Lee Heidhues 12.3.2021
I only learned of the TV drama Yellowstone when I read about in New York Magazine – The Vulture. I am totally addicted.
The DVDs of the first three seasons are available at my neighborhood library in patchwork fashion. Meaning I pick them up when they’re available.
I am forced to watch Yellowstone in backwards fashion. Currently I am viewing Season Three with Season Two to follow. When Season One shows up I will watch it, too.
Watching the series in this awkward sequence is fine. The story lines are intriguing, fast paced and have fine acting and a beautiful setting in Montana.
This is the best American television series I have watched since The Wire.
Excerpted from Vanity Fair – Tracy Moore 11.5.2021
There’s a TV show called Yellowstone from Taylor Sheridan that’s so wildly popular, it was last year’s most-watched cable series, beating out The Walking Dead for the distinction.
It’s a sudsy contemporary Western about the Dutton family, the land they stole 150 years ago, their ruthless fight to fend off greedy developers, and the nearby Native Americans who intend to take it back. It stars Kevin Costner as patriarch John Dutton. It combines stunning cinematography with storylines reminiscent of Succession’s power grabs, The Godfather’s mob mentality, and Dallas’s bitchy in-fighting— except with cattle. Its first three seasons are streaming on Peacock; it launched its fourth season with a two-hour premiere last month on the Paramount Network.
It’s also entirely possible you haven’t heard of it.
It’s obvious that the show believes our history’s ideology and laws are deeply encoded with racism; it also thinks things won’t always stay this way. Watching the series, its conservative viewers are forced to face their biggest fears, whether they realize it or not.
As entertaining as it sounds, there’s more going on beneath Yellowstone’s surface. One fascinating through line is the insurmountable struggles of the Native Americans on the rez, who endure poverty, addiction, violence, and suicide, with the elders determined to change that by casino, lawsuit, or land grab. Another involves the hardscrabble existence of the cowboys (and occasional cowgirls) in the bunkhouse: the orphans, drifters and ex-cons Yellowstone Ranch hires, who keep the ranch going with their backbreaking labor and the muscling. In a place that makes its own rules, street justice must be served swiftly with brawn on both sides.
But the Duttons’ wrongheaded white ways are also undercut at every turn, with hypocritical callouts aplenty. “No man should own this much land,” scolds a trespassing Chinese tourist when confronted by Dutton with a shotgun. “This is America,” Dutton grumbles. “We don’t share land.”
The Native American characters are spared caricature (a condition insisted upon by AJ Not Afraid, the Crow Nation chairman whose reservation is featured on the show and who serves as a consultant on the show), but they still take each other to task about what constitutes proper reparations. In one scene, high-powered lawyer Angela Blue Thunder (Q’orianka Kilcher) accuses Rainwater of playing by the master’s rules, dreaming of casinos when he should be making war.
All this is why, by season three’s end, Yellowstone began to feel more like a trick than a fantasy: Give conservatives a pretty package that mirrors their dream, then spend the entirety of the series unraveling it. Sheridan claims to be apolitical, but the show feels built for a political fight.
That makes me wish more critics would take note of what Yellowstone is doing. Shows shouldn’t need to achieve attention from legacy media and awards when they can offer something arguably just as valid: captivating entertainment that provokes its own base. Although maybe the lack of coverage also serves a purpose. If Yellowstone’s biggest fans figure out the show’s true message, they might stop watching it.