I think it’s safe to say that without a little TV every week the run up to my exams would be very stressful indeed. Banished was the programme I turned to in the wake of The Musketeers to fill the period drama-shaped void it left after the end of series two. When I saw the trailer, complete with Lorde’s cover of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ as its soundtrack, I was sold. Yet while I would say I definitely enjoyed it, it wasn’t quite as much as I was hoping to.
Banished got off to a very strong start. In fact I think the first episode was my favourite of the series. Set in Australia back when the first British colonists were arriving, it follows the lives of several important figures in the colony including the governor and the priest, multiple soldiers, and numerous convicts (all serving out their sentences there rather than face the noose back home). There was an impressively extensive cast for what was only a seven part drama.
All of the characters featured in the show were well fleshed out with each person undergoing some kind of development – for better or for worse – over the course of the narrative. One of the best things here was the ambiguity. No one character was one hundred percent good or bad. Everybody made morally dubious choices. This felt very realistic given their circumstances and made for an engaging plot because I was constantly asking myself who was in the right.
Also the structure of the show, particularly the symmetry of the first and last episodes, I thought was a clever touch. The way things were drawn together left just enough up to the imagination of the audience for it to be captivating long after the end credits rolled. Despite all of mine and my father’s speculating we still didn’t guess the outcome.
For me, as I was watching the series felt like it sort of lost momentum as it went along. While the lack of clear cut heroes and villains was a huge plus, there came a point when I realised I wasn’t really rooting for anybody. They were all so morally ambiguous that I didn’t feel drawn to anyone so, ultimately, my interest in their fates slowly waned.
Also, whilst the way the show kind of went full circle (having episode one mirror episode seven) was interesting, it did have the unfortunate side effect of leaving me able to guess the key plot points of the final episode, thus sucking the suspense out of it. The whole ‘will he/won’t he hang’ trope was feeling repetitive by the middle of the series, another thing that led to my increasing disinterest.
Banished was a good show, but it wasn’t great. In the end I’d probably give it a 2.5/5. The series ended rather neatly with only a few lose ends the writers could draw on if a second series was commissioned, but overall I think it would work best as a standalone show and leaving the ultimate fates of the characters up to the audience.