The standout new TV series, “Yellowstone,” has been very well received. Here are four things that make it such a fantastic, unique experience.
1. Bucks a Lot of Stereotypes
The Paramount Network’s series “Yellowstone” revolves around the Dutton family, a large and complex family with behavior patterns and tastes that don’t fall into the usual stereotypes. And this is also true for many of the supporting, and even peripheral, characters.
For instance, most of the characters don’t speak with the country twang that we’ve had to endure in many Hollywood productions. There also aren’t many knockdown, drag-out drunken bar fights, nor loads of trailer parks with confederate flags everywhere you look. You don’t see names like “Billy Joe Jack” or “Missy Anne.” And men don’t run around barefoot with their shirts off while swigging whiskey and yelling “yeeeee haaaaaaaw.”
Having lived out in the country in several states, I’ve seen some of the behavior associated with these stereotypes, but they’re nothing like what is overemphasized in Hollywood Western-themed films and TV series.
Here, the writers detour from hackneyed characterizations and instead offer slices of reality.
2. Fascinating Characters
As mentioned in my previous review of the first season of “Yellowstone,” many of the characters are multidimensional and develop throughout the series. What you might assume about a particular character when they are initially introduced, could, and often does, turn on its head.
At first, one of the main characters, Beth Dutton (marvelously portrayed by Kelly Reilly) comes off as malicious. Not only does she seem to seethe with hatred and loathe anyone in her immediate vicinity, but she couples those traits with a steel-trap, cold and calculating mind, just like that of her father John Dutton (Kevin Costner).
However, once you learn more about her background, the layers being to peel back and you see why she is the way she is. It’s something you won’t likely see coming.
Likewise, Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), the chief of a reservation that is competing for land rights with the Duttons, is a fascinating character. Instead of being raised on “the rez,” he’s originally from Denver and thought he was Mexican until he turned 18 and saw his adoption papers. After discovering his Native American heritage, he enrolled in college, as a way of learning how to fight for his tribe more effectively.
3. Gorgeous Environments
Unlike many British, Japanese, and older American films, where the natural environment is appreciated and lovingly portrayed as integral to cinematic tapestries, many modern American films portray environments as backdrops, if at all.
In “Yellowstone,” the sumptuous, naturally beautiful landscapes of Montana take front and center and are so magnetic that they almost seem like part of the cast. Over the course of the four seasons, the series has relied on a total of seven cinematographers, but what they all have in common is a talent for showcasing the natural grandeur of Big Sky Country—one of the last, relatively unspoiled regions in North America.
4. Masculinity Appreciated
“Yellowstone” is a TV series that wears its traditional Western culture proudly across its chest like an American eagle. Although many of its characters have issues (just like folks in real life), men are at the center of the family, and masculinity is appreciated and sometimes even (gasp!) celebrated. In short, male traits are not considered toxic. This return to tradition is refreshing to see.
As a last note: most folks are good-hearted, understanding, and accept people for who they are. But in an age where masculinity is becoming considered abnormal, it’s nice to see traditional Western institutions and ideals take the fore. I recommend this wildly popular TV series. It’s a celebration of Americana.
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Kevin Costner, Luck Grimes, Kelly Reilly
Running Time: 1+ hour episodes (4 seasons so far)
Release Date: June 28, 2018