Westerns were a popular genre at a time when Clint Eastwood gave us blockbusters in that genre. This one genre never went out of style, nor has its popularity decreased over the years. Audiences still love a good story about cowboys and the so-called flamboyant lives they lead. “Yellowstone” comes under the same genre, but the execution is more realistic than stylish. “Yellowstone” by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson brings us the tale of a large ranch owner, John Dutton, who is an influential person in his county, making him one of the few sole decision makers of what happens in the town and the state of Montana. The constant struggle he faces because of his family and other landowners is what makes “Yellowstone” an interesting watch. The show stars Kevin Costner, Kelly Railey, Cole Hauser, and Wes Bentley.
‘Yellowstone’ Season 1: Recap
The show begins with John Dutton witnessing an accident where he ends up killing the injured horse that gets caught up in it. The sheriff arrives to help John sort out the matter. The moment the sheriff arrives, the kind of respect he shows to John proves that he is a known figure in the state of Montana and a highly respected gentleman as well. John is a rich, influential, and powerful ranch owner who is proud of his heritage. He has arms, ammunition, and manpower under his thumb to get things done in his favor. John’s ranch borders an Indian reservation. The chief of the Ranch is always in conflict with John’s Ranch regarding border issues. John is hell-bent on protecting his Ranch, and so is the chief of the reservation, Thomas Rainwater. They clash over several territorial matters, which does not end well, unfortunately for both sides. On the clash over cattle grazing away from John’s Ranch to the Indian reservation, the Indian ranchers claim the cattle to be theirs. A full-blown hostility leads to an unfortunate gunfight between the Indians and John’s men. John and the Indians’ battle for control of the vast area had been going on for a while, which culminated in this fight leading to a lot of tragic casualties. John tried almost all the measures to protect his land, while Indians led by Thomas Rainwater were also trying their level best to get a grip on the Ranch to showcase their power. But this was just the beginning of the long battle between John Dutton and Thomas Rainwater.
John Dutton’s second son, Jamie, is an attorney for the Ranch and has his own ambitions, which John sometimes approves but most of the time disapproves. John’s only daughter, Beth Dutton, is a corporate executive who works in the mergers and acquisitions department of her company. She is a ruthless and valuable employee of the company, and she is proud of who she is. John’s eldest son, Lee, helps John with running the Ranch. Lee involves himself in running the Ranch and its logistics, but he refuses to get into the management side of the Ranch. John’s youngest son, Kayce, is married to an Indian rancher’s granddaughter, Monica, and Kayce lives on the Indian reservation with his wife and kid. Kayce is a war veteran who quit his father’s Ranch and started living with his wife, earning his living as a horse trainer. All of John’s kids have a complicated relationship with him. They are all set to receive the inheritance from their father, but no one is out to get it because they work towards the greater good, which is taking care of the Yellowstone Ranch and making sure it stays in the family. The generational wealth that the Dutton family has accumulated over the years from this Ranch is astronomical. John and his kids are privileged and entitled, and they know it. Beth would go miles to protect and be with her father. Jamie aspires to be attorney general of the state, and he hopes his father will support him. Kayce wants to stay away from his family, but John insists on wanting to be in touch with his grandson Tate. Despite plenty of hesitation, Kayce lets Tate and John hang out with each other.
On the night of the conflict between John’s men and the Indian ranchers, Monica’s brother severely injures Kayce’s elder brother Lee, who eventually dies. Kayce has to make a quick judgment about whom to protect. In that clash, Kayce ends up killing Monica’s brother. He does not reveal himself to be the killer, which puts him under stress. Having to lie to Monica about his brother’s death persuades Kayce to join the army again, but his father and Monica stop him from doing so. Kayce is a great father to Tate, and he is sympathetic to his son. Tate and Kayce’s relationship is much more evolved than Kayce’s relationship with his father, and he intends to keep it that way so that Tate does not grow to feel any resentment towards Kayce. Beth, on the other hand, was always picked by her mother and blamed for her mother’s untimely death, which haunts her. Beth is complicated and spoiled but knows to get her job done. She has an affair with Rip, the man hired by John to help with ranch-related errands. Rip and Beth have known each other for a long time, and Rip makes sure he is there for Beth whenever she is in trouble. Beth trusts Rip, and vice versa.
