You blow my mind Banshee…see you in 2015

Banshee-S1-BD_01Banshee is in one word, bad ass.

I started watching the Cinemax original series last year when it first debuted and was hooked after the first episode. The concept — ex-con assumes the identity of the town’s new sheriff (Lucas Hood) to hide from a Ukrainian crime lord named Rabbit — sounded  intriguing, in a TV world that was growing overwhelmingly supernatural. Set in the small town of Banshee in Pennsylvania — amid Amish country and land of fictional Native American tribe, the Kinaho  — the show is what I call a mix The Sopranos, meets Six Feet Under, meets Boardwalk Empire. (A brain child of Alan Ball, I expect nothing less.) Nothing about the seemingly simple premise is what it seems. Banshee creators have managed to do in two ten-episode seasons, what many shows, sans a  few, fail to do in five or more. It keeps you  guessing and on the edge of your seat with high octane action week after week that leaves you tweeting: holy shit! Did that just happen ?!?! 

Everything about Banshee is sublime. The writing is incredible, acting superior, and its ten episode season the right mix of energy and storyline that leaves you breathless, panting for more. I can’t believe Season 2 is over already. Seems like it just started. And when I said leaves you panting, I meant it. Let’s just say, there is plenty of skin… and heat. And tweeting, yes tweeting. Banshee creators have used transmedia storytelling (a concept that’s been talked about for years by PR and marketing folks – like moi!)  to bring the world of Banshee, PA to life, which includes back story content on the show’s characters  on the show’s website (such as video and graphic novel), the main story, and real time engagement from the show’s actors on Twitter every week. Yeah, you heard that right. The  show’s creators and actors actually engage online every week with the group of fans, otherwise known as #fanshees and us girls who dig the show, #fansheegirls.  I sadly missed out on a lot of this activity this season. A busy couple of months meant my Banshee time was relegated to the weekend (and after hours when the 5yo was asleep). However, the team at Banshee and its followers do engage after the show airs and throughout the weekend, so I still got a little engagement. I fully plan to be back next season, Friday night plans be damned!

Let me stop here for a moment to wax poetic about the cast of Banshee. Everyone is great, but Antony Starr (Sheriff Hood), Ivana Milicevic (Carrie/Anna), Ulrich Thomsen (Kai), Frankie Faison (Sugar), Hoon Lee (Job) and Matt Rauch (creepy Clay Burton) take the cake. I can’t say enough about each of them. Each of these actors bring a mix of grit, emotion, and physicality that pushes everything we know of good programs to the limit, delivering beyond excellence. We believe Ivana is Carrie. We believe Starr is Hood. Their pain, and lost years, are our pain and lost years. The time Hood served, every horror he experienced behind bars, we can identify with. And Anna’s ferocity to protect her family – I don’t have to tell any mother out there anything about that because if pushed, we would not just push back but fight and fight hard – and Anna fights with every force of her ability, to protect her children and I identify with that. Its palpable. Its excruciating. Its spine tingling. And I just. can’t. get. enough.

Moments from this season I can’t seem to shake:

