I must admit: I’m a sucker for episodes like “The Truth About Unicorns.” Be it The Walking Dead‘s “Clear”, Enlightened‘s “The Weekend,” or The Sopranos “College,” episodes that uproot major characters from their normal environments offer an abundance of avenues for character exploration, a time where overarching plots and dramas can take a seat, and give viewers something to really sink their teeth into. And “The Truth About Unicorns” does not disappoint: not only is the best episode of Banshee‘s second season so far, but arguably the best of the series, giving definition to the reckless, violent man that is Lucas Hood.
For fifteen years, Lucas held onto the dream of running away with Ana and creating a life absent of the crime and violence they’d become accustomed to living under Rabbit. Whether its been in prison or out of it, we’ve seen plenty of Lucas’s psychological struggle with himself, a man who defines every horrible act he commits as a means to an end. That end is obviously Ana, something Banshee‘s never shied away from showing us – but beyond knowing that he was in love with her, Lucas’s dedication to his old girlfriend appeared to run deeper, in ways that the show didn’t seem confident enough to explain to us.
“The Truth About Unicorns”, however, is an episode of a TV show fully in control of its identity and purpose. Through a series of quick flashbacks (and in some cases, fantasy sequences) we finally get to see the life Lucas has so desperately fought for over the years: a quiet rural home in the middle of nowhere in PA, a place he’d bought and paid for through his years in prison, the last beacon of hope for him to have a “normal” life with the woman he loved.
But what kind of relationship would they have had? At first, Lucas dreams of them enjoying each other’s company, the peaceful escape from Rabbit and their life in his gang allowing him to live a simple life of love, surrounded by nature. However, their scenes in the present betray his fantasy: no matter where these two are, they’re going to be looking over each other’s shoulders. Soccer moms, neighbors, old friends…. anyone could be working for Rabbit, and both Lucas and Ana are way too paranoid (well, practical is really the word, given what we know about Rabbit) to ever be able to truly enjoy a life with each other without worrying about the other shoe dropping at some point.
What Lucas doesn’t realize for most of “The Truth About Unicorns” is how doomed that plan was in the first place: it’s not until a suddenly enlightened Agent Racine shows up and promptly gets murdered (triggering one of the most annoying TV tropes: a person with pertinent knowledge spills it, and then dies), that Lucas finally realizes the truth about his pink unicorn. There’s a reason he never had his happy ending with Ana: it doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t: trouble follows them where ever they go, their decision to rob valuable diamonds to find their happy ending the very thing that prevents them from it. If it’s not Rabbit, then it’s the government trying to figure out who Lucas Hood is (I figure more than one person’s seen that DNA test, right?): no matter how much Lucas and Ana may love each other, the future they dreamed of together is gone, burned to dust long before their potential home did.
By pulling away from the various happenings around Banshee, “The Truth About Unicorns” finally has the space to dig further into the mind of Lucas. He’s a man tired of running and fighting: through all the years of not being himself, Lucas has lost any sort of identity of his own. The only thing he can really remember about himself (outside of a vague interest in model airplanes) is that he loves Ana: when push comes to shove and everything else in life melts away, the singular image in Lucas’s head is the one shown at the end of the opening credits: Ana smiling at him.
Although its story (and message) is not very complicated, “The Truth About Unicorns” is still a bold episode for the show: an audience used to the usual mix of head-bashing may be lulled into boredom by the episode’s methodical pace. But that pace is key to establishing the driving force behind the silent, locked-jaw grimace of the man not named Lucas Hood: he knows his dream is dead long before he watches it burn in front of his face, and the longer he tries to play out the facade, the more emotionally resonant it gets.
Every fist, bullet, flesh wound, and burn Lucas has endured has been for one reason – and boy, does “The Truth About Unicorns” twist the knife in Hood’s chest, pointing out just how fruitless that entire endeavor has been. Ana wants to go “home” (which isn’t where Lucas wants it to be), his facade as Lucas Hood is crumbling around him… every decision Lucas has made since getting caught was to preserve something that could never exist in the first place, as heartbreaking of a moment a mercilessly brutal show like Banshee could hope to deliver.
– “You’re using us as bait?” “Exactly” is Racine’s response, without a single moment of hesitation.
– speaking of Racine, I would assume his death holds major repercussions towards the end of the season. Either that, or the writers introduced him early on then quickly abandoned the idea for others – I’m guessing it’s the former and they’ve got something planned right now.
– everything audio/visual about this episode is perfect, from the powerful score, to director Babak Najafi’s intricate cinematography. The directing of the episode is particularly terrific, telling the most important beats of the story with beautifully composed images.
– the corn field scene evoked memories of The Bourne Identity‘s… both are pretty awesome.
– the one positive note for Lucas: him and Ana will always be connected through Deva, even if they may never be able to build a life together in the way they once imagined.
– Sugar: “some ghosts won’t let us be.” Hood: “F*** that.”
[Photo via Cinemax]