Fear of death for the weak. Real men just ride, even if it’s straight off a cliff.
[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Yellowstone” Season 4, through Episode 6, “I Want To be Him.”]
Yellowstone is a simple show. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) was a rancher in the time of impossible beef, an existential climate when the fastest-growing idea of Mountain West was that of Mountain West, brought to you by the burgeoning entertainment industry, the trendy fashion for workwear from Carhartt and TV shows like “Yellowstone.” . Each season presents a bigger wolf with designs on how to pump serious money out of the land the Duttons have worked on since they stole it from Native Americans, usually by paving it. John’s Native American son-in-law told him at the beginning of season three, “You’re Indian now” at the beginning of season three. The next wave of gold prospectors to reach the Rocky Mountains. Old Land Snatched by Greedy New Hands: It’s the oldest tale told of the American West, but creator Taylor Sheridan reimagines the enemy in late-stage capitalism: land developers, private equity, prominent realm. Not only is John’s farm at stake, but his lifestyle.
Some shows turn corners through the years, evolving into different shows, but “Yellowstone” doesn’t allow itself too much of a narrative way. When the series premiered in 2018, it was the first successful show in contemporary Mountain West since “Dynasty” took over Denver (or, as a friend growing up in Bozeman, calls Colorado, “Walmart Montana.”) it wasn’t a farm The sprawling Yellowstone is not just the series’ graphic backdrop but its scale: the world is just as pure as Yellowstone is solvent. In every epic season, the Duttons score an unexpected win but for what? The farm can’t survive in the modern world, John can’t survive without the farm, and no one watches “Yellowstone” without Kevin Costner. Rather than evolving, the series, now in the middle of its fourth season, is getting bolder in its own right: inner fist fights are more intimidating, the raid on Beth’s Company is thicker, and the body count is, unbelievably, higher. With his daughter living with fiancé Rip (Cole Hauser), son Kayce (Luke Grimes) back on the reserve, and son Jamie (Wes Bentley) solo, the most silent patriarchal relationship with his horse (although Costner doesn’t really speak), only making shapes words with his mouth and gargling with small stones). The series smells of inevitable death – literally, figuratively and spiritually. In “Yellowstone,” we’re told, over and over again, that the end is only a matter of time.
Cam McLeod / Paramount Network
The events of the new season are exciting if they are separated from the main theme of the show. Beth (Kelly Reilly), for example, makes an unlikely connection with a teenage orphan from the wrong side of the tracks. She takes him to the place—she would have had the son she would have had if she hadn’t had an abortion as a teen, the chain points out—only to drive the boy into the barn like a broken toy when he asks her to buy him more clothes than she offered. It’s an exploration of Beth’s maternal instincts, suppressed after she was forcibly sterilized in the reserve clinic, and the limits of her ability to keep her closest secret. Meanwhile, on another farm, Jimmy lives with his biological father – who orchestrated the assassination attempts on the family that raised him – and is suddenly reunited with the forgotten son born in season two. The TV series is in good faith, but there’s a mess of discoveries this season. At any moment, I’m willing to find out that Jimmy isn’t really Jimmy, but Jimmy’s identical evil twin brother who everyone thought was dead and was never mentioned. Week to week, I don’t remember any cowboys fighting over which racer barrel, but I know they would. When John brings home a stinging environmental protester (played by Piper Perabo), scratchy Beth pulls a knife at her. The Montana tourism catchphrase makes a useful catchphrase for this season’s recursive plot lines: “The adventure continues” — but it rarely changes.
More than ever in Yellowstone, manhood is being deified. After the bloodbath in the season 3 finale, John wakes up from a months-long coma and immediately disregards all medical advice – a decision that does not produce any negative consequences and at least one imitator. When Jimmy gives up his neck brace to impress a horse dealer, his stupidity strikes like a rite of passage. When I became a tough cowboy, I put childish things away. Although Sheridan protests that Yellowstone isn’t a symptom of red status, it’s surprising that masculinity has become synonymous with ignoring your doctor in 2021. (Sheridan even plays a cowboy who tells Jimmy that cervical traction isn’t in line with his truck.) Caiman’s alligator upholstery .)
Increasingly, my favorite scenes are the scenes of men riding horses against the big sky. The braking still doesn’t make sense to me, but Sheridan accomplished something more impressive than explaining rodeos to an ordinary person. As a viewer, I only trust him. If he showed me a sliding stop, it must have been good. If he says that a cattle commissioner is going to bury a citizen in a cattle guard to teach him good manners – and escape punishment – well, the West must be really savage. “Are you trying to die?” In an early episode of Season 4, Case asks when he’s going horseback riding after he’s released from the hospital. The answer must be yes. The only justification for all the recklessness on the farm is the constant knowledge that death is inevitable and near. John is Indian, but he’s a gangster, frontier man, and a ranger as well. Doing exactly what you want when someone else tells you no is how a guy like John takes his last stand.
Courtesy of Paramount Network/Viacom CBS
Like its characters, “Yellowstone” is a show that doesn’t leave much to say. The effect can be impressive. It can also be confusing. That boy in the barn you dumped Beth? His name is Carter, although everyone calls him “the boy,” and in Episode 5 he declares that he wants to be John when he grows up: stoic, muscular, ruthless. Unless very soon there will be no ranchers in the valley. Even as Carter said, John was walking up a hill on the horizon. Earth will not save Carter in this world. He’ll grow into another homeless cowboy, like Rip. like john. There is no one to save Yellowstone, and there is no hope for someone else to join the battle to save it.
Unless there is. The sun rises when Carter vows, the music is soaring, and there is no more indelible American idea than fighting a desperate good fight until it breaks your heart. “Are you trying to die?” The obedient son asks the last real cowboys in America. If you’ve been watching “Yellowstone” for four seasons, you understand its inner logic – the strange alchemy of horses, masculinity and silence that heal the men who love this farm. Of course, he’s not trying to die. He is trying to live. Everything else is trying to kill him.
Season 4 of “Yellowstone” airs new episodes on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Paramount Network.