Taylor Sheridan’s bleak take on the American prison system is back with a vengeance on Paramount Plus. Mayor of Kingstown stars Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky, a mediator between the inmates at the Kingstown prison facility and the local police. The second season is back this Sunday on Paramount Plus, and we’ve seen the first two episodes. These are our non-spoiler thoughts.

Feathers were ruffled during the season one finale, arguably one of the most nerve-wracking episodes in recent television history, and season two picks up right after that. The hierarchy of power in Kingstown, in and out of the prison, has been shattered to pieces, leaving the police, inmates, and gang leaders to pick up the spoils.

RELATED: ONODA: 10,000 NIGHTS IN THE JUNGLE MOVIE REVIEW: A DEEP, SELF-INDULGENT PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY OF SURVIVAL

The first episode of the season focuses on the aftermath of the events of the season one finale, acting as a perfect season premiere by continuing the story and building a sense of momentum for a new plot to emerge in the new season. It is not until the second episode that we realize where this is going for now, though, but that didn’t make the premiere less enjoyable.

Mayor of Kingstown season 2: what worked and the untapped potential

Mayor of Kingstown Jeremy Renner Emma Laird
Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky and Emma Laird as Iris in Paramount Plus’ Mayor of Kingstown season 2, episode 1.

We open the new season of Mayor of Kingstown with Mike and Iris (Emma Laird) right after we last saw them. Mike, as we started to see in the first season, is feeling a sense of duty to protect the 20-year-old from any harm she might suffer in Kingstown, and season 2 continues that arc so far. This is the emotional hook for viewers, and if for no other reason, it leaves you wanting more screen time with Iris.

Her presence in season two is unfairly limited to the same amount of screen time she had in the first season, and yet, this is one of the storylines that worked best in the first 10 episodes. Therefore, I was hoping Taylor Sheridan would go down the rabbit hole a bit more in the new season. 

RELATED: CORSAGE REVIEW: THE AWESOME VICKY KRIEPS LEADS THIS MUDDLED 2022 DRAMA

Aidan Gillen’s Milo is also back this season, though he’s barely present in the first two episodes, as one of the main plot threads focuses on finding what happened to him during the season one finale — nobody knows anything, and Mike fears the worst, that he got out while everyone else was looking the other way. A key component of the season will be his relationship with Iris.

As usual, the best part of Mayor of Kingstown is Sheridan’s writing. He is almost single-handedly writing some of the best television out there at the moment, from Yellowstone (and adjacent shows) to Mayor of Kingstown or even Tulsa King. He is not only listed as creator and executive producer, but he’s also a co-writer in the first two episodes of the new season. The care he puts into the characters and storylines makes it seem as if he was only working on this show, which is an even more impressive feat. 

The Main Storylines and Themes of Mayor of Kingstown Season 2

Jeremy Renner Mayor of Kingstown Necar Zadegan
Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky and Necar Zadegan as Assistant DA Evelyn Foley in Paramount Plus’ Mayor of Kingstown season 2, episode 1.

Season two feels like an even darker take on the American prison system — it is an exploration of human nature when both sides of a closely-fought war have been subject to the worst of human conditions. Kingstown continues to be another name for hell on Earth, making it almost unimaginable that anyone living there would want to spend any other second doing so.

Following the riot in the season one finale, a tent city has now been set up where the inmates are being kept, and the guards are not sweating over it – they will watch them closely, but if the prisoners want to kill each other, they will look the other way. Or not, but they will definitely not stop them.

RELATED: TREASON REVIEW: AN AVERAGE BRITISH SPY-THRILLER ELEVATED BY OLGA KURYLENKO

Gang leaders and gang members, meanwhile, are fighting their way through the chaos and trying to upend each other to come out on top of the to-be-established hierarchy. Violence is happening in and out of the gates, and Mike must convince everyone to come to an agreement to try to put an end to an unsustainable situation. Brutality and bloodshed are spreading like a disease, quickly and infecting everyone in the area. Guards and the police are scaling up their tactics and hesitating even less to pull the trigger, and now, even non-gang members are mugging people in the street for just a few dollars.

Tobi Bamtefa Jeremy Renner Mayor of Kingstown
Jeremy Renner as Mike McLusky and Tobi Bamtefa as Bunny in Paramount Plus’ Mayor of Kingstown season 2, episode 1.

Season two also brings back Dianne West’s Mirian McLusky, arguably the most optimistic and brightest side of Kingstown. More than ever before, the character stands for the hopeful side of the incarceration system — she stands for second chances, for correcting past mistakes, learning from them, and hoping for a better tomorrow. She, of course, puts her beliefs into practice and continues giving lessons to inmates of the female prison.

This sets up an interesting dynamic with the guards keeping the prisoners under control — on the one hand, Mirian believes in their potential; on the other, the guards believe they are not even worth the clothes they are wearing. 

RELATED: KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES CASTS THE GREAT WILLIAM H. MACY IN UNDISCLOSED ROLE

While all TV eyes on Sunday will be set on the premiere of HBO’s The Last of Us, if you are trying to kill some time while waiting for Joel and Ellie, I highly recommend Mayor of Kingstown. If you were a fan of the first season, I think you’re gonna enjoy the second one, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, this is the perfect time to do so.

Mayor of Kingstown is currently available to watch on Paramount Plus, with new episodes dropping every Sunday at 12 am PT/3 am ET. Once you watch, let us know your thoughts on Twitter! What did you think of the first episode? Did you enjoy season 1? Did this review convince you to check it out? Stay tuned for more Mayor of Kingstown and other streaming news on The Illuminerdi

KEEP READING: AVENGERS’ JEREMY RENNER IN CRITICAL BUT STABLE CONDITION AFTER SNOW ACCIDENT