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Banshee’s latest episode, “The Truth About Unicorns” is a daring and gutsy effort. After the insane action and violence of the last two episodes, and despite really the fast-paced, pulpy action-thriller style of the entire series, the writers take an uncharacteristically contemplative approach in this installment. If you had told me last week that the next episode would be an exploration of Lucas and Carrie’s relationship and would consist mostly of them talking/brooding together with minimal action, I would have dreaded the upcoming installment. No Kai Proctor, no Rebecca, no Longshadows… Worst idea ever. Not only because of the indifference/disinterest I have towards Carrie and her relationship with Lucas, but also because that is just not what the show Banshee is, or not what it has been necessarily successful in. Banshee has always exceled in the over the top storytelling and action, fantastic fight sequences amidst a hyper-real universe, where the semi-good guy manages to escape most situations unscathed and a hero.
The attempts to bring some depth and subtext through things like dream sequences and flashback scenes have always felt somewhat tacked on. The writers trying to add profound meaning to things, when all we really want from the show is ass kicking and badassery. Plus, the delving into the inner psyche of the characters mostly came off as hackneyed and clichéd. Not that unbelievable fight scenes (and the occasional gratuitous sex scene) are the only successful aspect of the show, the writers also manage to create intriguing characters and build compelling storylines for them to explore, but there is no denying that it’s what it thrives on. Lately the writers have been really successful in their approach, creating engaging character stories that serve the pulpy style of the series, weaving the action and insanity in a way that feels organic to the Banshee universe. Essentially giving the audience what it wants and expects from the show, without sacrificing the integrity of the story and its characters. With this latest episode, they totally mess with our expectations and take a radical shift in pace and style. And, despite all that, I find myself liking “The Truth About Unicorns” and the effort from the show’s creators to try something completely different. Sure not all of it works flawlessly, but there is a lot to admire from the episode and the finalproduct is an interesting take on the characters as well as the series itself.
While some of the show’s gimmicky editing can be irritating and a little bit too much at times, the technique served the episode well. The way the show plays with point of view and perspective is interesting, and in this story in particular it is especially effective as it gives the episode a dreamy, surreal quality. Which is necessary in a narrative like this. In an episodewhere the main action is two characters interacting and talking for an extended period of time, there has to be an element of uncertainty or style to add some interest; something unique/different to counterbalance the potential banality of the premise. Let’s face it, Carrie and Lucas talking for the first half of an episode does not sound fun. So the moments in which we see Carrie’s visions of what she wishes would happen, or when there are these subtle time shifts and their conversation continues in voice over, and the various dream sequences add some necessary interest. Also, the subjective shots, from both Carrie and Lucas alike, add a considerable amount of tension to the story. For a while there, we don’t know if Lucas is being paranoid and just imagining the car following them or not, and whether or not his vision of Rabbit in the crowd is real is left unclear. These brief glimpses add suspense and uncertainty to their situation and establishes a mood of suspense that continues through the rest of the episode. Though those flashbacks (to Carrie/Anna and Lucas before he went to jail) remain cheesy as ever.
The feeling of unease is palpable when they get to the house Lucas had bought for them both, and it is then when crazy things start to happen. Oh, Jim Racine, your presence on the show was fun but fleeting. It isn’t a huge surprise that he was following Carrie after her release, but his incredibly sudden death is a great moment. It is surprising in the best way, unexpected, but totally believable within the confines of the show and the story. Remember when I thought he’d play a major part in the season? Guess not. Still, I appreciate the writers’ decision to misdirect us and let us think that he would be around longer by giving him a backstory and strong goal. Though I now question his mere presence in the story, what was the point? I would have liked to see more of it play out. However his death is just a great scene that serves as a catalyst in the episode and sets off the following suspenseful sequence with the sniper, giving the episode the required dose of action. The grocery lady was following them! Again a great little reveal that is completely plausible in a show like Banshee. The ultimate demise of the sniper is quite brutal and what we have come to know from the series, but it also shows us the great team Carrie and Lucas are and how well they work together.
It seems that Lucas’ plan to leave Banshee (as he expressed to Job in the previous episode) was actually genuine. When he takes Carrie to the house, he kind of has it all figured out and appears to have thought it all through. But now that Rabbit is actively out after both of them he decides that staying in Banshee is the right thing. I question that logic because if his main goal is keeping Deva safe, then wouldn’t it be better for her if he stayed away? That way she is far away from danger and doesn’t get caught in the crossfires? Regardless, the show obviously wouldn’t have him leave the town, I mean; the series is called Banshee after all.
The episode ends with a fun and smart beat, as Sugar goes on in a clichéd monologue intercut with scenes of Carrie staring at Deva’s picture and leaving the unicorn in Deva’s room. Sugar goes on, “When you live like we live it goes without saying, we’re gonna find ourselves in places we never imagined we’d be. Looking back, wondering how the hell we got there and why the hell it seems you can’t leave. And that’s something broken in us, something that we don’t have and other people do that lets them settle down, find peace and dream of a better life. People like you and me, we can’t afford those dreams.…There are ghosts that just won’t let us be.” It is all very hackneyed and on the nose and eye-roll inducing, but the moment is promptly undercut by Hoods, “Fuck that,” as he shuts off the radio playing (which had added to the sentiment and corny-ness of it all). Hood’s defiance and dismissal is not only kind of great on a character level, but it also subverts the television conventions that the writers were playing with. That is an intentionally unsubtle speech, emphasized by some obvious visuals, and Hood’s interruption plays like the writers’ reminding us that Banshee is not you average action-thriller drama. This episode is certainly proof of that.