Yellowstone Recap: There Is No Peace

Video Yellowstone Recap: There Is No Peace

What do we want out of Yellowstone?

The show’s ratings are better than ever; not one but two spinoffs were announced this year, one of which premieres next month. Yellowstone probably isn’t going anywhere for a while. But it’s a reasonable question for any show on its fourth season: What are we here for, and where are we headed?

Viewers have come for the show’s crazy blend of relaxed ranch drama and kinetic western thriller for three seasons. It’s not always a natural mix: The more grounded the show is, the more jarring it can be to suddenly introduce a subplot focused on corporate espionage or any of the many surprisingly easy cover-ups of murder. On one side, there are long, discursive conversations about history, ownership, and what we owe to our families, our land, and ourselves. On the other side, big-city developers and small-town crooks take turns threatening the lives of a family (and a moblike “Family”). Neither half of the show is better than the other. They’re both Yellowstone.

But when this show finds a good balance between its two identities and employs even a little subtlety, it can hit both targets: effective character drama and good pulpy fun. “Good balance” doesn’t have to mean equal proportion; it just means the two sides need to fit well together to work symbiotically.

“Half the Money” is a great premiere because its two sides fit together better than ever. It begins by dunking us headfirst right back into the action for ten minutes with a high-octane battle on multiple fronts. John Dutton, bleeding out on the side of the road, is smart enough to scrawl a note warning Rip what his shooter’s van looked like. Kayce puts his Army training to work by defending the livestock commissioner’s office from a team of gunmen, then by tracking down the van full of men who shot John and putting them out of commission. His wife, Monica, almost gets killed back at the Dutton lodge and only survives because their son, Tate, shoots the guy dead. And Beth stumbles out of an exploded building, bumming a smoke while she waits for her hearing to return and the shell shock to wear off.

Of course, everyone makes it out alive because Yellowstone rarely kills off a main character. (As I recall, Dan Jenkins is the only one with that honor.) In fact, the only named character who actually dies in the episode is secondary antagonist Roarke, who quickly succumbs to a rattlesnake bite after Rip tosses one at his face. (This is also my least favorite moment of the episode because I love Josh Holloway and because Roarke never really lived up to his potential in the little screen time he had.)

But “Half the Money” doesn’t skimp on the trauma of this moment, even if it’s a miracle everyone survived (including Kayce, who did take fire). Rip’s cabin, gifted to him by John not too long ago, is burned to the ground. Even when he makes it home after two months in the hospital, John can’t stand being babied by the nurse.

Beth, with her back covered in burns, might have the longest-lasting visible wounds. In the mad panic to find who inflicted all this pain, she does the predictable thing and goes to Jamie’s office to throw stuff at him and even accuse him of arranging the hits. She tells him, “I’m going to kill you. But when I do it, I’m not going to farm it out like you, you fucking coward.”

I’ve gotten a bit sick of the sheer repetitiveness of the Beth-Jamie scenes, to be honest. Beth has good reason to hate him, but her constant tirades don’t do her any favors. That scene aside, though, Beth has the most striking subplot of the episode. While sitting outside the hospital, she meets a 14-year-old troublemaker whose heroin-addict father is dying. After therapizing him (but insisting that she’s “the rock therapists break themselves against”), she accompanies him back inside, even comforting him after he says his resentful good-byes to his brain-dead dad.

It’s downright shocking to see Beth being tender with someone other than Rip, yet it doesn’t feel out of character. There’s something refreshing about how she talks to Carter like an adult, never condescending to him. And when she bullies the doctor into “getting the fuck out” to give Carter some privacy, you see how Beth’s powers can be used for good. For the first time, I understood how the Beth I’ve been watching for three seasons could actually be a good mom.

So “Half the Money” does slow down a bit after the attacks, becoming a classic aftermath episode. But there are still some developments on the plottier side of things: While Kayce sneaks around the ranch in a ghillie suit, Chief Rainwater is conducting an investigation of his own. After monitoring the casino camera feeds, his driver Mo picks up an ex-con named Chester Spears, who admitted to planning the Dutton hits. At the chief’s direction, Mo ties him to a horse and brutally drags him through a field. The torture seems to work because he seems to divulge who hired him — but that’ll have to wait for another episode.

The tone here is pretty grim, and we haven’t even seen the fallout for Monica and Tate yet. Yet the premiere never feels bogged down because it has focus and is grounded in character. There’s a sense of paranoia, fury, and grief underlying everything. And then … John visits the bunkhouse. He apologizes to the ranch hands for putting them in danger and thanks them for protecting the ranch. And he cracks open a beer.

It’s the most human Yellowstone has ever been, a surprising achievement considering this episode starts with an action scene reminiscent of 24. It’s hard to predict what the endgame is for this show, but as long as we get more episodes like the premiere, I’m happy to enjoy the ride.

The Last Round-Up

• Okay, but seriously, whoever’s behind the hits needs to hire a better team of assassins next time.

• A flashback to March 1893 introduces Tim McGraw as James Dillard Dutton, John’s great-grandfather, who allows a Native American man to bury his father on Dutton land. James, of course, will be the protagonist of next month’s 1883, which is set ten years before this flashback.

• I wanted to yell at Beth when John asks who they’ve lost, and she says, “Define ‘lose.’” Sure, you’ve all lost something, but she should let him know his family is okay!

• An obvious but reliable visual joke is Beth smoking a cigarette on a bench with a “Thank You for Not Smoking” sign visible beside her. Also, gotta love when Carter asks what happened to her face and she shoots back, “What happened to yours, you insensitive little fuck?”

• When Chester insults the Native American dealer, he calls him “Wasi’chu,” a Lakota word typically used for greedy white people that technically means “takes the fat.”

• Not much from Jimmy this episode, but he’s in physical therapy after his fall from the horse paralyzed him.

• Beth’s final scene of the episode is giving a pep talk to a woman at the bar. After her husband comes out of the bathroom demanding his beer, the newly empowered woman retorts, “Order your own fucking beer. And get me a skinny margarita with Tito’s.” First of all, vodka in a margarita? Second of all, Taylor Sheridan’s conception of feminism is still fairly shallow — I had to laugh at the sudden venom with which the man demanded a beer even though it’d only been a minute since he left — but it’s still an entertaining scene.

Please see more list about Yellowstone season 4 episode 1


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