Late-stage capitalism and the prison-industrial complex are Sheridan and co-creator Hugh Dillon’s focal points in “Mayor of Kingstown,” which is set in Kingstown, Mich. (Middle America, Sheridan’s bread and butter!) The series reunites Sheridan and Dillon with Jeremy Renner, who starred in “Wind River,” and also features an array of familiar faces to fans of Sheridan’s work (Aidan Gillen, James Jordan) and of prestige TV in general (Kyle Chandler). And the story has a broad familiarity about it, too: organized crime, abused women, righteous men operating outside of the law, awful men operating within it. Sheridan loves to craft himself a morally conflicted white man who simply cannot stop wielding violence as a way to solve his problems, and that’s “Mayor of Kingstown” to a tee.
And yet even for people who enjoy watching Sheridan’s puffy-chested, secretly vulnerable, often-gun-wielding neo-cowboys, “Mayor of Kingstown” is a particularly brutal watch. Exploded meth labs and burnt corpses. A prison attack and a body left to bleed out from dozens of stab wounds. A woman’s sexual assault and murder. Sheridan recurrently turns to gory imagery to support his ideas of America as a country in decline if not for the selflessness of his agonized, principled heroes, and “Mayor of Kingstown” amps up that approach. The first three episodes provided for review set a grueling tone, with the expectation of more to come.
“Mayor of Kingstown” centers Renner as Mike McClusky, the middle brother of a trio living in the claustrophobic Kingstown: “This is a company town, and the business is incarceration,” Mike explains. The town boasts seven prisons housing 20,000 people in a 10-mile radius, and nearly everyone else in the town is connected to the prisons either by working there or knowing people who are serving time there. And in this atmosphere of “no hope, no future,” Mike explains, his older brother Mitch is the town’s unofficial mayor. Kingstown has an actual elected leader, but Mitch is the town’s most connected organized criminal, with a waiting room full of people wanting favors on both sides of the law.
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