By Diedre Johnson
Big-time fans of Yellowstone, Paramount’s hit drama about wealthy Montana cattle rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his completely dysfunctional family, don’t want the series to end in its fifth season and, they also don’t want it to end for at least a few more.
That fate remains to be seen, but if the premiere is any indication, the series may have enough juice to stick around a little longer. “Spoiler Alert,” John Dutton becomes governor all the while wisecracking about not wanting the job, only wanting to save his ranch. This keeps going throughout the premiere, showing up as the many comical ways that Dutton does not (or want to) know protocol or policy. On a closer look, is Costner hinting that the show is wrapping up?
Of course, this is just a guess. What we do know is that writer/creator Taylor Sheridan and his writers give Yellowstone an even faster pace this season while not sacrificing any of the nuances that have made the show great to watch. There are still beautiful vistas and excellent aerial shots of the land and nearby mountains. There are still those secondary plots involving the ranch hands (and not just Beth’s foreman husband, Rip, played brilliantly by Cole Hauser): Ryan (Ian Bohen), Colby (Denim Richards), Walker (Ryan Bingham), Teeter (Jennifer Landon) and Lloyd (Forrie J. Smith). Interior settings of offices and restaurants still display an Architectural Digest-style of the Northwest.
With the story arc surrounding inexperienced cowboy Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) ending in Season 4, the spotlight is back on others at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. While there is plenty of room for more dramatic fight scenes among the hands, seeing something new here would be better. There are a few new faces (with stories to tell?) and at least one character has grown up (literally) a bit. It would also be great to see Ryan Bingham (Walker) in more musical settings.
What is getting old is Beth’s (Kelly Reilly) constant need to please her father. This need has not dissipated despite her huge love for new husband, Rip. In fact, Beth’s obsessive approval-seeking has grown to include blackmailing her adopted brother Jamie (Wes Bentley) and joining her father’s staff to be even more at his beck and call. While Yellowstone fans know she is haunted by the belief that she caused her mother’s death (the character John Dutton is aware of Beth’s guilty feelings), better use could be made of a woman with such a fiercely loving but volatile nature.
As Beth, Reilly delivers her witty lines with bullet-point accuracy, and as of the first two episodes provided to critics, Season 5 doesn’t disappoint. Beth can still dress down any misogynistic comer, which is a hoot to watch. Yet when it comes to her dad, she is stuck in a web of yesterday’s guilt and today’s approval. While loyalty is something Dutton’s children (except for Jamie) have given him, hopefully, the writers will step off Beth’s role as her father’s keeper. Like last season, when she tried so hard to break up his budding romance with radical environmentalist Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo), or those moments late at night when she won’t let her pop get to bed for apologizing or pleading for yet some other type of trespass. One wants to shout, “Hey woman, he loves you the best he can, you got this!”
Anyway, Summer went off to prison, but is this the last we’ve seen of her? Probably not. You can almost see her getting a pardon pretty soon with Dutton as governor. Yet there’s other fish to fry.
Just what has happened to the biggest dilema for the Duttons? The American Indian tribal land recovery fight began by (fictitious) tribal chairman Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), Chief of the nearby Indian reservation. That story was always a main arc (despite a lot of would-be conquering land developers) in the first three seasons, but slowly got pushed to the back. Not only is it one that should continue to be told, it’s one that is so relevant today as America takes a hard look at its failures. Keep all the titillation (those land developers are great each season), but keep this story hot.
Speaking of land developers, there should be some hot drama coming as the fight with Caroline Warner (Jackie Weaver), CEO of a development company that wants to build new commercial facilities that includes the Dutton Ranch (once she was threatened), heats up. And Weaver, an Oscar-nominated actress, bites into the dialogue like it’s lunch.
Sure, this is where Yellowstone becomes soap opera-ish, but so far, the show’s appeal has been—like the land on which it takes place—a careful balance.
Yellowstone Season 5 premieres Sunday, November 13th on the Paramount Network.
Diedre Johnson is a Los Angeles-based writer covering entertainment in its many forms. You can follow her @diedremichelle.