Two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner reunites with Wind River writer/director Taylor Sheridan for the gritty TV drama Mayor of Kingstown, premiering Sunday, November 14, 2021 on Paramount+. Renner stars as ex-con Mike McLusky who, along with his brother Mitch (Kyle Chandler), runs the town and keeps opposing forces from destroying the community.
20,000 prisoners are housed within the town’s seven prisons, and Mike describes his job as keeping the rats in the cages content and their keepers from becoming rats. A voiceover in the opening minutes of season one episode one reveals Mike’s the unofficial mayor of Kingstown, Michigan and the prisoners’ link to a world that shuns them. While society does its best to forget their existence, Mike and Mitch treat the incarcerated like human beings.
Renner, in his first lead role in a television series, does an outstanding job of playing Mike as conflicted about not only his place in the town’s hierarchy but also just his continued presence in Kingstown. It’s not a community he necessarily likes or a position of power he embraces, but it’s one he’s incredibly good at.
As a former convict he’s capable of straddling both sides of the law, and Mike likes to describe what he does as not breaking the law but bending it to keep the peace. Strange as it seems, given how he spends his days and who he associates with, Mike adheres to a strict moral code and is guided by doing what’s right/fair.
Running Kingstown is apparently in the McLuskys’ blood, however the family matriarch, Mariam (Dianne Wiest), wants no part of Mike and Mitch’s wheeling and dealing. Mariam’s employed as a teacher at one of the prisons and the only McLusky child she respects is her son, Kyle (Taylor Handley).
Kyle’s a cop who, like most of his fellow members of the Kingstown law enforcement community, operates outside the law when it comes to working with Mike and Mitch. Kyle doesn’t just turn a blind eye to his siblings’ activities, he’s also occasionally dragged into whatever shady deal they’ve cooked up with prisoners, guards, or other assorted Kingstown townsfolk.
All three siblings dwell in a grey area but only Kyle attempts to keep his nefarious activities out of the public eye. Mike and Mitch openly rule Kingstown and everyone within the community knows it and turns to the men to settle disputes.
The series’ first episode introduces the key players, sets up the family dynamics, and establishes the world in which Mike operates. He’s intelligent, a good communicator, empathetic, and fierce. (Plus, he has a weird obsession with bears.) Even with his criminal background, Mike could have a decent future far from Kingstown and far from the world of prisoners, drug dealers, and crooked cops. Mike isn’t meant for this world and why he’s chosen to remain in a town he detests will be explored over the course of season one.
Based on the first two episodes Paramount+ made available for review, Taylor Sheridan’s new drama will not be pulling any punches and won’t shy away from tackling important issues. (It does so without preaching or becoming too heavy-handed.) Mayor of Kingstown’s edgy, brutal, and delivers a few shocking twists right out of the gate. It’s also beautifully shot and loaded with multi-layered, interesting characters brought to life by an outstanding ensemble.