This Yellowstone review contains spoilers.
Yellowstone Season 5 Episode 4
Knowing that this fifth season of Yellowstone is planned to give audiences more cowboy chaos and Montana melodrama than a typical season is encouraging. Not simply because fans are starving for every morsel of Paramount’s number-one ranked drama, but simply because it looks like this season needs those four extra episodes. It still needs a lot of room to grow and develop, and co-creator Taylor Sheridan has not been afraid to take his time building.
Sheridan has written every episode of this season so far, and chances are he’ll have a heavy hand in the remaining 10 episodes, but this fifth season, in its infancy, is invoking a word which has never come up when describing the show at any point – listless.
A perfect word, perhaps, to describe the opening, as we immediately see some of the aftermath from last week’s climactic bar room brawl. A listless Beth (Kelly Reilly) shares a cell with another woman who also looks somewhat worse for wear, as the two exchange resumes of violence. It’s always a pleasure to see Reilly absolutely wear Beth like the summer dress she was arrested in – Reilly always exudes her viper-like sexuality, but much like the dress, there’s also something comfortable, and extremely dangerous about Beth, and this opening scene is a great example of that.
The mongoose to her viper comes shortly after as Beth is visited by her adopted-brother, Jamie (Wes Bentley), who, in a rare instance, shows a little strength towards Beth by mocking her situation and trying to tell her how the situation is going to play out. Beth, as always, gains control of the conversation, and of Jamie’s manhood. In a young season that seems as directionless as it does listless, this is the one major thread that Sheridan has laid down a few times already – the rivalry of Beth and Jamie seems as if it almost has to explode, and extremely soon.
Wes Bentley is an amazing actor, and one need not look any further than a local online Yellowstone fan group to see how divisive his character is. Some can’t stand how spineless and cowardly Jamie can be, and others sympathize with him. That’s a testament to the amazing writing of the character, but of course, speaks volumes to Bentley’s acting abilities that he can get so many to love him, and equally as many to hate him.
In what is certainly one of the most memorable scenes of this season, Jamie visits Beth after getting the charges against her all-but-dropped. Beth bullies her way into a ride, and once on the road, notices the car seat in the back. The two siblings then proceed to put on an absolute masterclass in compelling drama. Beth, clearly resentful of the fact Jamie has a son when she can never have children is so powerful and Reilly shows that while playing Beth is always heavy lifting, that she is a true colossus in her acting. Reilly, in a rare moment of Beth-vulnerability makes the pain that she has felt for more than two decades feel so real, that would have been enough to make the episode.
Yet after Reilly lays a haymaker of a right hook to your emotional temple, Bentley comes in with one of his best performances of the entire show. Jamie pleads with Beth that the biggest regret in his life was the day he brought her to that clinic and caused her sterilization, and what is so gripping about this scene is how quickly the two can go from stone-faced hate machines to simply two siblings who are expressing how much they’ve hurt one another. There was a similar scene in the first season where the two were driving and Beth hinted at the idea she might hurt herself, and just for a moment, Jamie put his hate aside and told her that if it meant she would be ok, she can channel all her hate towards him. It was a powerful and unforgettable scene and a defining moment in their relationship.
The climax of this latest argument was Beth perhaps finding the end to her listlessness by locking in on Jamie’s life, and vying to destroy every bit of happiness left in it, even if that meant she would somehow take Jamie Jr away from him. It has been long predicted that Jamie is eventually going to snap, and we saw a taste of that where for just a moment, it seemed as if he might run over Beth in a move of desperation.
Having this episode focus predominantly on Beth is of course, no accident. The subplot of Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Monica (Kelsey Asbille) having the ceremony for their lost infant son mirrors the same themes of loss and pain that Beth has been thinking about her entire life. It’s another saddening yet beautiful collection of scenes where Mo (Mo Brings Plenty) and Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) share a piece of First Nation’s wisdom and culture, and we get that great sense of community and family within the show when Rip (Cole Hauser) and the Yellowstone farmhands lend a hand to help.
There is another surprising moment when Monica and John (Kevin Costner) have a rare exchange, and John shares his wisdom about losing a son. It is one of this show’s greatest strengths when Costner is given the opportunity to be warm, wise, and loving. Much like how Beth instantly becomes more interesting when we see her weakness, it’s always a pleasure to see John’s stoic stone exterior melt away. The patriarchal warmth shown by Costner towards Asbille was such a treat, as those two actors almost never get scenes together, and it seemed like it was perhaps even the first time they showed a real connection between John and Monica.
The rest of the episode, however, falls somewhat flat. There are certainly some interesting developments – most notably the return of the problematic flower-child, Summer (Piper Perabo), who John seemingly pardoned in what could be seen as an abuse of his gubernatorial privileges. John even hinted that Summer may become part of his staff from an ecological left-wing perspective, but thus far, it was really simply back to status quo. Even though a year has passed within the show, just four episodes since her sentencing in the season 4 finale, Summer is back sharing a bed with John with seemingly no repercussions. That’s just too simple and neat in terms of writing, and the show has been, and must be, better than that.
Jamie’s affair with Claire (Dawn Olivieri), the one character no Dutton should go near, is certainly going to lead somewhere terrible, but even that seemS too obvious. Just when Sheridan gives Jamie a brilliant piece of development where he apologizes to Beth, and then almost runs her over is tragically painted over by what was one of the most transparently bad moves Jamie could make.
It’s truly disappointing that Jamie’s development for 44 episodes so far has been one step forward and two steps back almost every single time. Beth was caught up in this as well, as her moment in the car where she showed such pain is simply washed away immediately when she says “I’m going to take him from you”, threatening Jamie’s relationship with his infant son. It begs the question if it can really be seen as character development when it’s often all-too-fleeting.
That also sums up how these four episodes of season 5 have felt – it was two steps back, then a step forward, then here we are once again shuffling listlessly between passing moments of development. With only three episodes left in the first half of this super-sized season, it can mean only one of two things: Either the three episodes left before the mid season break are going to be absolutely explosive, or we might be in for much of the same for a few more episodes, and will have to wait for that explosion in 2023.
If many of the audience members are feeling as listless as this reviewer, that wait might be a little too long.
New episodes of Yellowstone season 5 premiere Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Paramount Network in the U.S. and the day after on Paramount+ in the U.K.