On the coronary heart of Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon’s Paramount+ sequence Mayor Of Kingstown is a bleak imaginative and prescient of the world. Violence isn’t a lot the language of its central characters (cops, jail guards, gang members, and cops within the fictional titular city) because the very air they breathe, whereas punishment and revenge are their structuring rules. Whether or not such a portrait is descriptive (right here is the world as it’s, miserable as which may be to grasp) or pessimistic (right here is the world because it could possibly be, irritating as which may be to think about) is unclear. Deliberately so, maybe. However that doesn’t make it any much less discomfiting. Again for a second season following a riotous (actually!) finale final yr, Mayor Of Kingstown digs its heels even deeper right into a terrifying depiction of policing and gang violence.
A refresher in case you’ve forgotten: An Attica-style riot closed out this Jeremy Renner-starring drama’s freshman season, with feuding gangs, irate inmates, and tough-as-nails guards getting swept up in an all out violent battle that’s left Kingstown very a lot bruised. No matter order (albeit fragile) had existed earlier than out within the streets and between jail partitions has been obliterated. And because the first two episodes of this newest season present us in all too ugly element, nobody and nowhere is secure. Not till some semblance of order (and regulation) will be restored. Therein lies the central motivator for Mike McLusky (Renner). Lawlessness like the type he’s seeing day in and time out (rabid pit bulls unleashed on gang members, drive-by shootings focusing on home events, indiscriminate murders within the jail) are unsustainable.
However placing the genie again within the bottle, particularly after witnessing the carnage that came about throughout the riot, proves to be a harder problem than our morally ambiguous protagonist may even think about. And that’s on high of needing to get Iris (Emma Laird) to security, all whereas making an attempt to determine whether or not a sure prison boss died throughout the riot or truly escaped—a chance a lot too harmful to soak up earnest with out fearing the worst.
The facility brokering that Mike is famend for is what guides Mayor Of Kingstown. He’s however a person making an attempt to carry order to the mindless chaos of the streets of his metropolis, as hopeless and thankless an endeavor as it might sound. Amid a tv panorama that’s given us every part from Oz and Regulation & Order to The Wire and most lately We Personal This Metropolis, Sheridan and Dillon’s gritty sequence can’t ever really feel novel even because it tries to wrap its urgent commentary on the American jail system in a thriller that flattens means too lots of its characters.
Maybe this is why the most engrossing subplot in the latest season centers on Mike’s brother Kyle (Taylor Handley). After getting a transfer out of Kingstown, the former Kingstown PD officer is slowly realizing that there are scars from his time there he’s not yet been able to heal. The first two episodes offer moments where Kyle has to come to terms with the way policing in Kingstown has all but warped his concept of the world, where every raid is a potential drug bust, every pulled over vehicle a possible violent threat. (Of course, given the way the show is keen on plumbing the darkest of outcomes, the second episode ends with a horrific set piece that will surely set Kyle even further back, confirming his greatest fears both about himself and the world he’s committed to serving.)
In a sense it’s hard to fault Mayor Of Kingstown for delivering precisely what it sets out to do. Here is a crime drama that feels both born out of Fox News’ most depraved ideas of what urban living can offer (Drug dens! Gang wars! Petty thieves at every corner store!) and likewise out of the most nightmarish assumptions about modern-day American policing (Corruption! Senseless Violence! Rage-driven interactions!). There are no “good” guys and “bad” guys. Just, well, guys. Which is almost bleaker; the sole character who aims to steer herself above such a black and white world is Mike’s mother Miriam. Played by the luminous Diane Wiest, Miriam’s clipped breathy demeanor here captures the anxiety she experiences as she realizes carceral and policing systems are working as designed, eager not to rid streets of “criminals” but focused almost exclusively on creating them and thus validating the very “law and order” that guide their actions, both personal and structural. A brief moment where she chooses grace over punishment is but a sign that there are people who are committed to doing what they can to break down an unjust system.
Alas, as Mike’s actions suggest, show and character alike seem instead to find more narrative interest in (re)establishing well-worn plots about feuding gangs and violent power grabs. It may be gripping but it’s uninspired, both as television and as meditation on law and order in 2023.
Mayor Of Kingstown premieres January 15 on Paramount+.