When Lee dies unexpectedly in the clash, the other three siblings decide to make some decisions for themselves and the part they will play in the family’s upkeep. Jamie and Beth are constantly tussling over who is giving more to the family, while Kayce is confused between showing loyalty to his family and telling Monica the truth about her brother’s death. Kayce starts calculating how to move forward, and his father comes in to help with his issues. John and Jamie get rid of all the evidence that would point to the fact that Kayce killed Monica’s brother. John also asks Rip to hire an ex-con, Jimmy, for the Ranch. Jimmy is branded just like Rip and Kayce are. The brand “Yellowstone” is used by people who are ex-cons and join the Ranch. They are bonded with the Ranch for life and cannot think of moving out of the place. John makes sure to hire the right people around him so that they don’t betray his trust. The show has a godfather-ish feel to it for John, the big decision-maker. Of John’s children, two are fiercely loyal to him, while the other two are confused about how to deal with a powerful patriarch such as John and get away from his power-hungry motives.
Does Jamie Dutton stand up to his father and fight against him?
As John’s conflict with Thomas Rainwater keeps escalating, a real estate project threatens the Yellowstone ranch. John makes sure the land on which there are plenty of residential ventures is being planned, using his influence; John reroutes the flow of the river to make sure the real estate company does not have enough water to sustain the project. No water source would mean there would be a problem for the company trying to sell the property to its prospective buyers. Dan Jenkins, the real estate mogul, makes sure to dig out every wrongdoing John has done in the county so that he can be discredited, and a scandal will reduce his power over the government offices. Thomas Rainwater takes the chance to bring Kayce on his side of the conflict by saving him from possible prosecution. Kayce kills a man charred by a meth lab blast. Thomas Rainwater rescues him by requesting the tribal police to save Kayce. Kayce also rescues a young girl from being kidnapped on the Indian reservation side of the land and kills the kidnappers. The girl’s father wants to avenge the abduction and asks Kayce to help him get rid of the bodies of the kidnappers by burning them up.
On the other hand, the cattle that were captured by Indian ranchers were forcefully taken back by John by arresting Thomas Rainwater. John made sure he arm-twisted Thomas to get things the way he wanted. John never shies away from showcasing his power to his enemies. John goes to the point of sleeping with the state’s governor to keep her always on his side whenever any conflict arises. Thomas Rainwater takes this as an insult and decides to deliberately kill John’s reputation. He decides to strike a deal with Dan Jenkins. Thomas convinces Dan Jenkins to build a casino and a hotel on the tribal land, for which receiving approval would be a cakewalk because of Thomas’s involvement in the project. Building such a high-footfall-gaining project around the residential project would help bring in more prospective buyers. This will increase the value of the property and nearby properties, including the Yellowstone Ranch. An increase in value would mean an increase in the property tax. If property tax were to increase, John would have a hard time running the Ranch and desperately would sell off his Ranch just to make ends meet. Thomas’s idea is to decimate John piece by piece so that there is no “Yellowstone” left for anyone to talk about eventually as their plan is put into motion. Beth tries to seduce Dan Jenkins to get more information from him. She makes friends with his wife and tries to influence her as well. Danny does not appreciate the methods Beth uses and finally decides to go against Beth and her father, John, by shaking hands with Thomas Rainwater and collaborating with them.
