‘Mayor of Kingstown’ Kicks Off With a Shocking Twist for the McLusky Family (RECAP)

Kyle Chandler as Mitch, Jeremy Renner as Mike in Mayor of Kingstown
Spoiler Alert
Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS

Mayor of Kingstown

The Mayor of Kingstown/The End Begins

Season 1 • Episode 1

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Mayor of Kingstown Episodes 1 and 2, “The Mayor of Kingstown” and “The End Begins.”]

In Mayor of Kingstown, the McLusky family — specifically Mike (Jeremy Renner) — reigns over the town in which prisons are the only thriving business.

“This is never what I wanted, never where I thought I’d be. But then again, I’d never been anywhere else, and when they sent me away, they just sent me right back here,” Mike’s voiceover kicks off the series. “Every member of my family fights this fight, and so does every family who calls Kingstown home. So do a lot of families who will never call it home, but they live here anyway. … Now it’s up to me to keep the rats in the cage content and the keepers from becoming rats themselves. … I’m the life raft. I’m the mayor of Kingstown.”

And oh, do we see that in the first two episodes.

“The Mayor of Kingstown”

Mike’s brother, Mitch (Kyle Chandler), is the “mayor,” the one everyone goes to in town (such as a father worried about his kid in prison). And, as we learn early on, he has some sort of deal going on with Milo Sunter (Aidan Gillen), a leader of the Russian mob in prison. He needs Mitch to move his money and $10,000 is his if he does. A man, Alberto, in the waiting room, notices when Mitch’s secretary makes a copy of Vera’s (Elizaveta Neretin) map of the money’s location.

One of the prison’s guards turns to Mike when his nephew gets into a bit of trouble with the Crips. Mike’s solution (while he and Mitch visit Crips boss Bunny — played by Tobi Bamtefa — with whom they have a deal): get his nephew a post up in a tower. How? He picks a fight with an inmate and gets roughed up just enough. The other guy comes out of it in much worse condition. (Bunny is not happy.)

Meanwhile, the McLusky matriarch, Mariam (Dianne Wiest), teaches in the women’s prison, and when one of the inmates in her class approaches her about talking to the mayor about something, she snaps, “Don’t ever, ever mention my sons to me again. Is that clear? Get the f**k out of here.”

Jeremy Renner as Mike, Kyle Chandler as Mitch, Taylor Handley as Kyle in Mayor of Kingstown

Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS

Mike and Mitch have their brother Kyle (Taylor Handley) pick up an extra shift (“What aren’t they involved in?” he asks when Mariam comments as he leaves their house). (This way, if anyone spots them, he can claim to be looking into a tip.) When he gets to work, Mitch is there, regaling the detectives with some story. They meet Mike outside, and Mitch sends them off to get the money and take it straight to the safe in his office.

As they search for and eventually find the bag of money, Mike talks to Kyle about a possible job change that would be a demotion, but also a ticket out of Kingstown for the latter. Kyle, however, wants to know why he doesn’t just leave. “I’m a felon with no skills,” Mike says, “Where the hell am I going to go?” He was looking at a school in Wyoming where they teach you to cook in Dutch ovens and guarantee job placement when you finish.

Once the money’s in the safe, Mike calls Mitch to let him know, and his brother tells him something happened they’ll discuss at the office. But …

Alberto follows Vera to the strip club where she works, then to her home and kills her before taking the map. He returns to Mitch’s office to get the money and holds Mitch at gunpoint while he opens the safe. Mitch is more than willing to hand it over. Let it be between the thief and the owner of the money, he decides, but Alberto says that person will never know it was him … and shoots Mitch in the back of the head, killing him!

Jeremy Renner as Mike in Mayor of Kingstown

Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS

When Mike arrives at the office and sees the cops around, he quickly realizes what happened and insists on seeing his brother’s body, even as Ian (Hugh Dillon) tries to stop him. “It’s f**king inevitable,” Kyle says. “I always knew this would happen. I just thought it would happen to you.”

But when they identify Alberto, Mike shows up at his house. Ian refuses to let him go in. Just give him this, Mike pleads. “For Mitch. If he goes to prison, I can’t f**king touch him. You understand that? We don’t work with the mafia. That f**ker is going to sit in prison with his feet up for the rest of his f**king life, laughing about this s**t.” The detective promises if he’s alone in the house, he’ll never get off the couch, and that’s exactly what happens.

When Milo’s man then approaches Mike at the bar about his money, Mike makes it clear that he shouldn’t mess with him. “Mitch was off limits! And you know it! Everyone knew it!” Mike yells after throwing the guy to the ground. “So if Milo wants to blame us for this s**t, we’ll have him killed in his cell before midnight, you understand? Everything my brother gave you, I can take away in an afternoon. Don’t ever threaten me again.”

Dianne Weist as Mariam in Mayor of Kingstown

Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS

When Mike arrives home and finds Mariam grieving, she tells him, “He’s gone, in the manner we all imagined. This will be your way too, you know.” Mike argues they “bend” the law, they don’t break it, but she’s seen what the men in her family do, with her husband. “Don’t delude yourself into thinking any of this is for the common good. You work incredibly hard to accomplish absolutely nothing. You prolong the inevitable,” she says. “You’re couriers, fix-it men, part-time gangsters, and you think because you don’t make much money that it’s noble? Mitch, god rest his soul, how I loved him, was arrogant and lazy. I know why he did it — for the attention, the power — but for the life of me, I’ll never understand why you do it. You hate it. You hate this town. You have no friends, and all you’ve done since you were a little boy is dream of leaving. Yet here you are.”

But “I don’t know how to leave,” Mike admits. “You just go,” she tells him. He can’t. In fact, he ends up taking over his brother’s job by the end of the premiere.

“The End Begins”

Mike spends the second episode juggling Mitch’s job, fixing things with Bunny after a few hiccups in their deal, and hoping he has a little Hawkeye in him since he buys a bow off a recommendation to a query about dealing with a bear near his cabin.

Jeremy Renner as Mike, Taylor Handley as Kyle in Mayor of Kingstown

Emerson Miller/ViacomCBS

Kyle, meanwhile, is dealing with his complicated feelings about his brother’s death. “I loved him, but I don’t feel sad,” he admits to his wife. There are no rules, she reminds him. Besides, he also has to keep an eye on his other brother, considering Mike sets fire to where Mitch was killed. (A reason he gives: the stain in the carpet.)

Two FBI agents pay Mike a visit to discuss the deal they had with Mitch. Mitch helped arrange the surrender of Milo after an armored car heist during which he killed two armed guards. Part of the deal was that Milo could keep and hide a portion of what he stole, which would be returned upon his release. (He’s sentenced to life.) Yes, Mitch’s murder is about that money. Where’s the money now, the agents ask. They know the answer, Mike says, wanting them to get down to business: making the same arrangement they had with Mitch ($2500 a month to be a paid informant) with him. “I hope you can appreciate the magnitude of corruption that went into making that all happen,” an agent comments about Mike, a convicted felon, having a carry permit. Mike does.

He signs the paper to be a paid informant, but it’s going to be on his terms: “I don’t do stings, I don’t wear a f**king wire, and if someone asks me if I’m on your payroll, I tell them the truth. What I do here, what I do with other people here, stays here. … You want to know who’s running what anytime where, come to me. Do not f**king use me for anything.”

But while he may be in control there, Milo wants to throw him off his game, so no more threats. Rather, he tells his man to send Iris (Emma Laird), a sex worker currently in New York, to him. “That’s the way with this one,” Milo explains.

Mayor of Kingstown, Sundays, Paramount+