‘The Ranch’ Part 7: A Deadly Shot Sets up the Final Chapter of the Bennett Family Saga
There’s going to be a lot of chatter over the way Netflix has decided to end the latest part of “The Ranch.” While this is the fourth season, it’s actually Part 7 of 8 parts in the show’s storyline, with Brad Paisley songs gracing the names of each episode in this part. Coming back to the world of the Bennetts can feel like a family reunion, both fun and bittersweet. This new chapter again features the particular humor the series is known for but with dark reunions and a final, cryptic act. It is this part’s closing moment that is quite bold in many ways.
Picking up where the last season ended, Colt Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) has been left by his wife Abby (Elisha Cuthbert) over him misleading her about the potential sale of his livestock. Now Colt is on his own and even barred from the Bennett family ranch by his father, Beau (Sam Elliott). Colt’s cousin, Luke (Dax Shepard) has meanwhile gone off to tie the knot in a hasty Vegas wedding with Mary (Megyn Price), who everyone knows has a serious drug problem. When Luke returns he realizes the wrongs he’s done and tries to rebuild a bond with Colt. It’s a moment of crossroads for the family as Colt wonders if he and Abby are truly over, Luke realizes it’s time to actually grow up.
“The Ranch” has never lost its homey feel during its four seasons. There have been grand, dramatic moments, like wildfires and the disappearance of Colt’s brother, Rooster (Danny Masterson), but for “Part 7” the writing becomes reflective. The storyline focuses more on where each character is situated and how they will face the future. Colt must face up to the lies he told, not out of malice but because he genuinely believed he was on the cusp of a big business deal. Most of this season finds him doing a delicate, emotional dance with Abby, openly pining for her, giving her alimony and jumping at the first chance to prove his loyalty. Worried about her image as a teacher at a new school, Abby asks Colt for his help in attending a school event so she won’t look like a separated spouse. He almost does it thinking it means they could get back together. As a comedy “The Ranch” has always delivered, but it’s in the subtle drama where it works best. Colt’s feelings towards Abby aren’t funny, but sad and endearing. Yet the show never gets predictable with this storyline and it is refreshing how it treats a breakup without dreamy romanticism, it soberly knows that some couples simply never get back together.
The same goes for other relationships, like Luke and Mary’s, which in any other sitcom would be a gag for countless jokes. Instead it leads to real consequences such as Mary having to face the chaos of her existence, and how it affects her daughter, Heather (Kelli Goss). Heather is a bit underused this season, but she has strong scenes where she needs to pick up Mary at the hospital after an overdose, and telling Luke to get lost then accepting his sincere help for paying the mortgage. Luke’s character this season also becomes a person trying to make amends. He buys Colt’s cattle at the auction block, in order to prove he truly wants to be partners with his cousin. Beau is making plans for his new life with fiance Joanne (Kathy Baker), but must first make amends with Colt. It’s family dysfunction written with a particular kind of heartfelt drama, where no one screams or shouts but just say what they honestly feel. When Beau tries to advise Colt on how to treat a potentially ill cattle Colt takes it as an insult, and this is indeed how families actually do argue.
Colt runs into one issue after another trying to make his ranch sustainable, but he won’t go down easily. In one crisis he tries to buy a new bull to impregnate his heifers from Neumann’s Hill Ranch, who have repeatedly been trying to purchase both Cole’s and Beau’s Iron River Ranch. In another pivotal moment, Cole strikes back at Neumann’s Hill when they try to play dirty. Ashton Kutcher again delivers some of his best work, turning Colt into a man full of both many faults and heart. The great Sam Elliott also elevates the material with that calm demeanor that hides a powerful presence. What Elliott does here with Beau is begin to soften the hard exterior of the patriarch. Now that he has found the love of his life in Joanne he is opening himself to new experiences, like a proposal by Joanne to go to Spain. In the previous season we saw how he had changed to the point of contemplating selling the farm for the good of his family and in this season he does just that. Even Luke acknowledges he is happy to have met this Beau, a man with an iron will for sure, but now with a more loving outlook, even if at first he still gives Luke a stern talk for his behavior. Essential to Elliot’s performance is the warm presence of Baker’s character, Joanne. With an alzheimer’s diagnosis her character’s engagement to Beau transcends the usual sitcom’s twilight years romance. It’s treated like a special bond between people who have been through much, and are prepared to go through more, together. This is the season where Joanne becomes an even more present and essential character that completes Beau’s life while in a sense completing the Bennett family.
While some episodes in Part 7 just mosy along, it must be said this is never a boring season. We love to watch the Bennetts deal with their inner traumas and hassles because they feel real. Colt’s predicament with Abby is relatable to anyone who lets a good thing go, Luke embodies the wild child who can prove he’s not a screw up. But the true twist comes in the final episode, when Abby bumps into Mary at a pharmacy with Nick (Josh Burrow), the druggie and Mary’s ex, who Colt blames for Rooster’s possible demise. Mary has brought back to the Bennetts’ world an unsavory figure from the past. Beau loads a gun and heads out the door, Luke leaves to make sure Mary is fine while Colt also decides to follow in a rage. This leads to a scene where Nick walks into his trailer and we see the flash of a gunshot. Just what has transpired requires us to wait for the series to finale in Part 8.
This is a worthy penultimate season for “The Ranch.” The Bennetts grow and reconcile while enduring new challenges. To revisit these characters is like walking into a living family portrait, where everyone has good and bad memories. If Part 7 is any indication, 2020’s Part 8 promises some heartfelt finishing brushstrokes to this saga.
“The Ranch” Part 7 begins streaming Sept. 13 on Netflix.