Banshee: The Complete Second Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD) is the first Cinemax original series to really work. It’s pure pulp, a small town crime story with a career criminal posing as a sheriff while continuing his career as a thief. He just sets limits: no jobs in his town. With no real knowledge of the law or proper procedure, he turns to his other skills to keep the peace and solve crimes. It makes for a very entertaining show, with a heist or robbery in most every episode, dynamic and gritty action scenes with visceral and at times gruesome violence, and plenty of nudity and sex: all those exploitation elements that the movies have ceded to pay cable TV.
The second season opens in the aftermath of the bloody shoot-out with the Ukrainian gang that Sheriff Hood (Antony Starr) and his former lover and partner-in-crime (Ivana Milicevic) ripped off a decade ago, with Hood off the hook and back in command as his suspicious and resentful deputy (Matt Servitto) takes the blame. Along with the heists, the investigations, and the hunt for the Ukrainian ganglord who somehow escaped death, this season brings in the son of the man that Hood is impersonating and sets Hood against the town’s criminal godfather Kai (Ulrich Thomsen), a thoroughly ruthless man who was raised Amish but shunned by his community. There’s a struggle for power on the local reservation and the education of Kai’s niece (Lili Simmons), who he’s adopted into his crime empire after she is banished from the Amish community. Her evolution is fascinating, watching her uncle wield power and control and trying to apply the same in her own dealings.
There is one standout episode that makes the most of the contradictions of the series: “The Warrior Class,” which begins with the murder of a young Kinaho girl and the disappearance of an Amish boy and sets the two communities against each other as Hood stirs things up even more with his ill-advised invasion of the reservation to question a suspect. This is the series at its best, using a splashy murder to reveal the tensions and resentments in the community and bring antagonists together for a common mission, and it features two of the most riveting fight scenes of the series.
Ten episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary on most episodes, deleted scenes, short prequel videos of the characters, and behind-the-scenes featurettes on select episodes. The Blu-ray edition features Twitter commentary from the cast and crew during the season premiere and finale, an interactive “Inside the Title Sequence” look at the differences in the title sequences of the different episodes, and a bonus Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the season.