This review has mild spoilers.
From Taylor Sheridan, the co-creator of Yellowstone, comes Tulsa King, the latest crime drama to hit streaming services.
Dwight Manfredi (Sylvester Stallone) has just finished serving a 25-year jail sentence, he was a big shot in the Mafia back in the day, but times have changed and now his boss is sending him to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dwight knows this is essentially the mafia’s way of getting rid of him, but nevertheless, he begrudgingly goes to Tulsa anyway and attempts to build a new criminal empire.
First thing you need to know when it comes to Tulsa King is that you’re not going to be getting anything like The Sopranos, in fact, I was very surprised by how easy to watch this show was. Each episode is between 30 – 40 minutes, meaning the pacing is quicker compared to your average drama these days which doesn’t leave a huge amount of time for slow character development and layered storytelling. Each episode of Tulsa King got straight to the point which for me, was rather refreshing and welcome. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good slow-burn from time to time, but I’m not sure if others would agree, but I sometimes struggle to commit to a series that has a one-hour per episode runtime. There’s only so much time in the day and I think a quick and easy watch is starting to become my preference!
The strength of Tulsa King is in its characters. This is Sylvester Stallone’s first leading role in a television series and his authoritative presence and swagger steals every scene he is in, it’s a bit strange as a viewer because Dwight is very likeable and sometimes you forget that he’s actually a criminal mastermind that we probably shouldn’t be supporting him. This of course does lead to the writer’s having to try and portray Dwight as the lesser of the evils showcased throughout the series, but there’s no shying away from the fact the audience are being pushed towards rooting for a cold-blooded ruthless killer, amongst other things.
Throughout the series Dwight starts to form a ragtag crew that all have their own charms and personality quirks: His driver Tyson (Jay Will) who has nothing at the start of the series but soon begins to develop a taste for the criminal lifestyle, marijuana dealer Bodhi (Martin Starr) who is forced in to a working relationship that he wants nothing to do with, bar owner Mitch (Garrett Hedlund) who willingly becomes an associate to this new Manfredi syndicate, and Stacy (Andrea Savage) is a law enforcement officer who becomes a part of Dwight’s life and often becomes torn between her duty and her feelings. These are just a few of the characters we meet over the course of the series, there is a rich plethora of diverse characters over this 9 episode season and it was these relationships they had with Dwight that I was invested in and that was what made me come back to watch every week.
From a writing standpoint this isn’t the best, some of the comedy doesn’t work and the dialogue can be a bit ropey at times. I think for the next season a better balance needs to be drawn between the action and the drama and the writer’s need to decide on a tone and stick to it. There are a few moments that are brutal, but they are so far and few between that they actually felt a bit out of place. Tulsa King certainly isn’t the most consistent series I’ve ever seen and this first season is definitely still finding its feet, I would struggle to define the genre it is most leaning towards at this time, but with the battle lines drawn and everything now established, I’m hopeful the upcoming second season will rectify some of these issues.
But those issues aside, I still found Tulsa King very entertaining and I was tuning in every week, mainly because it was so easy to watch and I was invested in the characters. I like Sylvester Stallone and I think a lot of his work in recent years has been great, especially in the Creed franchise, my thoughts are no different here. He is carrying this show, without a doubt, and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun as it is without his presence and the aura he emits, even at 76 he’s incredibly intimidating and the part of Dwight is just perfect for him. Luckily, he’s got a great supporting cast around him too and for the most-part, it all comes together nicely and just works.
This series certainly has potential, and Season 1 is a good starting point, I hope it can push on from here and get even better.
If you’ve got Paramount + and you’re looking for a quick, entertaining show then look no further than Tulsa King. If you don’t, I wouldn’t say it’s worth getting a subscription for right now, but watch this space, that may change!
I give Tulsa King – Season 1 a 7/10.
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