I won't spoil any of them for you here. Even the "cast commentary," which can often lack substance, was full of good stuff.
Episode 1 - Antony Starr (Lucas Hood), Jonathan Tropper (Creator/Executive Producer), and Greg Yaitanes (Director/Executive Producer)
Episode 3 - Allen Marshall Palmer (Post Production Producer) and Mike O'Halloran (Editor)
Episode 5 - Ivana Milicevic (Carrie), Lili Simmons (Rebecca), Trieste Kelly Dunn (Siobhan), Matt Servitto (Brock) and SJ Clarkson (Director)
Episode 6 - OC Madsen (Director) and Alexa Fogel (Casting Director)
Episode 7 - David Shickler (Creator/Executive Producer), and Dean White (Director)
Episode 8 - Jonathan Tropper, Greg Yaitenes and Marcus Young (Stunt Coordinator)
Zooming In (3:28)
A look behind-the-scenes of some shots in the show:
Episode 7 (1:54)
Episode 8 (1:34)

Deleted Scenes (9:27)
Just a few deleted scenes from these episodes:
Episode 6 - (6:24)
Episode 9 - (1:03)
Episode 10 - (2:00)

Season 2 Teaser Trailer (0:57)
Definitely a teaser!

Reveal the Code (2:07)
Ahh, the three combination numbers to the lock on the safe in the opening credits are explained.

Summary

Wow, wow, wow! I certainly wasn't ready for the awesomeness that Banshee brought to my screen. I was completely pulled in after the first few minutes of the show (that was a brilliant first episode!), and the wild ride lasted right until the end. I've written before about how there's always a new take on the "cop show," and Banshee comes up with yet another. I've seen cop shows featuring good cops that become corrupt, but never one with an ex-con holding a badge (and if there are others, let me know because I want to watch it). I've also never seen such brutal fight scenes on a TV show. There were a few times I noticed I was completely tense while watching them battle it out on the screen. So raw... I loved it.

The rural Pennsylvania setting for the show also provides such an interesting dynamic for the series through the various groups that reside in the town. There are the cops, the regular townsfolk, the ex-cons (or never-caught-baddies), the Ukrainian mob, the local mobster and minions, the Amish, and the Native Americans. Each group interacts differently with each other, and these interactions allow for endless storylines. I found myself having little idea what was going to come next, and I love to be surprised while watching TV. It means the show has substance, and isn't using standard TV storylines that we've seen countless times.

This is also a very awesome BD set. The audio/video quality is great, and it's loaded with extras. Commentary on 60% of the episodes (but not the finale?!), some cool behind-the-scenes videos, deleted scenes, a comic book, and the fascinating "Inside the Title Sequence." Plus they've bundled the first two episodes from Strike Back on a DVD and put them in the set. It's a really cool set, and one that fans should be really happy with.

Want to hear the bad news? New episodes won't air until 2014!


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