My husband and I have always wanted to move to Montana (his sister-in-law's parents live there) - and we love Yellowstone the National Park - but the first season of the show was mostly my husband's addiction.
I mean, I knew it was a fairly good show, but who knew it would get this good, at the end of this 2nd season?
The last 3 episodes of Yellowstone were ON FIRE - other than Stranger Things, nothing has kept me glued to my seat like the last two shows of Yellowstone.
In fact, as I've said in prior posts, other than prejudice/bigotry/injustice/snobbery, there are only 2 other things I'm snobby about - film and architecture (because I figure it takes money to have both and if you've got the money, do it right, don't assault our senses with cheap crap to make a buck.) Thus, it takes a lot to impress me and watch again.
However, we watched the Season 2 Finale for the second time last night, to see if there was anything we missed - still loving it!
Mark and I have watched it from the beginning, because if nothing else, you're drawn in by a killer theme song and landscape, which is its own silent, but ever-present character ...
... however, I only watched half-heartedly, usually while doing something else my, whereas my husband was obsessed with it (reading along you'll see why, he's especially fond of Rip's character) the whole time - because I thought it could be better, the first season?
Then, when we "unplugged" and got rid of cable, we lost Paramount with Direct TV Now. (However, we canceled Direct TV Now back in the spring, when they changed their programming and we lost Paramount and other channels we liked, got ones we didn't, and yet they wanted us to pay more).
We just now signed up for YouTube TV, but until then, Paramount was no longer an option - and essentially it's the only reason to have the Paramount Network anyway - so we just rented the latest show each week from Amazon Prime:)
Just to be forewarned, if watching it from the beginning - there are no good guys, everyone has done something absolutely horrible, at least once - the closest being Kayce, and especially his wife, Monica Dutton, who wants no part of this life, but loves her husband and son.
Yet over time, you begin to understand them, find yourself empathizing with them at some point, or at least feeling conflicted because of what they're going through, and see their humanity - the good and bad within everyone.
(Except for the Beck brothers, who really are just horrible people and true psychopaths, who will hurt men, women, children, and animals, over money).
And it has nothing to do with politics - and everything to do with politics at the same time (money talks to both sides and corrupts both sides).
Think "Justified" (which is about Harlan, Kentucky, which I can verify is over-dramatized, but very truth-based, my father being from there) - only with rich white people instead of poor ones lol :)
However, the vigilante justice thing is still there - they can just pay people off better ;)
So what's it all about?
Well, I shall try to tell you a brief synopsis of the story - which will include some spoilers - but not too much about last 3 episodes of this season, because they are are must-see for yourselves :)
Cattle rancher, John Dutton (Kevin Costner), "owns" 1000 acres in Montana, near Yellowstone National Park - and everyone wants it - and he will do just about anything, to anyone, to keep it.
More about him and his family in a moment. Because the major struggle is ...
The Native Americans want it back - because the Duttons never paid them for it, nor the US government - they just took it.
They are led by Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), a tribal chief who has made money from casinos, and has become a politician and real estate developer in his own right, believing the only way to get the land back is to buy it back and develop it, just like the white man - by lying, cheating, and playing the game just as dirty as the white man did with them.
Like LA real estate developer, Dan Jenkins (played by legendary director John Huston's son and Angelica's brother, Danny Huston) - doesn't he just look like one?)
... but not being from the area, realizes he is in way over his head, and grossly underestimates the level of vigilantism Dutton and Rainwater and others will resort to, so eventually teams up with Rainwater.
At first, you just want someone to wrinkle his shirt and knock those Ray Bans off his face - but just like most of the other characters (except for the Becks), you strangely begin to feel sorry for him, I daresay even like him - even a bit of a hero at one point for the Duttons (believe it or not).
He's just a fool, making the same mistake millions of others have made before him - imagining just because you staked your claim and "won" the grand prize package, you truly own it and have the right to do whatever you want with it, and imagine yourself a stronger, better person than the others because of it ...
... when others playing that game realized a long time ago, we truly own nothing, and there's always somebody who could claim it before we did - who often didn't lose it because they were "weaker" - but because they refused to stoop as low as you did to get and keep it.
