Taylor Sheridan and Terence Winter’s “Tulsa King,” a brand-new drama series on Paramount+, doesn’t quite live up to expectations due to its formulaic and unexceptional style. However, it is able to hold viewers’ attention for a few intriguing reasons.
First off, “Tulsa King” maintains the amazing career of writer-director Taylor Sheridan, who has become one of the most popular television producers in the previous ten years. Although he was previously known for his little part in “Sons of Anarchy,” Sheridan has used the success of his well-received neo-Western movies to build a successful small-screen empire. Sheridan has built up a diverse body of work outside of his critically praised series “Yellowstone” and its four spinoffs, solidifying his position as a major voice in television drama comparable to Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.
The second noteworthy aspect of “Tulsa King” is that its star, Sylvester Stallone, makes his first appearance in a television series at the age of 76. Actors well-known for their prior box office triumphs frequently remake themselves in the diverse world of television. However, Stallone has a distinct history, and his filmography after “Rocky” alternates between action franchises with exciting set pieces and vain attempts to break free from the mercenary stereotype, as illustrated by the “Rambo” series. Stallone’s acting skills were hotly contested before he won a Golden Globe for his supporting performance in “Creed,” and he wasn’t everyone’s favourite actor.
Stallone plays a part in “Tulsa King” that seems to be made for him, and this is what makes all the difference. Even though the programme itself falters occasionally, Stallone gives a lovely performance, complete with his trademark quirks. Stallone still only has a little field of vision, but he moves through it with the dexterity of a contortionist in a box. The intrigue in “Tulsa King” is enhanced by Stallone’s presence; without him, the show would be much less engrossing.
Dwight “The General” Manfredi, a former New York mobster who has served 25 years in prison, is portrayed by Stallone. When Dwight is freed, he expects a triumphant reunion with his family, replete with a party at his favourite club for gentlemen and a montage set to Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove.” But when he is dropped off in Long Island for a difficult meeting that reveals the huge changes that have occurred while he was away, his homecoming takes an unexpected turn.
Domenick Lombardozzi’s thickly coiffed character, Chickie, tells Dwight that he is no longer needed in the New York company. His only choice is to accept a new task: making a presence in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the second-largest city in the state, despite having never been there before. Dwight has to adjust to a new work environment in Tulsa while navigating a world that is very dissimilar from the one he left behind. Aged criminals could be welcome after all, and Dwight is eager to take advantage of the chance.
The premise implies a difficult trip for an elderly con artist attempting to adapt his traditional approaches to modern schemes. The pilot, however, immediately eliminates this possibility by putting Dwight on a straight course. Dwight hasn’t let a quarter-century away from the hustle soften his criminal propensities in the least. In fact, Dwight quickly sets up a personal driver (Jay Will) and obtains the first reluctant client for his protection scheme while still lugging his bags after arriving in the Sooner State. He quietly enters a marijuana dispensary and immediately asserts his power over Bodhi (Martin Starr), the proprietor.
Although it’s logical to presume that Dwight’s future endeavours won’t always go as smoothly, the first two episodes that were seen to critics don’t really hint to upcoming difficulties. Instead, in order to keep the audience from becoming hostile to him, these episodes concentrate on making Dwight into a criminal antihero with a sophisticated moral compass. In the pilot, Dwight confronts blatant prejudice and defends women by physically stepping in when a pub customer crosses limits. These admirable deeds demonstrate to spectators that he is a capo they can support wholeheartedly.
There is no definite antagonist by the end of the two episodes. No strong foe appears in the first few episodes, despite the fact that Dwight’s pre-prison past starts to complicate his new reality and that his sexual relationship with Stacy Beale (Andrea Savage) is an obvious source of stress. With all the technical breakthroughs, societal trends, and cultural transformations that have taken place while he was away, such as rideshare applications, TikTok trends, and meme stocks, Dwight’s main enemy at this point is time itself.
Dwight complains about personal pronouns in line with Taylor Sheridan’s conservative writing style, despite having no need to be aware of, much less engaged in, such current culture disputes. The pronoun speech, delivered in a way that could have been easily mistaken for Stallone himself, seems out of character for the persona he is playing. In a series that would otherwise lack it, Stallone’s presence is curiously fascinating due to this incongruity. Sheridan and Winter have given Sly a role that he can’t help but excel in by creating the “Tulsa King” universe around Stallone’s persona.