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Tulsa King: The Pros and Cons of Season 1

9:49 AM EST on January 17, 2023

For the most part, I was entertained and amused by the first season of Tulsa King – the Sylvester Stallone crime drama that's either the worst or the best TV show ever made.

I'd describe the series like a lunch in a neighborhood diner or deli – good tuna sandwich television and bad steamed cabbage streaming services, wrapped up in a blinking cathode burrito, improperly fixed on the $14.99-priced menu.

While my lame style, fracturing comparison, and elegantly wasted bravado might make you properly wince, Tulsa King is like that: an absolute extreme of both indicators, good and bad.

The show has drastic peaks and elastic valleys, complete with tough guys and misogynistic chicks, stalled and abandoned storylines, and characters to root for and then watch disappear. It’s all there along with Sly's heavy NY accent. When combined, it makes for an unstoppable force in pre-paid programming, but only if you practice extreme discretion.

With the first season officially in the books, I thought I'd take a second look at the ten nine episodes and try to decipher the themes about season one, why they worked and, especially, why they didn’t.

Here we go...

The Setting!

Pro: Tulsa King is, obviously, set in Tulsa – Oklahoma's second-largest city. As an irregular visitor to this second-hand hamlet, it was nice to see Tulsa get some due. With Dwight calling the shots in this rusty but urbane town, the city serves as the perfect backdrop for him to see what he’s made of. But…

Con: Most of Tulsa King was clearly shot in Oklahoma City! With nary a shot of the iconic Tulsa skyline, Golden Driller, or Oral Roberts' praying hands, why didn't the producers call it Oklahoma City King instead? Obviously, OKC has better trashy restaurants, scummy bars, and burned-out meth facilities…why the snub?

The Plot!

Pro: Whether you like him or hate him, Taylor Sheridan had a big part to play in creating this Paramount Plus series. With showrunner Terence Winter headlining the show with writers from Deadwood and others, it looks like a good plot, with multiple storylines true to Oklahoma. But…

Con: There is far too much of it! With so many characters to keep tabs on, they all, for the most part, fall by the wayside. Even more, most characters fall into flat, two dimensional camps: the mafia goombas and the Okie trash. All for what, exactly?

The Characters!

Pro: The characters in Tulsa King are truly impressive for their determination and grit, especially Stacy, the hardened ATF agent played by Andrea Savage. Thanks to a dynamic story structure, this hard-won warrior faced enough internal and external conflicts to be the most entertaining and likable character on the show. But…

Con: Every other character is pretty stereotypical, but none more than Margaret, played by Dana Delaney. I expected something from the budding romance between her and Dwight, but got absolutely nothing. I also wanted a double-cross from trash biker gang, but for nothing. I was thoroughly let down.

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The Enduring Legend!

Pro: Like Rocky Balboa in the final round, Tulsa King proved that Sylvester Stallone is an ageless stallion that can still pull punches with the best. In his 40-plus-year career of around 80 films and other productions, this late conclusion is a coda punctuated with a glass of fine wine. But…

Con: Stallone is one of the top actors in the world, with characters like John Rambo igniting the zeitgeist. With so many timeless characters on the big screen, why go on a streaming series? Why have a series at all?

The Future

Pro: With television at peak viewing on the steaming network, Tulsa King has been a surefire success, one that I am excited and curious for in season two. But…

Con: What else is there to watch?

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78

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