The new crime thriller Mayor of Kingstown opens with, as Jeremy Renner’s character Mike McLusky laments his fate of being stuck in Kingstown, he serves as the link between the prisoners and the outside world. During the voiceover, Mike pays a kid to throw a tennis ball over the concrete and barbed wire prison walls into an inmate’s yard. The scene establishes the McKlusky family’s intentions and their less-than-legal means of achieving their goals. After the credits, Mike and Mitch are in their office listening to a father complain about his son’s treatment in jail after he hit a guard. After suggesting hanging a noose and feigning suicidal intent to escape the guard’s grasp, Mitch arranges a private meeting with Vera, the notorious inmate Milo’s wife, to pick up $200,000 Milo has buried in the woods.
Meanwhile, Mike goes to a diner to meet some guards who work one side of the law but have both feet in Kingstown. One asks Mike to keep his nephew safe after he enraged another inmate by writing a letter. Mike warns the group about retribution from within, staffing the yard with men who work for the McLusky family. As he leaves, he reminds the guards that this will be costly. Miriam McLusky, Mike and Mitch’s mother, appears in a prison classroom. With her knowledge of the nation’s cruel history, Miriam is introduced mid-lecture on how the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. Miriam becomes enraged when a young inmate approaches her to ask if Mitch and Mike can help her cousin who is about to enter prison. The immediate appearance is that she disapproves of her sons’ work, but the family’s relationship is unknown.
Mitch and Mike visit Bunny, the gang’s leader, to avoid retribution for the guard’s nephew. The guard is approached by an inmate who tries to use the letter to get the guard into his pocket. The guard beats the inmate before banging his head against a concrete wall to justify the attack. Other guards rush in and beat the inmate mercilessly to protect their own man. Then comes Kyle McLusky. Miriam is over teaching her son’s wife to make some sort of bread in what could be a very kind and cosy scene. And while his wife is enraged that he is working with his brothers when they have a dinner reservation, Miriam warns him against working with his brothers.
In the woods, Mike and Kyle hunted for the money. Mike, a convicted felon, aspires to escape Kingstown and attend a cooking school with 100% job placement. In this fantasy, no one is happy in Kingstown and everyone dreams of escape. Vera meets a man who was in the Mayor’s waiting room when she asked for his help. They go to the Jungle Room for a private dance, but the man leaves early. The immediate switch to a doctor treating the young guard’s head wound shows how sex and violence are intertwined in the Mayor of Kingstown. The same guy breaks into Vera’s house when she returns home to eat cold cereal on her bed while watching TV. The two talk about why Mitch is called the Mayor — he runs the city in a way that the elected, the true mayor doesn’t. Vera fires a gun at him, but he misses, and he beats her to death. He finds the map to the buried money while robbing and wants it. Kyle and Mike return to Mitch’s office with the $200,000 in his safe. There he meets Vera’s killer, who forces him to open the safe. Once Mitch hands over the money, the assailant shoots him in the head and leaves him dead on the floor as well. When Mike pays a visit to gang leader Bunny to rush the timeline on a letter after the vicious beating at the prison, he finds out that Mitch hasn’t been answering his phone all morning.
Mike heads to the office to find it filled with detectives who tell him that his brother’s been shot. As the rest of the family learns the news of Mitch’s death, the cops track down his murderer and prepare to take him down. Mike begs to be a part of the team to take him in, but the cops instead promise that if the culprit is alone they’ll shoot him rather than take him in. It’s a strange moment where viewers are asked to root for the cops murdering an unequivocally guilty man in a culture that has only recently begun to reckon with the real-life instances of police brutality and reflects the crucial, often hard-to-watch moral ambiguity. After heading to his cabin, out of range of cellphone service, Mike is confronted with his worst fear as a bear saunters by for an afternoon snack. This somehow seems to offer him clarity about what the next steps are. When leaving Mitch’s old office later, Mike and Kyle are approached by a desperate mom looking to get help from the Mayor. Kyle tells her that she’s got the wrong guy, that the Mayor’s dead, but she begs for help anyway. The episode ends when Mike doesn’t turn her away but instead asks for the name of the person to help, taking on the mantel of Mayor and picking up where his brother left off. Read more recap at tvacute.com