Tonight was the season one finale of Paramount Network’s big bold series, Yellowstone. I got in on the beginning of the series and was immediately drawn to the story that is best described as gritty and intense. Check out my first review from the beginning of the season. Below are my thoughts after watching all of Yellowstone season one.
Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Michaela Conlin, and Wendy Moniz. This western drama, directed by Taylor Sheridan, carries a MA rating for language, violence and adult situations, and has an episode run time of 1 hour.
Tonight’s episode was aptly titled The Unraveling Part 2, and was the conclusion of a two part season finale.
A Whole Heap of Trouble
The events in this season ender of Yellowstone tied up a few loose ends in the story, and peaked in the middle of a broiling stew of trouble, creating a wonderful cliffhanger.
John Dutton (Costner) carries many secrets and one of the most troubling for him involves his health. This man shoulders the burdens of owning the largest ranch in the US, a very real kingdom in the west built by his family over generations, and he feels he has no one among his adult children to hand the keys of the kingdom over to. Time is slipping away and it makes him desperate.
The son who was being groomed to run the ranch is gone. His attorney son Jamie (Bentley) has seemingly turned his back on the family to pursue his own career in politics. Younger son Kayce (Grimes) is most like his father but he’s a wild and unpredictable man, as untamed as the horses he breaks for a living. And daughter Beth (Reilly), a shrewd businesswoman, will do anything to take down her father’s enemies. But when Daddy is gone, she will be the first to sell off the ranch, piece by piece.
Who to Trust
The person John trusts the most is his ranch foreman, Rip (Hauser). Loyal to the point of bending the law for his boss, Rip has a better understanding of the workings of the ranch and John’s intentions to hold it together, than any of the children. He will do anything to protect John and Yellowstone.
The level of strife in John’s family is multiplied among the people seeking to destroy him and seize his property. Chief Rainwater (Birmingham) has formed an uneasy partnership with ruthless land developer Dan Jenkins (Huston). The two have plans to build a casino, hotel and housing development on the edge of Yellowstone. Their ultimate goal is to drive the Duttons out and take control of their property. Even John’s love interest Governor Lynelle Perry (Moniz) appears to have her own agenda to topple him.
Other skirmishes are in play among John’s children. Kayce’s wife Monica (Asbille) has left him and taken their son. And Jamie’s political campaign is challenged by a journalist from New York, Sarah Nguyen (Conlin), who intends to expose his father as a corrupt man.
When John Dutton says the whole county has turned against him, it appears to include his own family.
Character & Story Development
This series is much more “drama” than “western”, in spite of the horses and the cowboys who work on the ranch. I was curious after episode one, to see how the characters and the story developed. I have not been disappointed.
These are complex, convoluted characters. There aren’t good guys and bad guys in Yellowstone. Everyone is a mixture of both, from the people plotting to bring the Duttons down to John Dutton himself. The characters are portrayed as flawed, broken, hurting people who sometimes do dark deeds and sometimes display moments of courageous authenticity in the face of challenges.
I love the inclusion of backstories for the major characters. I get to see how they got broken, who hurt them, and why they now attempt to manipulate and hurt others. I can see the good that was once in them and hope for its reappearance as they grapple with life. And I recognize that while these characters are larger than life, they represent snippets found within all of us. My eyes fill with tears often as I watch their struggles. Why? Because it births compassion in me and makes me look at people in my reality differently. People that hurt, have been hurt, and everyone has a backstory of their own.
I was glad to find out this week that Yellowstone has been renewed. There will be a season two airing in 2019. That’s good news for me because the story of the Duttons and the ranch and the community that surrounds it is far from over. In fact, it has just begun. I look forward to the next dynamic chapter of Yellowstone.