What happens when a New York mafia capo is released from prison after a 25-year sentence and finds himself with a bewildering new assignment that forces him set up shop in the currently unestablished, unassuming city of Tulsa, Oklahoma? With Sylvester Stallone at the helm as Dwight “The General” Manfredi, the Paramount+ Original series Tulsa King answers this question and then some.
I had a chance to watch the first two episodes ahead of the show’s premiere this Sunday. Coming into this series, I had no doubts that it would be another quality piece of entertainment from Taylor Sheridan, but I still admittedly wouldn’t have necessarily positioned myself as Tulsa King‘s target demographic. However, I was thrilled to find more than enough reasons to backpedal that statement before the first episode, “Go West, Old Man,” was even finished. Now, I’m all in and entirely invested in whatever else is in store for the show’s first season.
Tulsa King of course has ample audience draw off the bat — after over five decades in the film industry, Stallone is finally front and center in his first starring role in a television series, and he’s in fine form as he makes this character his own. Dwight may indeed be a mobster with a colorful past, but Stallone brings depth to him with humanity, sincerity, and surprisingly enough, even humor as well.
That all goes to say that when it comes down to it, Tulsa King just isn’t your stereotypical crime/mob drama, not in the least. Rather, it outright challenges what we’ve come to know from the genre and pivots in a unexpected direction by placing its main character in an entirely unprecedented situation. Dwight Manfredi’s days of working as a gangster alongside his mob family in a bustling city are over — now, he’s been forced entirely out of his depth as he grapples with both a new way of life in an unfamiliar new city and all of the technological and societal advancements that he’s missed in the past two decades.
Dwight’s complete and utter displacement from the environment he used to thrive in and the world he once knew is where much of the show’s dry humor ends up being sprinkled throughout, punctuating the drama with a fantastic reality check or two along the way. We’re essentially watching a rough-spun gangster in his mid-70s discover baffling concepts like smartphones and legal weed dispensaries while he tries to bring a New York mafia vibe to Tulsa’s laid back, tame lifestyle. As Dwight faces these challenges, it becomes clear how self-aware and witty the writers of the show are as they successfully manage to craft a mafia story that can somehow still be described as fun. And it works, it really works.
Stallone’s strong presence, the effective writing that’s at play, and the overall production quality aside, there’s also an incredibly talented cast at work that truly brings everything together. Andrea Savage plays a formidable opposite to Stallone’s Dwight as ATF agent Stacy Beale, and she’ll undoubtedly have much more in store as the episodes unfold. Domenick Lombardozzi dishes out a tenacious performance as Charles “Chickie” Invernizzi, de facto head of the Invernizzi crime family. Both Jay Will’s Tyson and Martin Starr’s dispensary owner, Bodhi, are two absolute standouts thus far, brilliantly contributing to some of the show’s more comedic moments. Meanwhile, Garrett Hedlund’s Mitch Keller, an ex-bull rider/bartender whose amicable manner contrasts with his tarnished past, promises to be a very intriguing player in this story.
Overall, Tulsa King is shaping up to be a fresh, compelling, and wholly entertaining new take on the concept of a mob drama, and it’s not to be missed.
Catch Tulsa King when the series premieres exclusively on Paramount+ this Sunday, November 13, and make sure to around for our weekly episodic recaps!