Lunchtable TV Talk – Banished

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Banished has a fantastic premise that feels wasted with this show. It has the chance to explore something we have never seen before. But instead, it makes vague allusions and oblique references to things like interactions with “the natives” and only one character succumbing to snake bite. But if you were the first “colonists” – prisoners and the military men from England  – sent to Australia, this should somehow feel wider – told as a much bigger story and through a broader lens, yet with a lot more detail. But it feels like everything about the story and the scenery is too contained, too limited. It never fully conveys how far away they are from everything. They talk a lot about these long prison sentences and the opportunity to go home someday – and even if they all know they will never really get there, or that they will starve before their sentences are up, you never quite sense that urgency or the true sense of eternal banishment that the round-the-world incarceration of geography has imposed.

On a lighter note, the British dude from one of my least favorite shows (another one with a good premise and the opportunity to tell a much-needed story), Looking, gets to beg in the same way in both shows. In Looking he was constantly telling his illicit lover, Patrick, that he will leave his boyfriend someday. But just not yet. Be patient. Eventually he leaves the boyfriend and gets together officially with Patrick, but in the last episode, sets Patrick off by pleading with him to consider an open relationship.

In Banished, he begs for his food back when a bully steals his food every day. Then begs the authorities to take action when he tattles on said bully for stealing his food. When nothing happens because the bully is the only smith among the prisoners, he eventually kills the bully. And then begs for his life and whines and cries in an understandable but not particularly appealing way.

We also get to see Ewen Bremner – best known as Trainspotting‘s Spud – as the colony’s minister/pastor. Funny how nearly the whole gang from Trainspotting are television staples today.

Hopefully, if this series has a second season ahead of it, these kinds of problems can be addressed. I don’t really think a premise with this kind of rich historical import deserves to be a second-rate soap opera.

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