Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Banshee: “Even God Doesn’t Know What To Make Of You”

Langley Kirkwood, Ivana Miličević (Cinemax)
Langley Kirkwood, Ivana Miličević (Cinemax)

Sometimes, it’s hard to know how much of a plan Banshee has for its story and how much of it is just the result of throwing its various plots and characters together to produce maximum madcap exhilaration. Looking back over the sheer breadth of players this season—Hood’s crew, Proctor’s organization, Chayton’s Redbones, Stowe’s mercenaries, Banshee and Kinaho police, Raymond Walton Brantley, the Black Beards, the Salvadores—it’s exhausting to realize how much effort has to go into giving each of them the spotlight. There is always so much going on in any one episode of Banshee that it boggles the mind that they juggle everything as well as they do, the propulsion of the show pushing it forward to the next big set piece.

But if the show doesn’t suffer for the way it continues to leap forward, the characters certainly suffer their own consequences. So many of Banshee’s residents have a habit of committing to big changes and plans, yet they lack the foresight necessary to realize they didn’t plan for a different endgame. Hood’s crew thought they’d planned out every last detail of their heist, but they didn’t stop to think that just because Stowe couldn’t report the heist to his superiors that wouldn’t preclude him from recovering the money himself. Proctor thought that taking a safer approach to home and business would keep him safe, but he didn’t consider that Rebecca might do something more proactive than stewing over being put in her place. “Even God Doesn’t Know What To Make Of You” is an episode full of those unconsidered ramifications rearing up, one that hands out setbacks and beatdowns that the recipients can only begin to fight against.

The avatar of much of the episode’s suffering is Stowe, who’s now unencumbered by Camp Genoa’s real soldiers and is ready to go on the offensive. If the last few weeks proved Stowe’s physical implacability and emotional instability, this week proves he earned his silver eagles by way of a sharp tactical mind. When his technical expert Leo locates the fake badges that Job and Sugar used to steal the algorithm, he breaks down immediately what their roles in the heist were; and he doesn’t need a second visit to the diner to confirm what he already suspects about Carrie. The degree to which Hood’s group underestimated this guy is starting to seem absurd, even factoring in all of the distractions that they’ve been dealing with in the interim.

Even in the best of circumstances Stowe would be a formidable adversary for Team Hood to deal with, and despite millions of dollars in their possession these are certainly not that. Sugar, as we saw last week, has his own problems to deal with and isn’t holding anyone’s hand beyond pouring some free drinks. Carrie’s distracted by the idea that she and Gordon may still have a future, so much so that they agree to put the divorce papers on hold. And even Job, normally the most cautious member of the team, is so hurt by Hood leaving him out to dry that he’s refusing to help anymore—yet he’s still not willing to take his cut and get as far away from Banshee as he possibly can. It makes for a stark illustration of these people, as for all the money they have none of them seem to be taking any joy in it, as if the heist was just something they did to fill the time.

“Divided they fall” is the maxim that’s in play here, as Stowe picks the group off one by one. He meets Sugar’s bonhomie with similar charm that gradually turns threatening, and when Sugar pulls out a gun Murphy turns out to have a bigger one. Job’s anonymity is used to his disadvantage when he doesn’t even suspect a bystander may drug him, and winds up in the custody of Leo, whose admiration of Job’s work appears to be on the level of Misery. The worst treatment is saved for Carrie, who can smell the danger coming her way on the empty (and gorgeously framed) streets of Banshee, and pulls her gun out only to be peppered with the green dots of laser sights. A scheme that took seven episodes to pull together comes crashing down in two, a sign of how fragile the balance of power in this show is.

In a similarly bad position is Proctor, who’s been abducted by the Black Beards for a series of beatings over the reneging on their deal, a betrayal so severe it even brings their enigmatic leader Mr. Frazier down from Philadelphia for an interrogation. Actor Ron Cephas Jones (previously seen on Low Winter Sun and The Blacklist) instantly rockets Frazier to the upper tier of Banshee’s villains, immaculately dressed and speaking with almost Shakespearean eloquence about the nature of their business. (An eloquence that makes the hate when he speaks of Morales as a “that greasy cocksucking motherfucker” all the more jarring.) The reveal that he’s blind doesn’t do anything to dampen his threat—if anything it makes him even more dangerous, as his need to hear Proctor suffer demands ever more intense punishment. Like Brantley and Rabbit, this is a man made all the more dangerous by the need to satisfy his own twisted code of honor, and even if Proctor wasn’t aware of Rebecca’s actions ignorance is clearly no excuse.


