Bloody violence, identity swaps and a scorching love triangle in small-town Amish country set the stage for the latest TV series from the creator of True Blood.
A world full of violence and war
If a tanker full of testosterone slammed head-on into a tanker full of gasoline and someone flicked a lit match into the mayhem, you'd have the beginnings of Banshee, a truly explosive, violent and hairy-chested new series about a master criminal who assumes the identity of a small-town sheriff in a bid to retrieve his lost love.
The provenance of this Cinemax series is impeccable; its executive producer Alan Ball is also the creative mind behind True Blood and Six Feet Under, and won a screenwriting Oscar for American Beauty. "It was kind of the best pitch I ever heard," Ball says of the day the series' co-creators Jonathan Tropper and David Schickler brought Banshee his way.
Looking no-guff enough to mop the floor with Bruce Willis, the dashing New Zealand actor Antony Starr portrays Lucas Hood, the ex-con and master thief who leaves prison to become the law in Banshee, Pennsylvania - in the heart of Amish country - where he continues his criminal activities, even as he's hunted by the shadowy gangsters he betrayed years earlier.
Also keeping a whopper secret is the love he lost 15 years before, Carrie Hopewell -athletically and steamily realised by Ivana Milicevic - who was once a notorious jewel thief, but who now lives in Banshee under an assumed identity, as a mother of two, married to the district attorney who knows nothing of her past.
"Banshee is kind of pulpy, kind of action, kind of love story. I don't know how to describe it," says Milicevic. "I don't think there's anything like it. It's intense. There's love, heartbreak and passion for the ladies. There's violence and gore for the gentlemen. And I really like that."
"Violence is almost like a character in Banshee," says Ball. "Now there's a lot of violence in True Blood, but they're vampires and they're flying. And I don't think it registers as really being real. Whereas in Banshee, it's real. I mean, real human bodies are getting crunched up."
Starr says: "I don't think there have been any fake fights yet that I haven't come out of feeling like I've been in a real fight. I just cruise with blood on my face; that's how I roam."
"Each episode is a great ride," adds Ball. "I was really pleased with it. It's surprising. It's fun. It's thrilling. It's scary. There is a lot of violence and a lot of fights and a lot of chases - but there's also a lot of emotional intrigue: is the town going to find out that Lucas it not really a sheriff? So there is always this underlying tension."
Meanwhile, if you prefer a town that goes all medieval on your screen with kingly wars and a dose of the black plague, there's still time to catch the second episode of World without End, the eight-part mini-series that picks up the rich threads of the author Ken Follett's storytelling where Pillars of the Earth left off.
In World without End, a king's murder binds four lives together in a complex web of love, betrayal and revenge when a strange knight takes refuge in Kingsbridge Priory.
As it turns out, England is on the brink of the devastating Hundred Years' War with France as a horrifying plague is spreading through Europe (it will ultimately wipe out a third of the continent's population). Caris (Charlotte Riley), a visionary young woman, struggles to rise above the torment and tyranny to lead her people. With her lover Merthin (Tom Weston-Jones), she builds a community in Kingsbridge that stands up to the Church and the Crown.
Together, they unearth a dangerous secret and must fight to save their town from ruin, thus ushering in a new era of freedom, innovation and enlightenment. Other stars include Cynthia Nixon, Miranda Richardson, Ben Chaplin and Peter Firth.
Banshee premieres at 11pm on Monday, while World without End is broadcast at 11pm on Tuesday - both on OSN First HD