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Tulsa King Commits The Same Character Sin That Hurt Another Taylor Sheridan TV Show


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Summary

  • Taylor Sheridan shows struggle with antiheroes, as they never fully condemn their characters for their bad actions and want the audience to continue rooting for them.
  • This lack of condemnation and limited reflection on the characters’ actions makes for a less interesting story, as the main characters are always safe and the stakes are never fully raised.
  • While Yellowstone’s antihero mistakes cannot be salvaged, there’s hope for Tulsa King’s Season 2 to develop the General into the villain he truly is, making the show better by embracing the unlikability of its main character.


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Taylor Sheridan is at the helm of many popular dramas these days, and while they are often successful, the series are also flawed, and in particular, Tulsa King contains one of the biggest problems that Yellowstone suffers from. Tulsa King is a crime drama with one season currently streaming on Paramount+. The series follows Sylvester Stallone as Dwight “The General” Manfredi, a mafia capo who, after being released from prison, is sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma to start establishing criminal operations there. Knowing no one, the General finds people to join his crew.

What makes Tulsa King stand out immediately from every other Taylor Sheridan show is that it is not a neo-Western story. Though Sheridan has worked on a good many projects as writer, director, or creator, many of his best known television series exist within the greater Yellowstone franchise. Yellowstone is a neo-Western drama following John Dutton, the patriarch of the Dutton family and of the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. Although Tulsa King does not have the same Western ambiance that Yellowstone does, which makes it unique from other Sheridan series, the two shows do share some similarities, good and bad.


Tulsa King Repeats Yellowstone’s Biggest John Dutton Problem

One problem in particular that Tulsa King and Yellowstone share is a bad antihero. An antihero is a character that is undoubtedly bad, and yet, because they are usually the protagonist, the audience follows their complicated story, and at times, roots for them. The best examples of antiheroes in television are Tony Soprano from The Sopranos and Walter White from Breaking Bad. While Tulsa King and Yellowstone both have antihero main characters in Dwight Manfredi and John Dutton, both characters are developed in a way that makes them less successful than past television antiheroes.

What this means is that Manfredi and Dutton are antiheroes, but never to the fullest extent. For example, in Breaking Bad, Walter White starts off as a fairly innocuous chemistry teacher, but as the seasons go on, he gets more and more problematic. In turn, it becomes harder to root for him, and in many ways, the series doesn’t want you to. On the other hand, Tulsa King and Yellowstone want audiences to keep rooting for their main characters, even when they do bad things. This isn’t necessarily the wrong way to write an antihero, but it makes for a less interesting story because the main characters are always safe.

Why Taylor Sheridan Shows Struggle With Antiheroes

Luke Grimes, Cole Hauser and Kevin Costner in Yellowstone

Ultimately, Taylor Sheridan’s series struggle with antihero characters because the shows never condemn their characters fully. Although the characters are introduced as being bad people, the show never sees them be so deplorable that the audience will not forgive them. In one way, this makes them complex, showing that people can be good and bad. However, it is also an indication that the series does not want to actually confront the problematic actions that the main characters are taking. There is a lack of reflection on Taylor Sheridan’s part, and also, the stakes of these characters’ bad actions are never fully raised. They remain perpetually just bad enough.

This problem is especially apparent in Yellowstone. After four and a half seasons, John Dutton has continuously proven himself to be a villain, and yet the show does not condemn him, so the audience cannot either. One reason for this is because of his family ties. Though his children often despise him, they also still view him as their father, which makes truly villifying him much harder. A good comparison is Logan Roy in Succession. Where Yellowstone will only go so far with John Dutton, Succession does not hold back from making Logan, and its other characters, say the worst thing possible.

It’s Too Late For Yellowstone, But Tulsa King Season 2 Can Save Stallone’s Character

Sylvester Stallone as Dwight looking serious in Tulsa King

Although it is likely too late to save Yellowstone from its antihero mistakes, Tulsa King has plenty of time left to fix this problem. With only one season out right now, the series can spend Tulsa King season 2 and the following seasons developing the General into the villain he truly is. Considering that he is a crime boss just out of prison, it should not be much of a leap to make him especially bad on screen. If the series does this, then Tulsa King will be better for it. Though it may seem risky to make your main character unlikable, antiheroes must do their worst. If they do not, then your show will feel much too easy.

It is unclear when Tulsa King season 2 will premiere. However, due to 2023’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike, it is expected to be delayed.

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