Episode: “A hundred years is nothing”
Ground: John Dutton is sworn in as Governor of Montana. As John settles into power from his new office, he makes a bold move to protect the Yellowstone Ranch from his adversaries.
Exam: After the massive third season cliffhanger that left the fate of much of the Dutton clan up in the air, the fourth season of Yellowstone ended on a high note with Rip and Beth getting married and John Dutton declaring his candidacy for Governor of Montana. At the start of the fifth season, the Dutton era begins as John is sworn in and the legacy of his ranch and family is seemingly secured. But now the question is whether John Dutton will survive his four-year term unscathed. With a thrilling two-hour premiere, Yellowstone is back with more bickering, backstabbing, political machinations, and more. Everything you love about Taylor Sheridan’s seminal series is back, albeit not as flashy as last season’s debut. With a two-episode premiere, Yellowstone bring back everything you love about the series for more.
YellowstoneThe fifth season of begins just as John Dutton (Kevin Costner) learns he has won the governorship of Montana. From then on, the premiere slowly reveals the character placement for this season’s chess match. How will Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) react to the likelihood that the planned airport and hotel will now be impossible with Dutton in the Governor’s Mansion? How will Market Equities CEO Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) react with the most powerful family in the state now controlling the future of her financial interests? More importantly, how will the death of Jamie’s father bring him closer or further apart from Beth (Kelly Reilly), his father, and the rest of the Dutton clan?
Rather than answering any of these questions directly, Taylor Sheridan instead takes her time and focuses on the inauguration and celebration of John becoming governor and teases the general direction the rest of the season will take. It’s an interesting choice given Yellowstone’s history to bring the drama to the fore for audiences. This more subtle approach doesn’t mean the series has lost its edge as there are several intense sequences in this first episode of the two-hour premiere, but they’re offset by flashbacks to Rip and Beth’s youthful days in as young adults as well as time spent in the Bunkhouse with everyone’s favorite wranglers and cowboys. There’s also time spent with Kayce (Luke Grimes) as he continues his role as Breeding Commissioner and awaits the birth of his second child with Monica (Kelsey Asbille).
The most remarkable thing this season of Yellowstone compared to the previous four is the difference in the plot. Although only the premiere was made available for this review, there’s certainly a lot going on to start the fifth season, but not as much urgency as we’ve seen before. In many ways, what happens in this episode undoes much of what has challenged the Dutton family and their ranch thus far, which effectively resets the game clock. It’s dangerous because now these characters all have massive targets on their backs and any skeletons in their closets or buried bodies (and we know there are plenty of them) could come back to haunt them and endanger any control they have. This is the first season John Dutton has seemed out of his element since he began to deal with his mortality in the first season. It’s also the first time since the beginning of this series that I don’t know where Yellowstone then go.
Taylor Sheridan continues to write every episode of Yellowstone, something he did for the whole series apart from the second season (not so coincidentally also the weakest season of the whole series). The direction of the first episode falls to Stephen Kay, a regular director on the series since 2019. The next episodes this year are directed by Christina Voros, also a veteran since the second season. This means that the visual caliber of Yellowstone remains top notch and continues to make amazing use of the Montana skyline. Montana’s majesty continues to serve as a breathtaking reminder of what John Dutton is trying to protect and also backs up his unwavering political promises as governor, but it could also be a losing battle. Taylor Sheridan clearly knows where this story is going and it’s hard not to feel like this season could be a turning point in the Dutton saga.
The opening of the fifth season of Yellowstone may not be as biting or shocking as the latest premieres, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t twists to come. Don’t make a mistake, Yellowstone continues to be safe for anyone, not even the main characters we care about every week. I’m thankful that this story stays in a traditional weekly release format rather than a much more bingeable season drop. By teasing each episode, even chapters without shocking reveals become a viewing destination. I almost wish Paramount had chosen to start with just one episode this season so we could have one more week watching the Duttons protect their family and their land. But, I’m also happy to get so much Yellowstone As I can. No fan will be disappointed with this premiere as Taylor Sheridan’s family drama continues to deserve to be one of the most popular series on television.
YellowstoneThe two-hour premiere of the fifth season of November 13 on Paramount Network.
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