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Banshee: The Complete First Season (2013)

HBO Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/30/2013

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/10/2013

When I was a kid, HBO was all about the movies. Even with the advent of VCR and movie rental stores, HBO was the place to turn to watch movie after movie (often over and over again), and occasionally a stand-up comedy special. Today, we have many, many ways to watch movies at home and HBO is now known as the place for original TV shows. For over 15 years, the cable giant has been turning out shows which are hits with critics and fans alike. The network came to be known for it's hour-long dramas like True Blood, Six Feet Under, and Game of Thrones. Therefore, it's not surprising that HBO's sister channel, Cinemax, would want to get in on the action. They first offered a show called Strike Back (which I have not seen) and then followed that up with Banshee. Will they be able to capture the success of HBO?

As Banshee opens, a man (Antony Starr) is released from prison. He travels to New York City where he accosts Job (Hoon Lee), an old business associate, who gives him an address. The man then travels to the town of Banshee, Pennsylvania to find his old flame, Anna. Upon arriving, he is shocked to find that she has changed her named to Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic) and that she's married to the town's district attorney (Rus Blackwell). We learn that they had been involved in a jewel heist and that the man is looking for the diamonds which are still missing. The man visits a bar owned by ex-boxer Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), and while there, becomes involved in an altercation in which the town's new sheriff is killed. Realizing that no one in town has met the new lawman, who's name is Lucas Hood, the man decides to take on this identity, as it will allow him to remain in town and near Carrie. So, the newly sworn in Sheriff Hood must stifle his ex-con tendencies and attempt to act like a lawman. This is a challenge, as Banshee is run by Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), a former Amish turned criminal who has his hands in everything.

When I first read about Banshee, I thought that the premise sounded confusing and a bit out there, and after watching the show, I can tell you that this is certainly the situation. The show offers one of the worst pilots in recent memory and it's truly a challenge to get into the show. To be fair, the pilot opens with a great action scene which is very impressive for a TV show, but once the plot shows up, things wear thin very quickly. Even with Hood's underworld connections which are able to doctor document and records so that he appears to be the sheriff, the idea is still far-fetched and hard-to-swallow. This odd premise is tacked onto a town which features many stereotypical characters.

Assuming that you can make it past the pilot, as the season progresses, Banshee certainly shows its up and downs. The most interesting moments stem from the fact that Hood is a bag guy who must act like a good guy. He is the true definition of an anti-hero, as he bends the law to do what is right at times. Banshee was created by David Schickler and Jonathan Tropper, but the main name on the credits is that of Alan Ball, HBO's go-to man behind Six Feet Under and True Blood. While Ball has shown quality in the past, Banshee feels too much like an "Alan Ball show" at times. It's very easy to compare Job to True Blood's Lafayette, and the sex and violence on the show feels like it's there for shock value as opposed to something which is necessary for the story.

It's almost become a cliche to say it, but this really is a great time for television. While the big networks still have some good shows, the true groundbreakers have come from the cable arena. Banshee isn't necessarily a bad show, it simply doesn't compare to its contemporaries and the bad pilot certainly doesn't help matters.

Banshee: The Complete First Season makes me wonder about my local sheriff on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The Blu-ray Disc set contains all 10 episodes of the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail and depth are good and the image rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track features a nice amount of stereo and surround sound effects, which really come to life during crowd scenes and the action-packed moments. The stereo effects show good separation, and the surround channels show off individual sounds. The gunfire brings the subwoofer into the mix.

The Banshee: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc set contains several extras. Disc 1 sees an AUDIO COMMENTARY on the "Pilot" from Antony Starr, Creator/Executive Producer Jonathan Tropper, and Director/Executive Producer Greg Yaitanes. "Town of Secrets" (4 minutes) offers comments from the cast and creative team who describe the underbelly and the bad people in the town of Banshee. "Banshee Origins" (34 minutes) is a series of 13 shorts which show us how some of the situations and characters in the show came to be. There is also an interactive Banshee Origins Comic Book. We go on-set to see how one of the most elaborate stunts of the pilot was done in "NYC Bus Crash" (2 minutes). "Inside the Title Sequence" is a interactive feature which is available for every episode and allows the viewer to gain insight into what some of the images from the opening credits mean. Disc 2 has AUDIO COMMENTARIES for "Meet the New Boss" with Post Production Producer Allen Marshall Palmer and Editor Mike O'Halloran and "The Kindred" with Ivan Millcevic, Lili Simmons, Trieste Kelly, Matt Servitto, and Director SJ Clarkson. Disc 3 brings more AUDIO COMMENTARIES for 'Wicks" with Director OC Madsen and Casting Director Alexa Fogel, "A Pale Rider" with Creator/Executive Producer David Shickler and Director Dean White, and "We Shall Live Forever" with Tropper, Yaitanes, and Stunt Coordinator Marcus Young. "Zooming In" (3 minutes) takes us on-set to see specific scenes in specific episodes being shot. There are also two DELETED SCENES from Episode 6. Disc 4 has two DELETED SCENES, one from Episode 9 and one from Episode 10.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.