  • Episode 5, “The Truth About Unicorns” – this episode had to be one of the most incredible pieces of television I have ever seen (right up there with the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones). Deviating from the madness of Banshee for nearly an entire episode,  Hood and Anna are given a chance to look back and see what life may have been had he not been sent to jail fifteen years ago. A life where they make it out of the crime ridden world they both reside, and live free from Rabbit, free from fear. A world where we finally see what both of them have been thinking about since the show started: a world where he becomes a father, where fifteen years in prison is spent instead, living and laughing and loving.  The way it was shot and the editing was a huge part of what made it feel part of another world, and it underscored my believe that everything about Banshee, in front of the cameras and behind, is superbly done. And while it was meant to be dreamy, the reality check was harsh:  that which was dreamed, never was and will never be. It gave me goosebumps.
  • Emmett and the Loss of Life  – when Emmett’s wife was kicked in the stomach, which lead to her losing their child, I wept silently. To lose  someone you never met, but had high hopes for, no matter the stage of your pregnancy, weeks or months, is a pain you never get over. I also wept for the destruction it caused in Emmett, bringing years of resentment for the society he was born into but would never truly feel he belonged, bubbling to the surface. His actions led to the horribly raw death of both he and his wife. Their beautiful hearts were cut short way too soon and I don’t blame Demetrius Grosse (the actor whom portrays Emmett) from being angry about his character’s death. I would be too. And I was.
  • Kai and His Niece Sitting in a Tree, Hopefully Not K-I-S-S-I-N-G – it sure did look like they were going there. Where? Just where I said, there. And if they really are going there, I can’t. I just can’t. But the view into the whole Amish world is fascinating and the relationship between Kai and his mother is something to explore. And his niece, damn it if in all her freakishness, she isn’t turning into a bit of a Boss herself? Which leads me to Clay.
  • Creepy Clay Burton – I love Matt Rauch. He’s a great actor. And while he says very little (if anything at all), when he’s around, you know it’s not good. So the scene in the hotel room, where he is cleaning up the mess left behind by Kai’s niece’s tryst with Jason Hood? Well its a moment of creepy, but brilliant acting and directing.
  • The Son of Lucas Hood – If the son of the real Sheriff Hood came and went, whose to say the baby mamma isn’t far behind?
  • So Long Alex Longshadow – to be honest, he was a prick. Chief Benjamin Longshadow would  have been better putting his daughter Nola at the head of the tribe. She’s tough, smart, has a set of steel balls that are unlike her brother’s, and she’s gorgeous. However, Alex’s death in the finale seemed random and a bit maniacal and did spur on the return of Chayton Littlestone. And with a first name that is the same as my son’s middle (different spelling, but also Native American in origin and ancestry) he can’t be too bad. Or can he? Dude is vicious. He is bad, and more.
  • The Lives Not Lived of Lucas Hood – In the finale, Lucas’ response of “none really” to Carrie’s question “how many lives have you lived?” begs the question, what else does Hood have in his past. A past that is pre Carrie. Pre Rabbit. Pre prison. Is there a new world we are going to be introduced to now that Rabbit is dead, the secret of Dava’s father is out, and Kai out of prison? We can only guess. And wait.

How many days again until season 3? All I know is we have to wait until 2015. 2015!! Such a long time. What will we do? Oh that’s right, we will wait until the first glimpse of next season starts to circulate next year. Until then, we always have trailers from this season.

Running up that Hill

I will admit – I owe a lot to Pandora for helping me to discover new artists.  The list of music in my iPod is incredible and diverse, with brilliant music from lesser known artists I would have never knew existed, if that clever witch didn’t “suggest” them to me. Of course once upon a time I could have looked to MTV for fresh new music, but we all know what happened there.

I love discovering new music – well, music that to me might be new, but to others might have been around for awhile. Artists who perhaps once packed small bars in Boulder  (i.e. Big Head Todd) or played at SXSW (i.e. The Boxer Rebellion) long before it became THE conference to attend.   But while yes, Pandora is part of my discovery engine, there is another engine that I must give credit to: the TV show preview.

So often we hear a song used to tease the arrival of a new show or season and there goes the band. Overnight success! This happened with The Fray, through the use of their song “How to Save a Life” in the trailer for Grey’s Anatomy, which is anything but the indie band it was once upon a time. But now they’re not just using music to lure us into the show via trailers, but keep us connected every episode. Episode playlists are filled with new or lesser known artists, becoming a launchpad of sorts for many.   The WB was one of the first networks to create the “as heard on tonight’s episode” wrap up after its shows. The CW has now mastered this. But they’re not alone, TV around the world has become a successful place to find great music – both those who might have been around, under the radar, and new.

Case in point #1: Portishead. Formed in 1991 in Bristol, England, they’ve been around a long time. I danced to them at the Ministry of Sound in London in 1995, but didn’t realize until “Machine Gun” was featured in the UK’s hit TV show Skins in season 3the only version of the show one should watch, not that tragic wannabe version on MTV — that I realized how unique a band they really were. Despite the hundreds of fan vids on YouTube that have been developed using the song as their soundtrack, I find their music pretty awesome. For the past few years they have become a group I frequently put on when I need to dive into my writing with full force.

Case in point #2: Placebo. Covered Kate Bush’s epic “Running up that Hill” in 2006, but I didn’t discover until it was included in episode 1, season 1 of the CW’s series, Vampire Diaries. Now it seems like it’s on replay on Pandora (and of course I have the soundtrack for the show) so I never stop hearing the song. It’s another writing muse for me and despite being wildly popular online, it maintains its great vibe. Not to mention incredibly cool official music video uses clips from fan vids, too.

A favorite right now, newly discovered via TV….”Bloodstream” from Stateless.