Banshee is an American action television series created by Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler originally aired on the Cinemax network from January 11, 2013, to May 20, 2016, over four seasons, comprising a total of 38 episodes.
Set in the small town of Banshee in Pennsylvania Amish country, the series' main character is an enigmatic ex-con (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Lucas Hood, the town's murdered sheriff, to hide from powerful crime lord Rabbit (Ben Cross). Imposing his own brand of justice, Hood attempts to reconcile with his former lover, Rabbit's daughter Anastasia (Ivana Miličević), who has herself adopted an assumed identity, married, and raised a family during Hood's incarceration. Hood struggles to maintain his new identity while still embracing crime alongside his partners Job (Hoon Lee) and Sugar (Frankie Faison) and coming into conflict with local kingpin Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen).
The series was developed as part of Cinemax's drive to develop original content. A 10-episode second season debuted in January 2014. Banshee was renewed for a third season that same month, which debuted in January 2015. In February 2015, the series was renewed for an eight-episode fourth and final season. The final episode aired on May 20, 2016.
A man is released from prison after serving 15 years for stealing $15 million in diamonds on behalf of his employer, a Ukrainian mob boss named Rabbit. He and his former lover and accomplice, Rabbit's daughter Anastasia (Ana), had already decided to keep the loot for themselves. Anastasia got away with the diamonds and Rabbit is after the man, thinking he will lead him to his daughter and the diamonds. The man flees to the small fictional Pennsylvanian town of Banshee, where Ana has been living under the alias of Carrie Hopewell, mother of two and wife of the DA. Lucas Hood, the new sheriff, stops at a bar on his way into town and is immediately killed when he intervenes in a dispute between local criminals and the bar owner. The man takes Hood's identity and has to impersonate the sheriff and deal with ex-Amish crime lord Kai Proctor, sort things out with "Carrie", and get his share of the diamonds while evading Rabbit.
Season 1 focuses on Hood's attempts to restore his relationship with Carrie under the looming threat of Rabbit finding them. Hood completely disregards the law while clashing with Proctor and pursuing his often criminal activities, alienating his own deputies. Rabbit eventually tracks him down and Hood surrenders to spare Carrie. Carrie leads some criminal accomplices and the deputies in a raid to free Hood and shoots Rabbit.
Season 2 deals with tribal chief Alex Longshadow's attempt to build a casino on the reservation, which places Sheriff Hood in the middle of a violent struggle between Longshadow and Proctor. Carrie must face up to her past when she is imprisoned for her part in the raid against her father. With Carrie trying to fix her marriage, Hood enters into a relationship with his deputy, Siobhan. He must deal with the real Hood's son when he comes to Banshee looking for his father. Hood and Carrie are forced to track down and confront Rabbit and settle things once and for all when they learn he survived being shot.
Banshee is part of Cinemax's attempt to expand its original programming content, and it joins Strike Back (joining as a co-producer from season 2 onwards) and Sandbox. Banshee premiered on January 11, 2013.
The show was first revealed in August 2011, when it was announced that Alan Ball would produce the crime drama. Ball helped develop the project alongside creators Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler. Banshee was originally set up at Cinemax owner HBO, but moved to Cinemax when it was decided to increase original programming on that network. By August, Cinemax was finalizing casting and financial details with the intention of filming in Spring 2012 in North Carolina. In January 2012, Cinemax ordered ten episodes for the show's first season, with the first episode being directed by Greg Yaitanes. In March 2012, Servitto, Dunn and Owens were cast as, respectively, Brock Lotus, Siobhan Kelly, and Mayor Dan Kendall. Later that month, Starr was cast as lead character Lucas Hood, alongside Grosse as deputy Emmett Yawners, Thomsen as Kai Proctor, Lee as Job, and Milicevic as Carrie Hopewell. Simmons was cast in April as Proctor's niece, Rebecca Bowman, an Amish girl who lives a rebellious double life, and in August 2012, Odette Annable was cast in the recurring role of Nola Longshadow, a Native American assassin. Tropper, Schickler, Ball, Yaitanes and Peter Macdissi serve as executive producers.