Thus, realizing he's way of his league, here, he teams up with Rainwater ...
And last but not least (and the dirtiest players), the Beck brothers, Malcolm and Teal Beck (played by "Justified" alum Neal McDonough and Terry Serpico) who own everything else around already and are know for murdering cattle and families to get what they want.
Most of the show is about the dastardly things these people will reduce themselves to, and do to each other, over this stretch of land.
Now, if it were me, 1000 acres is a lot of land - I would've sold off 500 or so to Rainwater a long time ago, but it's not my family's land, and there would be no show without this fight lol.
However, there are plenty of side stories - such as the jurisdiction game the local, state, and federal government plays when there is a rape or murder on Native American land by non-Native Americans of a Native American person - which happens more than you think.
In fact, there is legitimately higher number of violent crime committed against Native Americans by non-Native people on Native Americans - and the disappearance of Native American women has become an epidemic, though the US government doesn't even bother keeping track - only the tribes themselves).
Typically, if it's another Native American person, they'll go to jail. If it's anyone else, either US government will throw it back to the jurisdiction of the tribal police, who of course have no jurisdiction over violent crime anyway, or the person is almost always acquitted.
Thus, rapes and murders and oftentimes dealt with via private investigations and justice is performed and the perpetrators are never seen or heard from again, lost somewhere to Yellowstone - with the aid of some white friends of Native Americans - like a few members of the Dutton family ;)
Also, there are also the side stories ...
John Dutton (Kevin Kostner) had 3 sons and a daughter, but lost his wife when the children were young in a horse-riding accident (and says perhaps he lost his sanity, morals, and heart along with her .) As stated earlier, he will do anything, to anyone, to keep the ranch - and use his children, and anyone else, to do it.
Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), the oldest son and the ones following in his father's footsteps, is murdered in the very first episode, during a conflict with the Broken Rock Indian Reservation (though the tribe did not approve the murder, just the fight.)
Jamie Dutton(Wes Bentley), his next son, is spineless - and becomes an attorney for the family, at his father's urging - and contemplates running for attorney general of the State of Montana; however, during a moment of anger with his father's vigilante antics, spills his dad's secrets to his girlfriend's friend, who is press (the girlfriend only being with him to get dirt on his father and obtain prestige as a new attorney general's wife) - and thus, he takes a desperate act during a panicked moment that changes the course of their lives.
John's youngest son is Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes), is a former US Navy Seal, who returns to the ranch after Afghanistan, haunted by his memories/PTSD of the war, as well as having arrived to late to the conflict with the reservation, witnesses murder of his brother by his brother-in-law - and murders him in retaliation - carrying the guilt of never telling his wife that he killed her brother in retaliation for killing her brother (though she knows already and why, as well as though she loved her brother, knew he went rogue and murdered Lee outside of plan, and was a generally nasty dude into lots of things he shouldn't have been).
Though married to a Monica - Native American from Rainwater's tribe - and despite his son, Tate, is half Native American, and them all living on the reservation because Kayce's disapproval of his father's methods - he is told by the tribe that he will never be fully accepted by the tribe, even if he goes against his father - because he is not Native American and especially as the son of John Dutton - even before the Lee/Robert murders.
Monica Duttonis member of Rainwater's tribe, but is also Kayce's wife, and though she loves her Native American heritage, does not trust most other white people, intensely dislikes Kayce's father, she thinks there's a better way than hatred and dirty-dealing and vigilantism to overcome racism and abuse of power, and wants no part of this fight.
In fact, she takes her son and leaves Kayce, after Kayce is rejected by the tribe and comes home to live and work at his father's ranch to work/learn the business in place of Lee (much to Rip's heartbreak, see below).
She begins teaching at the local college, but realizes she loves her husband and vice versa, and tries to find a way that she, Kayce, and her son can find a middle ground life and some normalcy for her son, in this never-ending retaliation war.
Tate Dutton, Kayce and Monica's son, and John's only grandchild, is beloved by all and the only person that still has John's actual heart - and he will feature significantly this season (especially the end - hint hint).
