Sunday, November 14, 2021

REVIEW: 'Mayor of Kingstown' - Mike and Mitch Try to Keep the Peace Amongst the Prisons in 'The Mayor of Kingstown'

Paramount+'s Mayor of Kingstown - Episode 1.01 "The Mayor of Kingstown"

Brothers Mitch and Mike McLusky navigate Kingstown, home to multiple prisons, as they act as the liaisons between prisoners and the community. When a young guard, Sam, is set up to deliver a letter for a prisoner, Mike works to get him off the hook.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Paramount+'s Mayor of Kingstown.

"The Mayor of Kingstown" was directed by Taylor Sheridan with story by Taylor Sheridan & Hugh Dillon and teleplay by Taylor Sheridan

Kingstown is a terrible, depressing place. Its economy is driven entirely by the numerous prisons. It's a system built on criminal behavior. The town is defined by that. As such, it's easy for people to feel trapped here as they cater to the worst of humanity. It creates a transactional mentality. One where people have no real sense of morality. That creates a sense of murkiness for all of the characters. Of course, it's also difficult to get a good read on any of these characters as their motivations aren't nuanced and don't make much sense. Mike states over and over again that all he wants is to get out of this town. He had the resources to make that happen. And then, he went to prison himself. He's fortunate because he is still in a position of power after he's released. He's not trapped in a perpetual cycle of going in and out because the system makes no attempt to reform those who enter it. He operates with privilege because of the family business. He and his older brother Mitch are power brokers in this community. They believe they are keeping the peace by working with everyone. They know the players on the inside. They know just how dangerous this can all be. What happens in the prisons isn't contained in the prisons. It extends out into the community as well. Families are brought to this place because of the incarceration. That only amplifies just how desperate everyone is. Their loved ones are trapped in a system meant to abuse them. That's the basic understanding of how all of this works. Every single operation is corrupt. Everyone is greedy. They can all be compromised for the right price. Even then, they may not have the smarts to actually prosper in the way this system is set up. It's meant to break everyone down. Again, that's the overall depressing nature of reality in this community. Mike knew that from a young age. He has always been aware. And yet, the show is setting him up to be the Mayor of Kingstown. He will be the protected embodiment of how this community functions. Mitch is the one who holds that title for the majority of this premiere. And then, the shocking twist eliminates him from the narrative. That's the incident that sets the plot into motion. It's not all that different from how Taylor Sheridan's other television show - Yellowstone on Paramount Network - started. That too may reveal a lack of originality. A lot of interesting things can be examined in a show set in the prison system and the people entangled within it from all sides. But this show just wants to be dour. It has the requisite sad scene at a strip club. It's not meant to be arousing. It's just suppose to play as a low point that only sets up future damage. That at least plays out quickly. It completes a closed loop as law enforcement takes action against the man who killed Mitch. That sets up the more intriguing story of Mike stepping into the role. It's something the community expects of him. They just assume he will be the new power broker as he had already been doing the job alongside his brother. His mother, Miriam, is completely baffled as to why this is something Mike would actually want to do. She can't make sense of his actions. As such, it's difficult for the audience to understand as well. Sure, the show tries to build up some sympathy in making it seem like this is the humane thing for Mike to do when a desperate mother shows up pleading for his help. He is reluctant to take on the job. He still does it. That's the expected plot point though. That's what the show is. Mike can never escape this place. He can't escape the tragic circle. That's the basic premise. The show doesn't do a strong enough job in explaining why that's the case though. It all feels like convenient circumstances. Mike feels powerless and self-defeated even though he operates with so much privilege in this world. He can't reckon with that. The show is only barely asking the audience to acknowledge it too. Miriam can detail the heinous crimes committed on various communities in American history. She has that wisdom. She shares it. She operates with clarity. She can't get others to listen. Her students hang on her every word. She wants no part in the family business. And yet, the inevitable happens to Mitch. She always expected that. The same will happen to Mike too. Again, that only further affirms the danger of this job. No reason exists for it to be what Mike has to accept. He is just too complacent and dour to imagine anything else. That's not all that exciting as a basic premise though. It's a bunch of plot constructs throwing the audience around hoping it makes sense when it actually feels too complicated and put-upon to come across as genuine and compelling.