Tulsa King (Season 1) Review
THE sustained success of television shows Yellowstone and Mayor of Kingstown, as well as his 2016 Academy Award nominated feature Hell or High Water, has led director Taylor Sheridan to his most recent triumph in the form of Tulsa King, an engrossing gangster tale littered with love, deceit, and the occasional bit of violence.
After spending 25 years in prison for taking the fall in a crime he didn't commit, New York gangster Dwight Manfredi (Sylvester Stallone) returns to his mob family where he is immediately exiled to set up shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma by his boss Pete Invernizzi (A.C. Peterson), the man who he took the fall for. While in Tulsa, Dwight begins to suspect his mob family may be setting him up, leading the self-proclaimed "General" to build his own crew in a world that he no longer understands following his incarceration.
Despite consistently working for over 40 years, Tulsa King marks Stallone's first appearance in a television series, and if this is a sneak peek at what lies ahead for the iconic actor, then the future is looking quite promising. Stallone may not be in the upper echelon in terms of acting ability, but he's always managed to carry himself in a way where he understands what's needed on him. Whether he needs to be serious or sarcastic, Stallone proves himself in Tulsa King, bringing subtly, sophistication and smarminess to a gangster character adjusting to life both on the outside and in a severely different state. In the first episode alone, we are introduced to a plethora of interesting side characters who work alongside and against Dwight, the first of these being Tyson (Jay Will). Will begins as a one-dimensional cocky kid looking to get into a game he doesn't understand, but Taylor Sheridan allows characters such as Tyson room to develop throughout the nine-episode season as we are afforded time learn about Tyson's family struggles shown through the lens of his father who attempts to protect his son, before ultimately realising he can't control his child's life forever, even if it's not what he wants for him. Characters arcs like these breathe profound life into the smallest of characters, and while some cast members are afforded more development than others, everybody is given their own story which inevitably gets dragged into Dwight's over-arching plot.
All the performances were very adequate; nobody delivering an offensively-bad performance while nobody delivered the role of a lifetime, but for my money, Andrea Savage as Stacy Beale proved to be a dark horse in the series, never being unentertaining and having an incredibly solid story throughout the whole show, taking numerous twists and turns while still being realistic enough to not take you out of the experience. Her and Stallone were given solid dialogue to work with and the two actors bounced off each other naturally, and perhaps most importantly, they seemed like they were having a genuinely fun time during production, a talent many actors seem to be forgetting about nowadays as it can go a long way to producing quality TV, with Tulsa being a prime example of this.
Tulsa King is an interesting conundrum to crack. While it isn't on the same level as other critically-acclaimed shows in 2022, that's where alot of its charm comes from. Taylor Sheridan understands simplicity is the key to excellence, not sacrificing an over-convoluted plot for the sake of the slightest increase in quality. From wonderful performances from Stallone, Savage and Will, to the genuinely funny dialogue constructed for each episode, Tulsa King is pure, unadulterated entertainment that proves no everything needs to be a tour de force to be successful.