During the first day of shooting on the series, Starr suffered a facial injury when stunt fight choreography went wrong, splitting his lip open. He continued to film for six hours to complete the scene before going to the hospital to receive six stitches. The injury required digital removal for all scenes set before the fight but filmed after the stunt, resulting in lengthy post-production on the first episode. Some of the many fight scenes on the show can take up to 25 hours to film. Yaitanes cited Jason Statham-starring action films, and John Carpenter films Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and They Live (1988) as inspiration for the fights and violence in Banshee. Marcus Young serves as the series' fight choreographer.
On January 29, 2013, Cinemax renewed Banshee for a 10-episode second season which premiered on January 10, 2014. The season's opening action set piece featuring Milicevic, Starr, and Lee, performing a high-speed heist, was filmed across five miles of closed highway. Tropper originally wrote the scene for the show's accompanying graphic novel, Banshee Origins which follows the trio sixteen years earlier, but he decided that it would be an interesting live action stunt. The season finale's shoot out was filmed inside a church in Harlem, New York. The scene was shot over three days.
After three episodes of the second season had aired, Banshee was renewed for third season, which premiered on January 9, 2015.
For the first three seasons, filming took place mainly in the Mooresville, North Carolina area. In addition to Mooresville, other area locations were used including Huntersville, Mount Ulla, Lincolnton, Salisbury, Charlotte, Monroe, Gastonia and Waxhaw. Because North Carolina's legislature chose not to continue tax credits for filming movies and TV series, the show moved to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, centering in the suburb of Vandergrift, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has continued to offer tax incentives.
The first season of Banshee received a 66% score on Rotten Tomatoes, an average rating of 6.10/10, sampled from 35 reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "Its trappings are nothing new and Its lurid combination of violence and sex will likely turn away some viewers, but Banshee can be entertaining in some distinctive ways." Seasons 2, 3, and 4 received scores of 94%, 100%, and 100% respectively. On Metacritic it has a weighted average score of 66/100 based on reviews from 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
The Wall Street Journal critic Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote, "Its smartness comes shining through despite the claptrap (none worse than the parade of sex scenes, soft-porn variety, whose noisiness is exceeded only by their unconvincingness); its story, littered with intriguingly repellent characters, like Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), local evil tycoon, grows ever more enticing". The San Francisco Chronicle said about Banshee, "It has a solid pedigree. It's also part of Cinemax's effort to expand its original programming. That effort pays off with Banshee". The A.V. Club included season 3 on its list of the best TV of 2015, describing it as "upping the emotional stakes to almost unbearable levels."
Banshee has also had less favorable reviews. A Boston Herald critic described the series as: "A slow-pokey drama punctuated by shocking violence and sex".
Season one of Banshee drew Cinemax's then-highest ratings for an original series, averaging 433,000 viewers per episode and 727,000 in the 7 days after each episode was released. The season finale drew 455,000 viewers during its initial screening and 655,000 during its repeat, the largest audience ever, at the time, for a Cinemax original series, and the third-highest ratings achieved by Banshee at that point.
The second season exceeded the first's successes. The season's fifth episode, "The Truth about Unicorns", set a series record with 591,000 viewers during its original airing. The season finale also set a new record, with 733,000 viewers, and a total of 968,000 for the evening including repeat showings.
Armen V. Kevorkian won the award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects at the 65th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
A soundtrack album, Banshee – Music from the Cinemax Original Series, was released as digital download on February 11, 2014. The album features 17 songs from the show's first two seasons, including the main theme by Methodic Doubt, and tracks by artists including Nico Vega, Ivy Levan, The Growl, Anders Osborne, Fred Eaglesmith, and Martin Harley.
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