When Paramount’s modern-day cowboy series Yellowstone made it onto Stan (in Australia) it didn’t take long for me to devour the entire show. Family politics, the foreign world of ranching, the friction between native Americans and wolfish landowners, and more beautiful scenic shots than a Montana postcard rack were the key ingredients that made it such addictive viewing. Of course, a truckload of husky-voiced wisdom bombs never hurts either.
And the acting… Holy shit, there are some great performances. Kevin Costner delivering some of the finiest moments of his career, Wes Bentley playing the much-maligned Jamie to a tee, Kelly Reily nailing the loyal viper Beth, and how could we escape the nuance of Cole Hauser as Rip. He is undoubtedly the show’s most loveable character.
Season one mostly centred around Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) being drawn back to the family’s ranch and the control of his father. He also racked up an impressive body count, killing four people in the first season which was, for the most part, inconsequential (this was fine because we were barracking for him). Concurrently John, Jamie and Beth Dutton (Costner and Reilly) were fending off the ranch from corporate interests and the traditional landowners, represented by the cunning Chief Thomas Rainwater.
Over season two this amped up and expanded perfectly; corporate warfare turned violent, historical relationships flared up, new cowboys added some spice, characters developed. Hell, even Jamie did some killing of his own which was probably the tensest situation all season (sorry Tate, but we knew you’d be fine).
Then comes season three.
We’re six episodes in at the time of writing this, and so far there has been little to no nail-biting anxiety, action or story-altering drama. Beth was hoodwinked into getting sterilised by Jamie, but Rip loves her, so it’s ok. Tate is suffering PTSD, but a little bit of camping and he’s ok. Jimmy had a bad accident, but he got a girl, so he’s ok. A coupla bad guys die because of a reckless cop Jamie is in command of, but it gets smoothed over and he’s ok too.
Roarke Carter (Josh Holloway) AKA some dude who likes fly-fishing but is also a financial mega-villain, is the “biggest threat that the Dutton Ranch has ever faced”, yet he somehow feels pretty tame compared to the Beck Brothers, who happily sent hitmen to intimidate/murder Beth. The stakes are higher than ever, but no one other than Beth seems to know/give much of a fuck, so why should I?
Rip is the most kind-hearted murderer/rancher that I’ve ever seen on TV, but I don’t think if I can watch his and Beth’s courtship for another five or so episodes. We get it – your relationship is complex. It’s a great storyline, but it seems that Rip’s likeability may have pushed writers into making him a more prominent feature in this season, and it feels like he’s a little overused at the moment.
Much of the last episode (S3E6) is spent following the story of a missing girl. When she’s found dead, it sparks Rainwater to enlist Monica (Kelsey Chow) as a head of a violence against women council. Now, unless it turns out that there’s a serial killer picking off young women from the reservation, I have no idea why this missing girl was such a big deal. Also, Monica was once the show’s moral crusader, staunchly against John Dutton and his practices, though her defiant streak seems to have fizzled out shortly after she moved onto the ranch. To be fair, that bath looks divine…
The bikers who showed up in the previous episode also served little purpose other than to offer a momentary hiccup for the cowboys/girl. It was quickly resolved with a bit of violence and, whilst I don’t mind seeing the gang engaging in a round of fisty cuffs every now and then, it felt like they were simply looking for an extra 10 minutes to fill out the episode. Who to call for a redundant bit of drama? Bikers, of course. The same bikers from every other movie/show where the tough guy needs a heat check.
Another thing, am I the only one that finds the cowboy’s repulsion at the rough-around-the-edges new cowgirl Teeter (Jennifer Landon) a bit cartoonish. I get that the cowboy cabin is usually used as a bit of comic relief, but the way the cowboys talk about her like they’re bloody Liam Hemsworth and she’s a cow’s behind is pretty unbelievable. Get off your high horses lads.
Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I can only wonder and hope that things are going to improve. Obviously the last half of the season will pack most of the dramatic punch, so I have faith that things can pick up and we can write episodes one to six of season three off as a crazy, boring dream…
Thank you for being my pillow to cry in. You must be soaked in salty tears right now. Go dry yourself off.