Sometimes series will fall through the cracks. With the sheer amount of series and content being churned out by networks and streaming services these days, there are always gems that were hiding in plain sight, or in the case of these three shows, hiding on Cinemax. Luckily through HBO Max, three shows, The Knick, Warrior and Banshee, are available to stream and are worth bingeing for those that missed their runs on the HBO subchannel.
The Knick is legitimately one of the best shows of the last decade. The series takes place in the year 1900 in New York City and follows Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) as the head of surgery of The Knick hospital. Thackery is a cocaine-addicted genius surgeon who pushes the boundaries of his profession in a time when the medical field was in its infancy compared to today. Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), a medical genius in his own right, is brought in by the owners of the Knick and as a black man has to fight to practice his profession and calling and find his place at The Knick.
The Knick is the type of show that you would assume was appointment television for HBO viewers on Sunday at 9 p.m., the kind of show that exudes prestige. The series is helmed by a master filmmaker in Steven Soderbergh (Oceans 11, Out of Sight, Traffic), and his vision and skill drips from every frame of the show. The show uses complete natural lighting that is period-accurate making it, unlike anything you will see on television. Written by Jake Amiel and Michael Begler, the series is able to weave multiple stories together into a tight narrative while exploring themes of race, class, immigration, and addiction masterfully.
Clive Owen (Children of Men, Inside Man) and André Holland (Moonlight, High Flying Bird) both give all-time performances along with a great cast overall, but their respective journeys are what drives the series. Thackeray, in his reckless pursuit of scientific advancement in the medical field and his growing addiction, is a perfectly flawed hero. Algernon Edwards is limited by the fact that as a black man thrown into a white world, he must find a way to thrive in a system that simply doesn’t want him to be there in the first place. He has a massive chip on his shoulder coupled with an affinity for fighting people twice his size. The two characters’ journeys would be enough for any show, but The Knick has even more to offer.
The series looks unique and period-specific, and every episode is directed like a movie. The haunting electric score by Cliff Martinez juxtaposes against the 1900 period aesthetic. There is a Season 3 in the works with Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins taking over the series with Soderbergh’s blessing, so now is the perfect time to get acquainted with the circus that is The Knick.
Warrior is a good companion show with The Knick. Taking place in late 19th century, San Francisco, it's a period piece story revolving around Chinese immigration, labor and politics. Warrior is about all those things in one way or another, but broadly it is a spectacular kung-fu action-crime western. The series was inspired and based on the writings of legend Bruce Lee, and his influence is ingrained in every corner of the show, and its flair is something to behold.
Warrior follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a fresh-off-the-boat Chinese immigrant who is a very talented martial artist or, in the parlance of the show, “He can Scrap.” Ah Sahm’s skills ingratiate him with the Hop Wei, one of the strongest gangs or “Tongs” in Chinatown. Ah Sahm sees and experiences what Chinese immigrants have suffered through not only to get to America but what they continue to have to do to survive in it. Cheap Chinese labor is the rallying cry used to stoke fear and hate among the white population of San Francisco, and conflict between the Tongs, police and higher-ups in San Francisco politics is ripe to explode.
Warrior is an amazing action show with fantastic martial arts performers like Joe Taslim (The Raid, Mortal Kombat), who plays one of the rival gang Li Yong leaders. The series’ fights and action are a cut above anything else you’ll see on TV. The series does some cool tricks as when two Chinese characters are speaking to each other, they speak perfect English, but if a non-Chinese character walks up, the POV changes, and they are speaking fluent Chinese. The details and world-building really pay off, creating a transporting experience while watching.
The series is effective in the way it portrays Chinese immigration and the racism that immigrants faced while building the West. The show goes to great links to show that today’s hateful rhetoric is the same rhetoric of the past, just a different group is being exploited and dehumanized. Season 3 of Warrior has been announced by HBO Max, promising a continuation of Ah Sahm’s journey and plenty more epic battles.
Here’s a pitch: A recently released master thief assumes the identity of a sheriff of a small town to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend who has changed her identity to escape the ruthless kingpin they stole millions of dollars of diamonds from as both their pasts start to catch up with them. If that sounds interesting, then Banshee and its four seasons is the show for you.
Banshee stars Anthony Star, who you might know as Homelander from The Boys, as Lucas Hood, the recently released thief mentioned above. Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale) plays Hood’s former lover, who now has a husband and two children and a happy life away from the criminal underworld she used to be a part of. Banshee starts as Hood trying to get answers and rekindle what the couple once had, but the charade of his identity as sheriff begins to come into conflict with his continued criminal interests, and a lot of people get caught in the crossfire.
Banshee is proudly very pulpy. It’s excessive in everything it does, and it does it well. The town of Banshee is fleshed out so well that the amount of crazy characters and action is believable in the world they have established. It isn’t trying to say anything meaningful or timely or elevate itself into the television pantheon. It’s just a straight shot to the chest of pure pulp entertainment.
The series just does cool stuff, like having an excommunicated Amish mob boss who is in conflict with the super young mayor of the town or having a former boxing champ who owns a bar and is at the center of the underbelly of the small town. The show is often insane but makes you believe in its insanity. Banshee is a complete series as its 4th season was its finale, so it’s the perfect show to jump into and binge. It is a good watch in conjunction with its other Cinemax brethren in that it offers something similarly entertaining but on a completely different side of the spectrum.
The Knick, Warrior, and Banshee are all available to stream on HBO Max.
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