Yellowstone creator, showrunner, and deity to the cowboy-at-heart, Taylor Sheridan, is often praised for his intense, gritty, and typically crime-driven dramas, yet the prolific writer isn’t recognized enough for his sense of balance. It’s one of the major reasons Yellowstone’s audience continues to grow, even while the show is now entering its fifth and rumored penultimate season, and how it has kept viewers hooked the entire time. Sheridan understands pacing. Last season started with a literally explosive premiere, as the Duttons were targeted by a then-unknown group of assassins. The Duttons’ youngest son, Kayce (Luke Grimes) chased those who came after him and his family with an indignant vengeance only a Dutton could bring. The season 4 premiere was full of blood, bodies, and bullets and gave viewers exactly what they had been ravenous to see.
Along for the ride are John’s kids: The iconic Beth (Kelly Reilly), who is ride or die for the family; human weasel Jamie (Wes Bentley), who has been neutered due to Beth’s blackmail after he murdered his biological father; and livestock officer Kayce (Luke Grimes). This season’s epic double-episode opener left us with many burning questions and loose thoughts, which are outlined below in real time.
In first episode this season,
#John is in no way interested in representing all of the people of Montana. At least he’s honest when his opponent, whose name is, I believe, Mr. East Coast Liberal Venti Latte, calls him to concede.
#Is Jamie’s lowest moment when everyone runs out of the campaign war room to celebrate and they turn the lights out on him while he’s still in there? Embarrassing!
#Beth’s death stare at Jamie while the confetti is falling…how did that not bore a hole straight through his head?
#Shoutout to Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) for throwing not only her glass in disgust but the whole bottle of liquor too. She’s very mad!
#Is Jamie dumb enough to work with Market Equities now? His family is going to be SO skeptical about anything he pitches.
#Young Beth is expertly played by Kylie Rogers. Maybe Taylor Sheridan’s next project should be a “Gossip Girl”-esque spinoff about the young bunkhouse.
#Big, romantic scenes with Beth and Rip (Cole Hauser) are great, but…Rip’s kind of right? It seems like Beth has apologized many times for the past. It’s all good! Let’s look to the future.
#Random thought: If Chris Pratt dressed up as Rip for Halloween, why didn’t his wife Katherine Schwarzenegger dress up as Beth?!? The costume opportunities are endless and, frankly, more engaging than a garden fairy. And yes, before everyone gets annoyed, the garden fairy outfit was tied to their two adorable children, whose costumes were a butterfly and a bumblebee. But let’s dress up those kids as Lil’ Jamie and Lil’ Governor Dutton and we can all celebrate!
#Beth’s “vodka makes me happy” line…Is this finally the season that the hard-drinkin’ Duttons have to get help for their boozing? That’s a pretty depressing line in the context of this “finding your happiness” conversation!
When John and Lynette finish their joint victory speeches, Beth is of course, right by John’s side, but Jamie is a little further off, keeping his distance. This happens again when John was sworn in a little later in the episode, and the Duttons’ long list of enemies begin to notice the rift between alleged family members simply by studying Jamie’s reactions to his adopted father’s victory. More interestingly, Jamie and Beth share a long stare when the confetti falls on John’s celebration, and for a glimmer of a moment, it seems Jamie has a plan, as he tries to stare down Beth. Even his sister notices the uncharacteristic show of confidence.
Of course, Jamie’s smirk is wiped from his face very quickly. Bentley and Reilly truly shine in these first two episodes, reigniting the hatred that took a bit of a backseat in last season, and setting up what looks to be the explosive conclusion of their love/hate (but mostly hate) sibling dynamic. Reilly reminds the audience just how much of a viper Beth can be, and Bentley does what he has done for four seasons as he shows Jamie’s perpetual fear behind those steely-gray eyes.
Truthfully, it is these character-driven threads that are the strength of the first two episodes. It’s not explosive like last season’s premiere, it’s not all that exciting, but it does what any safe premiere should do – it sets up the rest of the season. There is some wiggle room within that descriptor, “safe,” as Sheridan certainly promises this boat will eventually rock and likely throw some of the Dutton family off, but the biggest moments come buried in the final 10 minutes of “One Hundred Years of Nothing”.
