Yellowstone continues to be the most famous show on television. According to Nielsen, the Season 3 finale of Paramount Network’s juggernaut drama series starring Kevin Costner attracted 5.2 million total viewers in Live+Same Day, one million more than every other episode in the series’ history, making it the year’s No. 1 cable telecast. The closer attracted 7.5 million viewers on premiere night, including a CMT simulcast and encores.
Yellowstone will look like a big-screen movie, according to Paramount Network, and there will be plenty of those land-engulfing large shots from movies that make desolately populated, cinematic lands like Texas (Hell or High Water) and, here, Utah and Montana so stunning.
But Yellowstone attempts to be so sprawling and soap-operatic from the outset — as shown by the overuse of helicopter shots — that there’s hardly any realism in it. The series starts with tractor-trailer carnage and ends with Costner speaking existentially to a battered and dying horse before shooting it dead in the pre-credits sequence. From there, there isn’t much of a way out.
John Dutton, the patriarch, and baron of the Dutton family ranch in Montana are played by Costner. Despite the fact that it isn’t explained in this level of detail in the series — which is surprising considering the level of exposition — Paramount Network claims Costner’s character has a secret “Controls the United States’ largest contiguous ranch, which is constantly at odds with those who live on its borders: land developers, an Indian reservation, and America’s first national park.
Dutton, a sixth-generation rancher, and loving father live in a dishonest environment where lawmakers are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and timber companies, and land grabs net billions for developers.”
All happens in Yellowstone — massive, soapy stuff that is usually punctuated by long soliloquies. This is an openly testosterone-fueled series. There are weapons, horses, and more guns, as well as a helicopter, dynamite, sex, and fires, as well as plenty of metaphorical dick-measuring and conversations about what it means to be a man or a cowboy. Being gay is the topic of jokes.
Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), the family lawyer who wears suits and has perfect hair, only admits to his sexuality to sister Beth when she viciously calls him out on it (saying that daddy won’t like it if he finds out), that he’s “celibate.” Perhaps this will be built further in the future.
Yellowstone, on the other hand, has a few flaws. One problem is obviously not money: this series features every actor imaginable, including familiar faces like Huston, Hennessy, and Wendy Moniz, all of whom have a few lines that hint at their characters’ development later. Even Gretchen Mol has been cast as Costner’s deceased wife, but who knows if she’ll show up in more than family photos. There are a lot of great actors here, but they can’t be discreet.