Yellowstone S04E05 Under a Blanket of Red: Shakespeare on Horseback
While Season 4 of Yellowstone has been kind of sleepy since its bombastic season premiere, it seems like writer/showrunner Taylor Sheridan was waiting for this episode to finally bring the heat. Beth (Kelly Reilly) serves some cold revenge, Jaime (Wes Bentley) uncovers who tried to murder his entire family, and patriarch John (Kevin Costner) makes a new hippie friend? Mild spoilers ahead for the episode, but we'll let you watch the show itself.
It can't be said enough that almost every single scene is written to the nines. Everything is written to maximize character growth and either ramp up or resolve the ongoing conflict. It's why fans tune in to Yellowstone. Beth and Jamie are the standout stars here, as their storylines get the most growth, but it's quieter, smaller moments that are the real secret sauce here.
For example, Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Monica (Kelsey Asbille) have moved in with her father to give their son Tate (Brecken Merrill) a change of scenery to help process the trauma of killing one of the men who tried to murder them in the season opener. The MVP of the series continues to be Gil Birmingham as Chief Rainwater who, after spending three days in a sweat lodge with young Tate, proclaims that he is no longer a boy, but a warrior. The scene between Rainwater and Monica is amazing in speaking to how she is trying to straddle two worlds and her desire to be both a mother and a warrior herself. Phenomenal acting meets phenomenal writing, and it all speaks to a deeper theme of the alienation Indigenous people often feel, even in their own country, on their own land. Dear Yellowstone writers: more Gil Birmingham, please.
Meanwhile, in Texas (don't you love when things start with that) poor little Jimmy (Jefferson White) gets some lessons in being a cowboy and continues his rehabilitation. And who do they bring in as guest stars but veteran character actor Barry Corbin and cowboy legend Buster Welch as himself? Corbin immediately brings gravitas as someone who looks, sounds, and acts like he's been on a ranch his entire life because, well, he sort of has– or at least play one on tv. It's one of those pieces of casting where you say, "They don't just bring in Barry Corbin for nothing. This is building to something." But Buster Welch is the most beautiful easter egg for this show — like when Thanos first showed up at the end of The Avengers. As Jimmy hears, "In Texas there are three gods: the Almighty Hisself, Buster Welch, and George Strait. And you just met one of 'em." It's attention to detail like this that makes Yellowstone so watchable.
Not to be outdone, John makes a new friend in what seems like a weird turn for the show. When protesters surround Kayce's office and cause a scuffle, the ringleaders are arrested. John commences to engage in dialogue with the main instigator, Summer (Piper Perabo) and it's actually a real meeting of the minds. John gets to put in a lot of digs at judgmental liberals, and she delivers them right back at patriarchal billionaire cattle barons. But later on, after he bails her out of jail and invites her to see the Yellowstone ranch, they have a real moment talking about the land and seeing it change. While she's talking about climate change and sprawl, there's a moment of clarity where John agrees with her about how much has changed.
And that's not even getting into the drama that's happening in the bunkhouse or the real meat and spoilers of the episode. What happens with Jamie in the final act of this episode has been a long time coming and so amazing to see the Faustian bargain he is being asked to make– essentially to betray his family. Much like Barry Corbin, it was strange/interesting to see Will Patton show up on Yellowstone. Is he this season's Big Bad– the satan behind all of this? Signs increasingly point to yes, which would be a great fit for the soft-spoken but intense character actor.
Can't wait for what happens in this next episode of Yellowstone, as long as they keep bringing the heat like this week.