An unlikely road trip yields some fun comedy, but “Center of the Universe” excels on the strength of Stallone’s performance and the interiority of his character.
This recap of Tulsa King season 1, episode 2, “Center of the Universe”, contains spoilers.
One-night stands are complicated at the best of times, but if you’re a 75-year-old Mafia capo, they’re a nightmare. However, Stacy being an ATF agent is really the least of Dwight’s problems in “Center of the Universe”, a funny second episode that begins to crack a window into the legitimate pain of both his incarceration and his subsequent “banishment” to Oklahoma, while showing Dwight adapt his old methods of getting things done to a much different world than the one he’s used to.
Tulsa King season 1, episode 2 recap
Dwight’s first business move immediately after arriving in Tulsa in Episode 1 was taking a 20% protection fee from the local weed dispensary despite it not actually requiring protection from anyone other than Dwight himself. With Tyson now Dwight’s designated driver and a petrified, perpetually high, and sarcastic Bodhi being his source of cash, he’s off to a decent start, but cash is no longer king these days, so a good chunk of this episode is devoted to funny versions of mundane stuff like Dwight having to acquire a debit card.
As fun as it is watching Sylvester Stallone do the whole Demolition Man routine in rural Oklahoma, the real strength of “Center of the Universe” is Dwight’s interiority. It isn’t just his quips about how much things cost now, his lamentations that nowhere takes cash anymore, or his ranting while being high as a kite on THC-infused apricot preserve. Dwight is a man out of time, having to reckon with the fact that women are embarrassed to sleep with him, his daughter hates him, and the family he sacrificed a quarter-century of his life for wants him out of the way. Stallone is an underrated actor, and he shows it here, standing in the midst of the titular Centre of the Universe, a real-life Tulsa landmark that is the home to an acoustic phenomenon in which anyone within a small concrete circle cannot be heard by those around them.
Taylor Sheridan does a good job of writing Dwight as a man halfway between a caricature and a real person. He’s careful to take him very seriously during negotiations, such as the one with Bodhi’s weed supplier Jimmy in this episode. The scene itself can be silly, but Dwight isn’t; he’s shrewd, clever, quietly intimidating, and clearly used to doing business. We know he has a mean right hook, which is why he has to pay the Invernizzi family a hundred grand by way of apology for socking Vince (you can’t put hands on a made man), but it’s clear he also has a brain, which might prove much more valuable in the long run.
And there will be things to look out for in the long run, obviously. Dwight’s business endeavors will attract their share of attention, the Invernizzi family may well want Dwight out of the way for good, especially if he makes a mistake, the ATF is aware of Dwight’s presence in Tulsa, and a man named Manny, who obviously has a history with Dwight and believes the capo might be in town to kill him, will obviously factor into proceedings as we go. There’s a lot to think about.
But for now, Dwight is primarily focused on reaching out to his daughter, Christina, with whom he hasn’t spoken for 18 years. When he calls her, her husband answers the phone, and Dwight can hear the grandchildren he has never met in the background. Christina doesn’t want to speak to him.
Nobody said it was easy being the king.