Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -|Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -|Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 -|Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 9 -|Review Score – 4/5
Although Taylor Sheridan’s Tulsa King is no Sopranos, it comfortably rules in its skin. Sylvester Stallone headlines the project with a towering central performance. His Dwight Manfredi has just been released from prison and must start from scratch in a foreign city. The emphasis in the storytelling is on an attempt to use Stallone’s screen presence and macho-man image to sugar coat the underlying theme of redeeming oneself by getting back on their feet.
Sheridan’s experience and honesty make that part of watching season 1 of Tulsa King quite a treat for viewers, who will definitely appreciate the revitalized mafia essentials and a rustic charm only found in such commitments.
Having not ratted out his gang members, Dwight returns from prison after 25 years expecting a grand welcome. Far from it, he is shipped off to Tulsa to make new beginnings.
Despite being a “made man”, Dwight accepts it with a pinch of salt and trudges on his new adventure. He is quickly able to win the loyalty of an eclectic group with fierce allegiance to his brains, courage, and good-heartedness. Dwight is a straight shooter and Stallone keeps that part of his identity intact. Most of his dialogue and actions are majorly exhausted at the face value.
There is hardly an effort to complicate Dwight’s predicament and demeanour, making a huge impact in how we see him. Even at the age of 75, Stallone commands a considerable physical presence. He looks the same bit intimidating, as his role requires, and becomes our reference point to navigate the various planes present in the show.
His biggest achievement – and Sheridan’s to that extent – is making Dwight someone we can root for no matter what he did in the past (which is nothing too morally outrageous either). He is the fairy-tale kind of gangster whose moral high handedness stems from his ego of being the man at all times.
Stallone carries the same spirit that he miraculously conjured as Balboa, and even gets to land a few punches later on in the season. The most enduring thing about Tulsa King is its simplicity. Following the plot is really easy, and remembering the name of the characters too. Stripping down those genre essentials gives Sheridan clarity but it is also a risk.
Sheridan does a remarkable job of making his viewers excitable with his story, even when the stakes do not seem that high. In fact, we do not have an antagonist fleshed out until episode 3 or 4 of the series. Dwight’s sworn enemies before that are the technologically enabled world and his aching loneliness and pool of regret. But then he makes several at once and strikes out of luck.
Sheridan’s planned move to introduce that cohort all of a sudden does not have too much bearing on how we see Dwight, though. Even without lifting a fist, we know he is a beast, like that boss-level difficulty character from video games we find so hard to defeat.
Tulsa King never gets bogged down by those added details. Every new avenue, characters, and story tranche seamlessly becomes part of the whole. Dwight remains at the forefront from all perspectives. It is a little old school but very effective. That is how someone who has liked the show must also describe it. Even those from different generations can easily enjoy the season and relish seeing the “it” man return to his banging best. A second season has been confirmed and Paramount definitely has a winner on its hands.
Verdict - 8/10