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Following last week’s unorthodox episode, which took a respite from the customary over the top, insane violence and action, Banshee returns to full form with “Armies of One.” If some fans were peeved by the lack of “action” in the previous installment, then they are certainly compensated with this outing. As I’ve said before, the writers keep getting better at developing a style for the show and a sense of what the show is all about. So, after going out on a limb and exploring more conceptual ideas in the former episode, they waste no time in assuring the audience that while they are playing with some stylistic flourishes, the series’ core remains the same. This is yet another episode that revels in the unabashed display of violence, sex, and even more intriguing character moments. Though the narrative isn’t exactly the most engaging, the structure reverts to the ‘bad guy of the week’ mode, it provides a series of interesting reveals and complications that will definitely be fun to delve into in the last episodes of the season.
So, the episode opens with yet another set of troublemakers making their way to Banshee and quickly antagonizing Lucas, no surprise there. However, for a while we are led to believe that these two are more of Rabbit’s henchmen sent to take care of Lucas and Carrie, learning that they are really after Jason is a pleasant little surprise (and a slight precursor to some of the episodes most shocking moments). As soon as Jason made his way to Banshee, we all knew he would be a huge burden for Lucas, the seemingly simple obstacle he appeared to be at first promptly gave way to bigger, more imposing set of complications. Not only do the thugs appear in the town looking for their money, but also their brawl with Lucas in the bar heightens Brock’s suspicions of the new sheriff. Of course, the new arrivals to Banshee are a source of some great action and fight scenes; and, needless to say, the British guy’s death joins the albino and the Amish teacher in the growing list of greatest deaths in the series’ short history. It’s so ridiculous, but undoubtedly entertaining. Though, I have to point out that the shot lingers a bit too much on the decapitated body, thus turning the moment into a fully comic one, instead of chilling and scary.
Of course, Lucas overcomes his new adversaries, as usual in these cases, and manages to rescue Jason from his dilemma, but nothing could have saved him from Proctor’s irrational wrath. For a while there it seemed that Proctor was softening a little, his brutal ways were downplayed in earlier episodes, but this moment serves as a great reminder of the kind of ruthless and evil man he is. His obsessive command or need to control Rebecca has become very clear, not only to us but to Rebecca, who is obviously struggling with this new mode of oppression. She might have thought she was escaping a repressive environment when she left her family, but is now realizing that this new “free” world isn’t all that different. This is easily the most compelling narrative and character dynamic the series has going for it. What presented itself as a creepy, incestuous vibe between uncle and niece is developing into an engrossing study of power and domination.
Rebecca’s fascination with Proctor’s power is evident in the episode, from her interest of his dealings with Longshadow and the casino, to her (once again) peering in on his sexual exploits. She even imitates her uncle’s attitude when she is with Jason; she is definitely calling the shots in their encounter and is clearly in control of the situation. That is, until Proctor barges in and Burton gruesomely strangles Jason, in what is the episodes most unexpected development. It isn’t a major loss, the character was leaving Banshee, but even after Sugar’s not so subtle warning about Rebecca, it is very effective. Did not see that coming. Especially now that Lucas has given away all his cash for nothing, essentially. Also, we get to see the wonderfully bizarre montage of Burton cleaning up the scene of the crime. This is a character whose impact is stronger when his backstory is left unexplored, he is straight up weird and if the writers begin to demystify him, I’m afraid that some of that impact will be lost. While it is fun to see a bit more of him and his weird personality, I hope he remains the enigma that he is. Still, the crux of this storyline is the complicated relationship between Proctor and Rebecca and the tensions that arise from it, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
From the most intriguing storyline to the most mundane, this episode is heavy on the Carrie family drama and suffers for it. Last week’s episode did little to endear me to Carrie (it was an interesting study of her relationship with Lucas, but not Carrie per se) so her continued struggle with her family remains tedious. Not to mention the clichéd and probably unnecessary scene of teen drama with Deva. Too much Dana! Whoops, I mean, Deva. The scene in the dinner with Deva and Carrie is by far the most successful moment of the storyline and could have worked without all the extraneous dramatic rubbish. Just having the two of them kind of bond over the horrible parents they both had/have is effective enough. Gordon’s seeming downward spiral is too on the nose and tired, hopefully the business with Brock will force him to snap out of it and make him an interesting adversary to Lucas.
Finally the revelation that the diamonds were fakes all along lacks the necessary impact that the writers are probably looking for. Sure, the implications it brings about Rabbit and even Job are slightly interesting, but not earth shattering-ly so. Lucas had already decided not to leave Banshee and Rabbit was still pursuing him, it doesn’t exactly change his standing as much as it just probably will make his insanely angry and bitter. Which could be fun to watch.
“Armies of One” is a fun outing that sets up compelling conflicts for the episodes to come. The second season continues to impressively improve and provide interesting stories with each passing episode and is surely becoming an outstanding season of television.