Yet Proctor doesn’t plead ignorance, or even plea at all, spitting out threats (and in one excellently graphic instance a nose) at his tormentors. In the midst of all the beatings he seems to escape into his own mind palace, a construct of memories and images akin to the sort of things Hood sees under similar duress. Yet while those memories seem to betray Hood’s instability, for Proctor they crystallize into something new. Proctor’s spent most of this season trying to be good, but as Dr. Hayward said of Ben Horne in Twin Peaks, “goodness in you is like a time bomb,” and it’s clear all his reason and domesticity has simply been keeping down the man he became when he was first cast out.

That man erupts from him in full force, and it’s a tremendously satisfying experience to see him pull off his escape—yet again akin to Hood’s escape from “A Fixer Of Sorts”—and visits his fiery fate on Frazier’s men. The framing of that final scene as Proctor strides away from the conflagration is operatic in a way Banshee doesn’t often explore, giving every impression of a demon rising up out of Hell, blood trickling down his forehead in a cruel parody of an Ash Wednesday blessing. Throwing his refuge and his relationship with Emily into chaos, this is the Proctor audiences expected, and one who’s clearly not going to let the slights of either Frazier or Hood stand.


As for Hood, although he’s spared Stowe’s black bag sweep—Carrie finally paying his 15-year sacrifice forward by refusing to give up his name under penalty of torture—he’s certainly not operating like a man who has any idea who he is anymore. Between a reluctance to get involved with Proctor’s predicament, silence at Siobhan’s grave, and genuine regret at how he abandoned Job, it’s not a particularly productive week for the character. There’s a feeling for both the character and the writers that they’re not quite sure where to go next, that with Chayton dead and the Proctor problem having evidently solved itself he’s without purpose.

Some insight comes with a series of flashbacks to the first Hood/Job meeting, back when Job had long hair and little of his unflappable demeanor and Hood was working as a clean-shaven contract killer. (Albeit one who could run three miles with a bullet wound, proving some things never change.) Job manages to convince Hood that both of them are marked men, leading to some Chow Yun Fat gunplay for the escape and the first collaboration between the two. It turns out that Hood’s transformation into Hood was only the last in a long line of identity changes, Job offering to get him out from under the thumb of the mysterious Mr. Dalton: “By the time I get done with my thing, you’ll be a goddamned ghost.” Siobhan’s indictment from earlier in the season of “There is no you” echoes through this move—Hood’s changed identities so many times now he’s the human equivalent of a document Xeroxed over and over, and he’s hanging onto the badge like a life raft.


Maybe in the end, that’s why none of Hood’s crew could run away from Banshee after pulling off the heist: it’s not just that they don’t have anywhere else to go, it’s that they’re tired of all the running. With one more episode to go this season, we’ll have to see if now that there’s enough survival instinct left to get them out of this mess.

Stray observations:

  • Best Job Look: Job evidently graduated from the Lisbeth Salander school of hacking fashion, with a long black wig and vest made from a sleeveless army jacket. I wonder what present-day Job would say of his younger self’s sartorial sensibilities.
  • Also making a potentially short-sighted choice is Kurt Bunker, who goes back to his old skinhead crew and picks a fight that almost ends with a barbecue fork in someone’s neck. Tom Pelphrey’s been a great find for Banshee this year with the way he shoulders the burden of Bunker’s contradictions, and he’s further coming into his own both with the fight and the reveal that his brother Calvin is the head of Banshee’s neo-Nazi movement.
  • Deva gets picked up for smoking weed in public, and no help’s forthcoming: Billy and Bunker don’t share Hood’s penchant for letting her off with a warning, and Gordon’s decided that a night in jail might be just the thing to get through to her. It’s a shame that Hood lets her out, because she’s due for a wakeup call.
  • I think those two people Sugar serves prior to Stowe walking into the bar might be the only customers that the Forge has had all season. In a show full of implausibilities, the fact that he has a solvent business model is oddly the biggest sticking point.
  • Lili Simmons can smirk with the best of them, and her grin when Proctor breaks up with Emily is beautifully cold.
  • I need a better name for Hood’s crew. Hoodies? Hoodie Gang? The Forgers?
  • “Even God Doesn’t Know What To Make Of You” might be the winner for 2015’s longest episode title. Any other contenders?
  • Proctor quotes Deuteronomy 32:25 as he sets Frazier’s men ablaze. “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”
  • “Is it crazy to think we could start over?” “When it comes to crazy I think we set a pretty high bar.”
  • “There’s only two things left for you to do, Kai. And that’s apologize, and die.”
  • “Jesus Christ. What the fuck did you do now?”