This Yellowstone review contains spoilers.
Yellowstone Season 5 Episode 8
Yellowstone season 5 can best, and favorably, be described as purposeful or deliberate. There have been a myriad of smaller character moments to build up an already impressive catalog of believable characters. There has been a spitoon filled to the brim with gobs of cowboy wisdom – reminding the show’s millions of viewers what the important things are in life according to co-creator and showrunner Taylor Sheridan. Most importantly, in this entire time, it has naturally been building to something. Slowly building, but building none-the-less.
In short, Sheridan, this entire season, has been playing the long game.
Case in point, we once again begin this episode, “A Knife and No Coin” thirty years ago, as we rejoin the series of flashbacks of Young John (Josh Lucas). It has been mentioned time and time again that Lucas has done a tremendous job this season embodying some of the mannerisms that Kevin Costner has created with the current John, while also making Young John his own man, and in turn, the actor’s own character.
The snippet this week is merely a continuation of how John first took in Young Rip (Kyle Red Silverstein) and gave the future dark protector of the ranch the Yellowstone brand, but there are some excellent smaller moments of further character development. Most notably, the juxtaposition of a younger John, who was a man of action to the older John (Costner) shows us what Sheridan has been reinforcing all season – this world is not for the classic cowboys anymore. Costner’s John, for quite some time, has merely been REacting to a situation that is seemingly getting more and more out of control, and perhaps we need this reminder of who John used to be, as perhaps that man may one day reappear when the ranch needs him most.
Trekking across state lines, we then join Jimmy (Jefferson White) and the adorable veterinarian Emily (Kathryn Kelly) for the first time this season. Any fan can surmise that the faction of the Yellowstone ranch hands that are transporting cattle to Texas are bound to cross paths with Jimmy and Emily, so perhaps this was inevitable, but it was refreshing to see, none-the-less. Sheridan, as savvy a salesman as he is a writer, is becoming an expert in not just world building, but universe building, and the proposed spin-off surrounding Jimmy’s 6666 ranch was beginning to creep to the back of every fan’s mind. It could have remained there well into this new year if it weren’t for this cameo appearance by Jimmy and Emily. It begs the question why the audience couldn’t have seen a snippet of Jimmy and Emily’s life together before this episode.
It did, however, fit with the rest of the motif of the episode. Sheridan’s writing and the direction of Christina Alexandra Voros create a series of vignettes to set up the latter half of this super-sized season, and this is by no means meant to sound disparaging. “A Knife and No Coin” is a wonderful sampler of smaller stories that have all been touched upon, and for perhaps the first time this season never feels like it dwelled too long on any of those subplots.
Even the all-too-brief exchange between Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and John plays to one of the previous episode’s greatest strengths. We once again get the chance to see these two great characters actually bond. It wasn’t until this season that we were given the opportunity to realize how much the Duttons consider Monica a part of this family, and any time Asbille and the character of Monica is elevated to a point where she is equal with the other Duttons, is time well-invested.
Summer (Piper Parabo) and Beth (Kelly Reilly) also have an all-too-brief exchange where they seem to foster a strangely sororal-like relationship. This writer will dare not touch the Freudian implications of that definition of their relationship, but it creates another beautiful moment within this family dynamic that is fresh and new. Something this season has been severely lacking.
The crowning achievement of “A Knife and No Coin” however, is undoubtedly the final push to all out war between Jamie (Wes Bentley) and the Duttons. This reviewer has long pushed for the antagonistic awakening of Jamie – for him to go full-fledged villain, and this episode gave audiences more than enough. It was one last indulgent meal this holiday season with how much delicious melodramatic villainy we got from start to finish with Jamie. Many fans, whether you love him or hate him, will recognize that Jamie needed a moment like the one he got in “A Knife and No Coin.” He finally showed strength, he finally stood up to Beth and actually shut her up for once. He finally proved that he may in fact, be the smartest one in the Dutton family (adopted or not), and that his plan may actually be the one and only way to save the Yellowstone ranch.
The verbal daggers he shoots towards Beth in their heated exchange are also long overdue, as Beth is rarely, ever put into a place where she appears to be vulnerable. Bentley’s sly smiles, even when deflecting abuse from his character’s sister, shows such venomous depth within the inner thoughts of Jamie, it was a cathartic pleasure to watch. For the first time audiences can see confidence within Jamie, and that is truly enjoyable for fans of the character, or at the very least, certainly intriguing for fans of the show.
Some have theorized that Jamie might be playing Sarah (Dawn Olivieri), some think he will still be proven wrong, and once again shown to be the snake many of us suspect, and some are predicting this is in fact, the last straw, and Jamie himself may visit the train station – but really – it’s all moot. It simply does not matter. Let us Jamie fans have this moment. Let us enjoy the fact that for the first time in a while, and certainly the first time this season, there is a real threat to the future of the ranch. Let us revel in the Shakespearean-like betrayal of a forgotten son, and see how this plays out.
Hopefully the latter half of this season moves on from the subtextual message of these first 8 episodes, as it has been said and needs not be said again. With the interesting tidbits Sheridan has created at this point, it seems like the last 7 episodes are set to finally be what we’ve been missing from this season – betrayal, passion and bloody, bloody mayhem. Sheridan, having written all episodes this season certainly proved he had a message to push on his audience, but as mentioned before, he is nothing if not a savvy businessman, and he reminded us of that just in time.
In a season that has seen the audience’s attention oxbow and meander, Yellowstone in this mid-season finale cleverly creates just enough interest to lure its audience back for the latter half of the season. Hopefully by then, we can get back to more of what made the show so successful.
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.