Kayce, on the other hand, tries to move away from his father and his influence, but unfortunately, his wife meets with an accident. The accident affected her brain, which led to her going through a complicated surgery. Kayce and Tate help and support her as she recovers, but Monica makes it clear she does not want to live with Kayce anymore. Kayce is devastated to see his son go away with his mother, but he has no choice right now. Kayce decides to join his father’s Ranch. Meanwhile, Jamie intends to run for the post of attorney general independently and hires a campaign manager with whom he starts getting intimate. Jamie is excited and expects his father will support his endeavors. Having Jamie in a position such as attorney general would mean John has the power to make plenty of decisions in his favor. Jamie finally wants to do something for himself, away from the ranch life, and decides to take this up as a challenge. He elucidates to his campaign manager that gathering power is his sole motive. Jamie is excited as the campaign begins. Unknown to either of them, Thomas’ and Danny’s plan is put into motion. Rip gets embroiled in the case of a bear he killed in self-defense. The sheriff investigating the case hides the bullet that fell off his rifle to prove that Rip is making up the story of self-defense. John soon realizes the plot to eliminate him has begun, and the sheriff is on the payroll of Danny and Thomas. John is desperately seeking Jamie’s help, but he is on the campaign trail and unable to attend his father’s phone calls. Rip is finally off the hook, and just in time, Jamie walks in to see John’s wrath. John is angry about the fact that Jamie chose his career over his family. Jamie is mad about the fact that his father does not understand his need to stand out from his family. John throws Jamie out of the house, ensuring that he does not support his son anymore. John is blinded by his love for the legacy, and he refuses to see what his kids want from life. Jamie is approached by a journalist who worked on his campaign trail under an alias. She requests him to talk about the corruption his father is involved in. Jamie is afraid, but he finally agrees to speak up against his father. Jamie is hurt beyond retribution because his father never understood what he wanted. His father never understood what he would gain from Jamie becoming an influential figure in the state. Beth, on the other hand, goes to great lengths to discredit people who are planning to take down her father. She is ready to go against Jamie just for the sake of her dad, her family, and the Ranch. She is also approached by her father to run for public office, much to Jamie’s disappointment, for he believes Beth is a perfect example of a trainwreck.
The kids learn of their father’s colon cancer diagnosis, and all of them are concerned about his longevity. Despite all of this, Jamie decides to walk away from the family, but Beth decides to stay, knowing there will be times she and her father might not agree on plenty of issues regarding the Ranch. John’s cancer is initially treated, but it relapses. John starts falling sick and vomits blood on a couple of occasions. He believes a lot of things need to be passed on to his children before he passes away. John isn’t ready to accept death before he hands over the responsibility of the Ranch to safe hands. John shares an ambivalent relationship with his kids, but the only person he trusts is Rip. Beth, on the other hand, finally decides to stay at the Ranch and be with her father to tackle the issues that will spring up if Jamie wins. On the other hand, Kayce is back on the Ranch; he lives with the cowboys to help them train their horses. Their first task involves confronting Dan Jenkins by kidnapping him. Danny reveals his and Thomas’ plan to increase the land’s value to instigate John Dutton to sell ‘Yellowstone’ out of desperation. An angry Kayce orders Danny to be hanged, but they let him go with a warning with the hope that Danny and Thomas would consider changing their plan. John, Kayce, Beth and Rip are hoping their problems are shrugged off for a while, but knowing Jamie’s and Thomas’ demeanor, they won’t stop at anything as both of them want to see John ruined.
“Yellowstone” is one of the best television dramas that deal with the subjects of corruption, race, and the cowboys of the west. The show begins in a rather complicated manner. Audiences who aren’t aware of the politics of that region might find it difficult to get a grip on it in the beginning. The show picks up midway through the season to understand the strange concoction of bureaucracy, diplomacy, and power games that happen initially. Writers Taylor Sheridan and John Linson not just showcase the beauty of the ranches but also their aridness of them, which is the complicated nature of the terrain and the people living in that region. The next season will probably touch upon Jamie’s relationship with his father now that he is running to be at the top office of the state without his father’s support, and John’s second stint with cancer will be covered too. If anyone from his rivalry becomes aware of his cancer, they will begin plans to tear Yellowstone apart by creating differences between the Dutton siblings. “Yellowstone” is a testimony to good writing coupled with enough dramatization to keep the narrative of the show articulated. Kevin Costner is in his element as the patriarch John Dutton. It will be interesting to watch what else he has to offer in the coming seasons.
“Yellowstone,” a Paramount Network show, is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video with subtitles.