By E.L. Meszaros
A boy’s murder unites police and inmates, with lasting repercussions, in Mayor of Kingstown Episode 3.
Opening with an exercise montage, showing how everyone from prison populations to the police stays fit, Mayor of Kingstown Season 1, Episode 3, "Simply Murder," quickly transitions to tragedy. While a boy plays with a small weight, his mother is passed out on the couch, and a meth addict lights a cigarette while scouring the house for food. Not finding any, he drives off, abandoning the cigarette that soon falls and sets fire to a trashcan. Within moments, the fire spreads out of control and when it reaches the meth-cooking materials, the entire trailer explodes in flames, killing the young boy and his mother.
After the opening credits, Mike McLusky (Jeremy Renner) and his brother Kyle (Taylor Sheridan) arrive at the scene along with the police force. Mike has clearly used his mayoral power achieved in the Season 1 premiere to identify the meth addict responsible for the tragedy as Kenny and digs up his past, which causes the police chief to insist they work this case clean. When the chief walks away, the rest of the officers suggest it would be better if the child murderer doesn’t make it to court. Mike claims that putting him in county jail means that the population would take care of him and that he would never make it to his arraignment. While Mike’s remark may have been off-handed, the group share knowing looks and tell him to make it happen.
Mayor of Kingstown Season 1, Episode 3 Introduces the Beast
The officers meet with an enforcer, nicknamed the Beast, and tell him to treat this raid and capture like Afghanistan. Presumably, the Beast is meant to not worry about taking anyone in alive, which is an indictment both against current police practices and against military procedures. The Beast is first put up against another criminal who may know where Kenny’s gone, and while he doesn’t kill the man, he certainly beats him in a way that resembles enhanced interrogation.
Meanwhile, Mike goes to visit someone to try to arrange Kenny's murder in county jail. The man tries to talk Mike out of it, and Mike seems to agree, but the two discuss what it would take anyway. It seems that all the gangs have to be on board, and Mike promises to work on getting Bunny’s crew to back his play.
In a tonal shift, the episode returns to the women’s prison with Miriam lecturing on the origins of the North American slave trade. It’s a bit incongruous to see a white woman speak about the horrors of the mental models that encouraged the enslavement of people to incarcerated populations that are predominantly non-white, but it’s especially strange to see it next to the violence her sons are enacting as means to an end. The horrors are highlighted with a shot of Kenny who is crying and angry at the harm he caused. A child-murdering meth addict may not be the most sympathetic villain, but living up to its name as a gritty crime drama, once again Mayor of Kingstown does the work to show how morally ambiguous all these deeds truly are.
The next morning, Mike is approached by Carlos, the father of the man who killed his brother. Carlos tells Mike that there are no hard feelings, that the kid had no honor and was destined for murder soon anyway. It's a tense beginning, but Carlos then offers to help hand over Kenny, who apparently cooked for his gang and would likely come to collect the money he's owed to help him escape. The two reminisce about the old days, which apparently they spent together in prison.
Tracy Suspects the McLusky Family Is Growing
Back at home, Kyle's wife Tracy stands examining her belly in the mirror, suggesting she might be pregnant. When Miriam interrupts to say that Kyle is bringing Mike home for supper, she asks Tracy if Kyle knows, but Tracy pleads ignorant. It seems that the McLusky family may be growing, which will only make the dangerous work they do more difficult.
Mike tries once more to talk the group of cops out of arranging the murder of Kenny. He reminds them of the cost of what they're asking, that all the prisoners and gangs who participate will use this to claim a favor from law enforcement and will hold it over their heads on every arrest in the future. The cops seem unconcerned and push Mike to move forward with arranging the murder. The cops then meet up with Kenny's parole officer. When Kyle picks a fight with him that turns from slurs to fists, the Beast breaks them up violently and throws them off the case. Seemingly he has more control over the situation than the primary officers in charge of the case, but no one bats an eye at his ability to make these decisions.
Meanwhile, Mike arrives at Bunny's (Tobi Bamtefa) set up with a burger and fries, similar to Episode 2's arrangement. Bunny accepts the gift and the two seem friendly, but Bunny reminds Mike that the cops wouldn't be this upset if the murdered boy had been Black. Mike tells Bunny about the plan to take care of Kenny in jail and that the other gangs are in. Bunny warns him what this'll cost, saying they won't ever let the cops forget, but says his men are in, too.
The cops then raid a house, losing one of their own in the process, but the Beast takes care of everyone else. One man tries to hold a woman in front of him as a shield, claiming that he'd shoot her if the Beast made a move, but the Beast takes care of that for him and shoots her himself. After killing the last man, the woman pleads for an ambulance and the Beast walks away. This isn't law enforcement, this is, as the title suggests, simply murder.
Kenny Meets His End
Unexpectedly, Kenny then approaches Mike to ask him for help. After he hits Kenny in the head with a tire iron and tries to choke him, Mike tells Kenny to turn himself in to the police and get into protective custody. This is the only way to avoid the murder that everyone from the cops to the gangs have planned for him. Mike says he hates Kenny and wants him dead, but he doesn't want the collateral damage that arranging Kenny's murder will cause.
After eating dinner alone, with neither Kyle nor Mike, Tracy and Miriam start to clean the dishes. Kyle arrives home crying from the loss of his colleague on the last raid, and Tracy tries to tell him about her pregnancy to cheer him up, but he says he doesn't want to hear anything good. Miriam encourages Tracy to not accept that and assert the joy of their upcoming child. Tracy goes to join Kyle in the shower and without saying a word puts his hands over her belly. She doesn't tell him anything good, she just shows him, and Kyle smiles and shouts in joy that they're having a baby.
Kenny turns himself into the police station, and it seems that the crisis Mike fears may be averted, but instead of booking him the police load him into a squad car and call the captain. He ends up in county jail and after marching past prisoners throwing everything from toilet paper to urine at him, he's beaten to death by dozens of inmates representing all the different gangs while the guards look on and do nothing. The episode ends with Mike wondering at the starkness of the dead boy's burial with no service and no witnesses, as if all the work and favors and deals with the devil made in this episode were not about the boy but rather instead the violent urges of the town itself.
Mayor of Kingstown Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Paramount+.