Go West, Old Man
After almost spending 25 years in jail and turning grey, former gang leader Dwight Manfredi (Sylvester Stallone) tastes freedom. He was shanked once while in prison and read a lot of poetry to pass time. Despite the repeated pressure, he kept mum and never spoke a word against the organization. His loyalty is pristine and he hopes that it will serve him well with old faces and friends. Quite surprisingly, he is taken to a house in Long Island instead of the usual spot in the city. He enters the room where he greets all his mates. His brother Pete, who now heads the family, is in a wheelchair. His son Vince is the next in charge, while other important men include Chickie and Glen.
Although the conversation gets off to a rocky start, that is in fact the rosy part in hindsight as Dwight feels abandoned. He is “ordered” out to make hay in Tulsa, Oklahoma, out in the West far away from New York. The chain of command has changed and Dwight does not have a place in the new order of things. He gets violent with Chickie and is almost shot by the henchmen but reluctantly accepts his fate. Tyson (Jay Will), a cab driver, picks him up from the airport in Tulsa. They share a weird conversation as Dwight experiences the new world for the first time. His inexperience includes not knowing about smartphones and the internet and getting offended at being called “gangster”. showing his unfamiliarity with modern lingo.
Tyson is annoyed with Dwight’s supposed act and stops at a marijuana store when Dwight senses an opportunity. No gangs control the area and with the help of his family resources, Dwight can make unlimited money and make the area his own. He goes in and comes back to knock the guard, Fred, unconscious and meets with the owner of the establishment, Bohdi (Martin Starr). When he inspects the books, Dwight finds ample cash being generated from the business. But Bohdi has kept all the cash in a locker in his office and Dwight calls it an amateurish move.
He writes himself into an agreement with Bohdi to provide “protection” to his business from other gangs, rivals, and even the police. Dwight places his commission/fees at 20% of the profits and takes his share at once. He instructs Tyson to buy a buttoned shirt and a black Lincoln Navigator and meet him the next day. Tyson drops Dwight off at the Western Plains hotel and takes the job of being his driver. Dwight breathes in the air and openness of the area, perhaps a little happier on the inside to have come to this place.
He orders a cab for an evening out at the Bred 2 Buck saloon nearby. Dwight has charming conversations with fellow cowboy customers and gives a pretty good account of himself to the owner, Mitch. But he does not introduce himself this time to Dwight. Tyson comes empty-handed the next day and says the dealer won’t sell him the car. Dwight does not tolerate this racist attitude and drives down to the dealer to knock some sense into him. He gets the Navigator and drives out with Tyson. They go to the store and Bohdi informs Dwight of Jimmy, the owner of the farm from where they source the weed to sell it.
Bohdi disapproves of the hotel Dwight stays at and instead recommends him to The Mayo, the best hotel in the city. On his second evening at the saloon, Mitch finally approaches him and recognizes him as a fellow former prisoner. He himself served around 8 years in prison and runs the bar with his father beside him. Their conversation is interrupted by a girl asking if Dwight is famous. When he rejects a photo with her, another woman walks up to Dwight to confront him. They have a flirtatious moment and Dwight takes the part of the girls to a strip club, even knocking another sleazy man who gets too comfortable with one of the girls.
Stacy, the woman who confronted Dwight, is impressed and just drunk enough to go back to his hotel. When Dwight asks her about what she was doing when former President Kennedy was assassinated, she learns Dwight is 75. She hurriedly packs up and leaves, not wanting to make this association. Dwight is here to rebuild his life, despite the tragic setbacks he got from his wife and daughter Marie and Tina. He is here to take over the city but soon we learn of his city nemesis: the ATF squad, led by Armand Truisi. Stacy too is a part of the squad and squirms in her chair when they discuss following Dwight around the next day in a meeting.
The Episode Review
Tulsa King gets a banging start owing to Sylvester Stallone’s tall screen presence and charisma. Taylor Sheridan, who has done exceedingly compelling work in the genre, has a formidable star at the helm of his story. Television shows about the mafia and building new kingdoms from scratch in a new place have a rich lineage. Tulsa King looks set to add well to that legacy but perhaps with a diluted dramatic heft and more theatrics. Stallone’s action-man image was on full display in episode 1, hinting towards a similar approach to his character.
Dwight Manfredi seems like the perfect man for Stallone to sink his teeth in and recreate the acting magic we have missed for so many years. The little doses of comedy did not go as planned, to be honest. Instead of putting us at ease, they worked against the setting, albeit with a huge scope for improvement. Besides that, it was a very impressive premiere that has got us eagerly waiting for an exciting season of action, story-building, and a thrilling cat-and-mouse game.