Underneath the jittery cameras of “The Warrior Class” is one of the show’s more ambitious hours, one that finally tries to establish the multi-ethnic setting of Banshee, PA beyond the superficial construction of Indian Casino Group and Kai’s Amish Family. And while “The Warrior Class” doesn’t bring anything unique in the way of exploring rural racial tensions, the exploration of the town’s two secluded camps bring a new sense of atmosphere the show hasn’t really had before. More so, the hour shows some important signs of narrative progression, something the reset-button hitting first two episodes were too preoccupied to do.
The murder mystery at the heart of “The Warrior Class” serves a number of purposes, chief among them (no pun intended) deepening the Proctor/Longshadow feud, something that’s only alluded to in passing during the episode. The death of Lana by one of her own (good old creepy Nola) and the disappearance of her Amish boyfriend Soloman (Rebecca’s little brother) is a deft bit of orchestration by the Longshadow clan: not only does it drum up tension between Kai and his family (and the Amish and Native Americans), but it also has the ancillary benefit of unleashing the massive Chaton Littlestone on the white folks of Banshee, a darker-skinned, tattooed second coming of the behemoth in last season’s “Wicks”.
As we might expect, Lucas throws himself at Chaton when they illegally arrive at the reservation to question people, another action in the episode that serves dual purposes. It’s both a reminder of how recklessly arrogant Lucas is (not to mention he can take a hit like Po from Kung-Fu Panda), and how damn stressed he is, hardly able to focus on anything through the episode while he thinks about Ana locked away in prison. He’s not sleeping or eating (though he still has time to get naked with the ever-nurturing Siobahn), and there are plenty of moments where his dead eyes reveal something darker, like a soul eating away at itself. Sure, I’m giving Antony Starr’s rather subdued performance as Lucas some serious credit – but if there’s anything the jittery camera and his droopy face reveal, it’s that he’s getting lost in his own anxiety, pushed to the limit from every angle, while the ever-present reminder that Rabbit remains in the shadows keeps him from sleeping at night (even when he has company).
However, there are times where the various elements overwhelming Hood also threaten to overwhelm the entire episode: on top of everything I’ve already mentioned, “The Warrior Class” throws in an O.G. Native American gang, some vengeful Amish people (did that girl set up Rebecca to be attacked?), the arrival of the real Lucas Hood’s son Jason to Banshee (he’s a bad kid looking for a new start… anyone got the Vegas odds on how many episodes he lives for?), Gordon and his strippers… there’s so many subplots developing in the second and third hours of Banshee‘s sophomore season, there’s almost no room for anything to grow into a unique narrative, at least not yet.
When the episode works best is when it slows down to capture a moment: the opening scene of Lucas visiting Ana in jail is one of of the series’ most emotionally engaging moments, watching a man tearing himself apart over the things he experienced, and know she’s getting the smallest taste of. His reminders to keep her head down and keep it “quiet time” are the most powerful moments of the episode: just as much as he’s telling Ana those tips to keep herself together while she’s inside (for like a month, let’s not forget), he’s saying them out loud to keep himself together, while the ever-present threat of mortal danger surrounds him at every turn.
“The Warrior Class” certainly never reaches season-one peaks of Banshee, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, despite the over-stuffed character arcs and stories undercutting some of the tension in all of them. Regardless, the expansive portrayal of the two and the people inside it bring a lot of promise for the following episodes, all signs of which point to an ugly war that Hood (a man who is starting to realize that he isn’t a cop) is unwillingly going to be in the middle of (thanks to the ‘favors’ that Kai will continue to ask of him).
– some of the montages make very weird connections between events: Ana not being able to get Gordon on the phone is juxtaposed with Siobahn and Lucas, just as the Amish wedding is interwoven with shots of young Lana and Soloman making out.
– Lucas can always be counted on to get beat up by the biggest guy in the room. Talk about masochistic, amirite?
– Kai’s sister will have nothing to do with him still – it’s only when his mother steps forward that Kai is able to silently chastise those who exiled him, before beating down a few of the Red Bones unpleasantly with a baseball bat.
– there’s a new ADA in town… and yes, she made googly-eyes at Lucas, so look for that around episode six or seven (I’m guessing, of course).
[Photo via Cinemax]