‘Yellowstone’ Season 3 Introduces New Corporate Threats to the Dutton Dynasty
The best way to watch Paramount’s “Yellowstone” is on a large screen. With its melodrama meets thriller storylines, this is one of TV’s few shows that visually defines the word “sweeping.” In season three, we return to those glorious Montana vistas with the Dutton family still reigning supreme as the biggest landowners anywhere. Season two ended with kidnappings and rescues, now a new threat of corporate takeover emerges.
“You’re the Indian Now” opens the season with a fresh storyline reboot. Dutton Ranch patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is facing pushback from the governor’s office over his operation last season to rescue grandson Tate (Brecken Merrill) from the Beck brothers. Although John essentially took down a human-trafficking militia, the way he used his power as livestock commissioner might bring bad press, so he offers to resign. He still has to run the ranch anyway and nothing has been taken away from his overall power (money talks after all). Back at the ranch Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Rip (Cole Hauser) come across a lost group of strangers in suits. Ellis Steele (John Emmet Tracy) introduces himself as their representative. It turns out the group are actually the owners of the Paradise Valley Sporting club which is moving in nearby. It’s the first warning sign of an encroaching corporate danger. The second is when Beth (Kelly Reilly) comes across a stranger fishing in Dutton territory. The stranger introduces himself as Roarke Morris (Josh Holloway), whose family owns another huge ranch in the area. Beth immediately senses he isn’t just out fishing for fun.
“Yellowstone” has built a strong following since it premiered because it combines the cinematic eye of contemporary TV with a more old-fashioned storytelling sense. Creator Taylor Sheridan, the writer behind films mixing the modern with a classic western spirit like “Hell or High Water,” crafts the show into a grand visual piece with the headlong rush of a good soap opera. Every season brings its own new saga to the Dutton story. At this point Kevin Costner looks so comfortable in his role, speaking with a low, rumbling voice, his eyes squinting at the vast horizon.
As is typical with this show’s season premieres, “You’re the Indian Now” only hints at what’s coming. Dutton gives up his post as livestock commissioner and starts looking for a replacement within the family. At first he considers Kayce, but he is a man more suited to the ranch. A better candidate is Jamie (Wes Bentley), who never had the real grit to hang out with Rip and the other ranch hands. He has a lot of fun drinking and playing wrangling games with the bunch late at night, but Beth knows Jamie would do better by keeping the family inside the halls of political power. Beth is still the true calculating mind, warning John and her brothers of the coming land grab by outside interests. But as is typical in this kind of story, she is also the sexiest and most rebellious of the bunch, sneaking off to Rip’s cabin and “accidentally” pouring bourbon down her chest before he takes her in his arms. Earlier she warns a cashier with a bruised face that she should get a new boyfriend to bash in the face of the current abuser.
A running theme in this episode is how the old culture defined by the relationship between whites and Native Americans is now coming under threat from a common enemy. Chief Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) is handed a cease and desist order to block his current construction project from Ellis and Providence. Giving him the news is the slimy Ellis Steele who we met earlier. Ellis and Providence is the entity trying to gobble up territory. Monica (Kelsey Asbille), Kayce’s Native American wife, later asks John if he can take Tate with him when he camps out near the family’s herd but also issues the striking observation, “You’re the Indian now.” As the original white colonists took the land, now the big capitalists are coming to do the same to everyone. In another monologue Monica berates her college students for being glued to their phones during an outdoor class, wondering how they can be so distracted from what is going on in the wider world.
No doubt a major confrontation is coming, as it must in a show this hot-blooded and wide-lensed. But the episode closes on a pleasant and serene moment as John sits with Tate near an evening campfire, discussing the nature of nightmares. “Yellowstone,” like many good westerns, combines gritty action with the dreamy landscapes of America’s lush frontiers. Yet in its subtexts it also has a few notable ideas. These characters may be pure fiction, but the human ambition to conquer and take is not.
“Yellowstone” season 3 premieres June 21 and airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Paramount.