It was announced recently that Paramount’s unstoppable Neo-Western Yellowstone is officially returning for a fifth season. No surprise there. Then came the announcement earlier this week where Paramount’s streaming service, Paramount+ has ordered another season of the prequel, 1883. Perhaps a small surprise, but certainly a welcome one. Then came an announcement that surprised almost any branded Yellowstone fan, that of yet another prequel, Yellowstone: 1932. This creates yet another timeline, yet another generation of Duttons as they navigate a difficult period in American history.
At this point, all fans know is this newest series will have the Dutton clan contend with the obstacles that came with the Great Depression, Prohibition and Western expansion. The golden child of Paramount television himself, Taylor Sheridan has said the keystone show, (the original Yellowstone) will be split into two parts this year, with season 5 possibly even debuting as early as this summer. The reason for this quick turn around, is Sheridan is allegedly planning to have this season lead into 1932, and introduce that specific timeline and generation of the family.
Yet, that presents a possible major issue for the entirety of the Yellowstone Universe. While 1883 has been a major success for both Sheridan and the network, Yellowstone season 4 suffered. Many fans saw it as unfocussed, starting with a massive action piece that promised a vengeance-fueled arc of Dutton violence, but instead fizzled, as it was predominantly utilized as a launchpad to introduce this expanding television catalog.
Within season 4 of Yellowstone, Sheridan had flashbacks of 1883, slowly introducing these new characters, as well as planting the seeds for yet another spin-off, 6666, as original Yellowstone favorite Jimmy (Jefferson White) was shipped off to Texas to become a real cowboy at the legendary ranch. There, Jimmy did indeed prove his mettle, he fell in love, and appears to be the central player in what looks to be the major subplot of season 5 until 6666 is officially launched.
Therein is the problem, there were so many subplots within the last season of Yellowstone, it felt convoluted. It concluded in a whimper compared to season 3’s explosive cliffhanger of a finale. Another issue is Sheridan is an absolute workhorse. Perhaps not a problem for fans, but it could certainly catch up with the man’s creative energy.
Sheridan co-wrote every single episode of Yellowstone season 4. He wrote 8 of 9 episodes of 1883, and 9 of 10 episodes on the premiere season of Mayor of Kingstown, (granted, not a part of Yellowstone, but Sheridan continues to push the limits on just how far his creativity can stretch), all within a very small time frame. The man with the cowboy mentality when it comes to a hard day’s work is going to get busier and busier, and the shows mentioned do not complete the list of programming that he is currently developing or in pre-production.
Ultimately, Yellowstone (the universe or the show itself) may suffer with the introduction of all these spin-offs and prequels as perhaps Sheridan will spread himself too thin. There is something to be said about ensuring these shows that have engrossed millions of viewers stay focussed and maintain that richness that attracts the fans in the first place.
Audiences will have to wait and see, but in the meantime, it would seem that almost all fans remain ravenous, and will devour anything Sheridan cooks up, regardless of how thin the soup may get. That might be a testament to the fact that this universe and the Dutton family can continue to grow, and never become too large.