Mayor of Kingstown TV Review

Last Updated on November 15, 2021

Plot: Mayor of Kingstown follows the McLusky family – power brokers in Kingstown, Michigan, where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. Tackling themes of systemic racism, corruption, and inequality, the series provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither.

Review: Taylor Sheridan has made a career out of telling stories about the different sides of crime and punishment. From Sicario and Hell or High Water to Wind River and Those Who Wish Me Dead, Sheridan’s feature films have all been neo-noir explorations, but it is Yellowstone where Sheridan has mined the concept of the American family dynasty. Echoing his acting work on Sons of Anarchy, Sheridan created an epic that blends the best of the western genre within the conventions of a prime-time soap opera. With Yellowstone branching out into a sequel and a prequel series, Sheridan has created a new and very different look at a family struggling to maintain control over an empire threatened from multiple sides. Mayor of Kingstown is being marketed as a complementary series to Yellowstone but is a very different type of thing.

Set in Michigan, Mayor of Kingstown is far from the sweeping fields and mountain ranges of Yellowstone. This town is an urban frontier populated by gangs from all walks of life. At the center is the McLusky family. Mitch (Kyle Chandler) is the titular “Mayor”, an unofficial title that allows him to serve as an intermediary between the criminal empires, law enforcement, and the incarcerated at the multiple prisons in town. Jeremy Renner plays younger brother Mike who is thrust into his brother’s role suddenly. Mike’s younger brother Kyle (Taylor Handley) is a local cop and the only sibling on speaking terms with their mother, Miriam (Dianne Wiest). While Mitch has been in control for a while and things have been running fairly smoothly, Mike’s tenure begins with eruptions of violence and turmoil.

Taylor Sheridan, who co-created this series with Hugh Dillon, directs the first episode which also boasts Antoine Fuqua as an executive producer. Dillon is best known as a musician and actor who has appeared on Yellowstone, but this is his first gig as a writer. The pairing of Sheridan and Dillon showcases a solid job of creating an ensemble of intriguing characters but the story over the first three episodes is uneven at best. From the very first episode, Mayor of Kingstown throws you into the story already in progress which makes orienting yourself around this large cast of characters quite the challenge. There are multiple factions to try and keep straight and knowing who is on which side takes some time to figure out.

The first thing I noticed when watching Mayor of Kingstown was the free use of nudity and profanity. Yellowstone is far from a family-friendly series, but since this drama airs on Paramount+, there is no shortage of blood splatter or nipples on screen. The next thing that caught my attention was that while this series showcases at least six significant characters, the focus is primarily on Jeremy Renner as Mike. Renner has become known in recent years for his more heroic roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Mission: Impossible, and Bourne franchises, but here reunites with Taylor Sheridan whom he worked on 2017’s Wind River. This character is one of the most troubled that Renner has ever played as he reluctantly takes up the career that has defined his family for years. Where Mitch brought an element of diplomacy to the job, Mike is impulsive and emotional despite wanting to do the right thing by all parties involved.

Dianne Wiest is also impressive to watch. The award-winning actress needs no disclaimer for her abilities on screen, but her performance as Miriam is one that is easily able to go toe to toe with anyone else in this series. The assortment of criminals and supporting characters that populate this show are all interesting to watch, none more than Game of Thrones veteran Aidan Gillen as Milo Sunter. Gillen recently starred in Sheridan’s HBO Max movie Those Who Wish Me Dead and is very familiar with the layered antagonists in the filmmaker’s work. Sunter is a dangerous individual and one who is only glimpsed briefly in the first episodes of the season but is assured to play a larger role as the story progresses.

Overall, Mayor of Kingstown is good, but it is not Yellowstone good. I found myself struggling to care about these characters for almost the entire premiere episode and it took until the end of the second before I was willing to invest. By episode three, I began to buy into this convoluted web of loyalties and allegiances, but it still feels far too cumbersome for its own good. Mayor of Kingstown benefits from a talented creator and a top-notch cast even if it cannot replicate the same pulpy goodness that turned Yellowstone into a pop culture hit. Watching rich cowboys battle each other is one thing but seeing working-class people screw each other over is another. Mayor of Kingstown feels like Sons of Anarchy but without the motorcycles or Yellowstone without the horses. This series needs something to give it a distinct appeal and I have yet to really find that in these early episodes. Because of Sheridan’s track record and Renner in the lead, I will stick with Mayor of Kingstown but maybe only for a single term.

Mayor of Kingstown premieres with two episodes on November 14th on Paramount+.



About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.