Part of the slight jump forward also reveals a grown Tate (Brecken Merrill) at home with his very pregnant Mom, Monica (Kelsey Asbille) who has certainly grown as well since last season. Kayce, while chasing horse thieves into Canada and back again gets a call from a panicked Monica as she is going into labor. She has no choice but to load herself and Tate into the truck, and try to drive herself to the hospital, while Kayce races to be with his family.
The moments that follow are often somber, but the second episode “The Sting of Wisdom” once again gives Grimes and Asbille an opportunity to do what they have been doing for 4 seasons now, and that’s being the heart of the show. Kayce’s story throughout the show is the one that reflects the most centered approach to the chaos that surrounds his family, and Monica is always the voice of reason. They are intentionally the middle ground that Sheridan has created to make what could easily devolve into melodrama into relatable situations.
Kayce struggles with his duties as a father, husband, and a son. They have marital problems. They have money problems. In short, they are the most accessible characters, and the two actors and their stellar performances are, at times, underrated in a world of political intrigue, kick-ass cowboys, and fiery romance. “The Sting of Wisdom” is such a brilliant title for the episode as Kayce and Monica have learned so many invaluable lessons to become wiser, and those lessons have often come at a high price. Grimes and Asbille truly give nuanced and grounded performances, and are easily the highlight of the first two episodes.
In first episode this season,
#Brecken Merrill does a fantastic job in a claustrophobic scene as Tate struggles to get out of the car wreck, as well as his subsequent shock and hysterics while searching for his mother.
#Sending a pin to 911 with your location…pretty smart move, Tate!
#Things are getting pretty heavy…let’s check in with Rip’s tasseled chaps and enormous belt buckle.
#Chief of Staff Jim Roberts probably should have introduced himself to Governor Dutton earlier on in this transition.
#It’s fun watching John squirm once he realizes his dream of a Ron Swanson-esque existence of eternally ditching meetings won’t get him anywhere politically.
#Ouch, Beth! Her cutting words about fathers to Jamie…yikes!
#What a sad episode! If you need some emotional relief, click here for a bunch of pictures of dogs dressed up as cowboys. Yellowstone Ranch might not run as efficiently if they were in charge, but how cute would it be?!?
#While the cowboys are trying to fend off the wolves around the ranch, John is trying to fend off political wolves. Metaphor alert!
#Market Equities’ new secret weapon, Sarah (Dawn Olivieri), seems like a knockoff Beth. Oh, the fights they will have!
#Ugh, Jamie’s absolutely going to fall in love with Sarah, isn’t he?
#Don’t worry, valet character with just a few lines: Beth’s car payment metaphor was very confusing.
#As if this episode wasn’t tragic enough, Rip has to shoot a horse? Jeez!
#Never thought we’d see a — checks notes — mountain biker trying to hit on Beth, but good luck!
#Ah, nothing like a classic, five degree Beth burn. Magnifique!
#Another “Yellowstone” special: Walk up to someone and wordlessly sucker punch them in the face when they ask “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
#Rip’s intimidation and manipulation skills are second-to-none. Though none of his schemes this season can match putting a poisonous snake in a cooler, shaking it and throwing it in a man’s face, the driftwood meets wolf collar scheme is pretty smart.
The first two episodes can be best summarized as a collection of excellent moments. Ryan (Ian Bohen) finding a possible love-interest at the gubernatorial dinner. The introduction of John’s assistant, Clara (Lilli Kay) who seems to be a new ally. The introduction of Sarah Atwood (Dawn Olivieri) who in every conceivable way seems to be a match for Beth. John, in his first days in office, already stretching the law and abusing his power to the chagrin of Caroline Warner (Jackie Weaver) and even Jamie. Rainwater (Gill Birmingham) looking like his position of power might be challenged by the snakelike Angela Blue Thunder (Q’orianka Kilcher). All great storylines, but merely thrown our way in the premiere episodes.
The real issue is, the two premiere episodes have a lot going on, without anything actually truly progressing. Even before the season 5 trailer was released, audiences had to know John was going to win the election, but it still doesn’t change the fact the Duttons are at war with Market Equities. The ranch is still in peril, Beth and Jamie still hate one another, and Kayce and Monica have to deal with another major blow to their marriage: these are all story threads that aren’t all that new, and so episode 1 and 2 this season feel somewhat superfluous.
Here Watch the trailer: