Chris Philpott is's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: Banshee's pulpy season finale

Chris Philpott reckons all bets are off after the finale of Banshee's second season.
Antony Starr in Banshee series two.
Antony Starr in Banshee series two.

This story contains spoilers. Do not read it if you haven't seen the second season of Banshee.

Before we get to my review of Banshee's second season finale, I need to catch my breath - because that was utterly relentless.

I don't just mean the final episode of the season, though the long-awaited shoot-out between Carrie & Hood and despicable gangster Rabbit was as intense as action television gets.

The second season, as a body of work, seemed to keep on delivering hit after hit, ramping up the intensity over the course of its final few episodes.

It was quite early in Season 2 when I realised this was a show that was actually going places. And while I was nervous about whether the writers could effectively keep their entire ensemble of characters involved, the brains trust on Banshee proved they had a handle on what was going on, giving each of the main characters - from Hood right through to lesser used folk like Emmett and Longshadow - plenty to do, keeping them involved in the long play this season.

The shockingly sudden death of FBI Agent Racine - cut down by a sniper while taking a sip of water during an experimental fifth episode, titled The Truth About Unicorns - served as a thunderous declaration from the writers.

"All bets are off," the credits should have read, as Racine bled out on the floor of Hood's dream house.

Racine's death was a shot of adrenaline for the show as it further embraced it's gloriously gory pulp style and raced toward the final episode and its inevitable showdown with Rabbit.

I think the finale was a winner regardless of how you choose to come at it.

Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic turned in some of their best work to date, both confronting Rabbit in the present and turning their back on him in a series of lengthy, revealing flashbacks that did a good job establishing how important it was to eradicate Rabbit for good, even though the show had spent precious little time on its Big Bad Villain this year.

Actually, the majority of the cast upped their game this year: Ulrich Thomsen's Kai Procter became a more well-rounded villain, especially when his mother visited him in jail, while Hood's underlings - played by Matt Servitto, Demetris Grosse and Trieste Kelly Dunn - embraced larger roles this season, making the most of the screen time.

The writing improved too. Aside from the awkward arrival of Job and Fat Al, the finale was solid and avoided many of the clunky pitfalls the show can sometimes get lost in.

This whole season has improved, to be honest - Banshee is surer of its style, and of what kind of show it is, and that confidence translates to the screen.

The camera work was stunning as well. I don't know who decided the final shootout should take place in a church, but it made for a gorgeous looking showdown. This is the second episode in a row - both directed by Greg Yaitanes - that has impressed visually; the penultimate episode, titled Homecoming, was a stunner as well, bookended by a pair of action sequences that would have been at home in any blockbuster action film.

I would have been happy to end the series on Rabbit's suicide. But Banshee is relentless. It didn't stop there. Instead, we had that intense, and heartbreaking, intercut sequence with Rebecca killing Longshadow, and Emmett and his wife being gunned down by associates of Sharp, the neo-nazi Emmett hospitalised last week.

Follow that scene up with the release of Kai Procter, undoubtedly the most intriguing character on the show, and the impending return of the man-monster Chayton Littlestone, and we're in a good place as we head toward Season 3.

Banshee isn't the best show on television, but it knows exactly what it is and plays to its strengths. The second season was a huge improvement on the first, taking bigger risks in terms of story and style - and while it didn't always pay off, it worked well enough that I'm comfortable calling it one of the most improved shows of the year so far.

It might be unashamedly pulpy. But, damn, pulp television is entertaining.

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Chris Philpott is's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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