Lastly, there's John Dutton's daughter, Beth Dutton(played by British actress, Kelly Reilly, with no trace of a British accent) - who gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "crazy B."
At first, Beth, like many of the others, is a character you at first hope is killed off very early on - but alas, she isn't lol.
She returns for the death of her brother, Lee, to help her father's fight to keep the land/not sell - and you realize instantly that she's actually the smartest and most educated, having been educated abroad and living abroad - but also dangerously loyal to her father, extraordinarily and unnecessarily cruel, and self-destructive.
She reads people within 30 seconds and is shockingly direct, cruel and foul-mouthed (which is sometimes actually funny, but mostly crass and cruel) - the meanest, craziest stuff you've ever heard a woman say, comes out of her mouth - but you can't help but laugh because she's usually right.
She is particularly cruel to her brother, Jamie (who did do a very bad thing, but still - encouraging his suicide is unconscionable), whom she thinks is just as dirty as her father, only won't admit it, as well as a weak coward who hides behind paperwork and legal snafus, but refuses to get his own hands dirty with them, and is just skilled at covering them up - and now a selfish traitor to boot.
(And truth be told, Jamie is very sensitive and fragile - he didn't want to be associated with the ranch OR a lawyer or in politics to begin with - but a part of him thought he could finally earn his dad and other's approval that way. That and he does love the prestige of being a Dutton a bit too much - more than he cares to admit.)
However, like everyone else (except the Beck brothers, who I never did find a positive in), this season, you began to see her soft side, however fleeting the moment was.
Not to mention - SPOILER ALERT - when caught in the middle between a serious land and race war (such as in the Middle East) as Monica was, in a clothing store, falsely accused of shoplifting by a racist shop owner, who thought she was lying about being a teacher and married to Kayce Dutton - had the local police strip her down and humiliate her.
Now, in that situation, you would really ,find some use for a smart, rich, white psycho like Beth on your side as your sister-in-law, there's no better ally lol
(In fact, Monica called Beth instead of her husband, because as she says, Kayce, the former Navy Seal, would've killed everyone involved lol)
... and it's the one and only time you're actually cheering for Beth - you don't mess with her family, particularly her innocent sister-in-law - and especially not because of her race.
And you see Beth's compassion for just a split second - knowing Monica is the only one of them who is a good, decent, peaceful person dragged into this mess simply because she fell in love with a Dutton son.
Watching her dismiss the local cops that the lying store owner called to harass Monica because of her race - first by using her Dutton name, then by loudly proclaiming all their dirty little secrets they didn't want to come out - then strip down and humiliate the store owner and destroy her store, knowing nothing will happen to her as a Dutton - is astonishing, hilarious, and priceless.
Beth was only stopped by Monica, who says she doesn't want to get even with the racist store owner - just have her admit she did what she did to her because of her skin color.
After the store owner admits it, they leave - and Beth adds it was definitely racial hate, but also fueled by some other things - Monica was also younger, prettier, better educated, but most importantly, a genuinely kind, good person without an angle - something the store owner, despite marrying well and having plastic surgery - never was and never could be - and she was right.
But despite that other stuff, Monica's genuine kindness, said Beth, is her biggest problem - when people in this world see genuine kindness without an angle in this world, they want to take advantage of it, accuse it, or smash it until they feel as badly as they do, so they don't have to look at themselves.
That last thing she said about genuine kindness? I felt it. I don't have that other stuff, but that one, genuine kindness for kindness sake, I have. Or Had.
These past couple of years, I'm not quite as open and friendly and full of good will as I once was, more guarded I guess you could say. And her explanation explained some things I'd questioned "why" on a long time.
But it makes sense - people who aren't genuine and kind without an angle can't stand to see somebody that is - and they have to smash it or see angles that aren't there, so they feel better about theirs.
Not that Monica, or me, or people that are genuinely kind for kindness sake are stupid or pushovers or afraid to stand up or say "no" to people (well, maybe there was some of that part once) - it's just people like us gave lots of chances/benefits of the doubt, when other's just ... didn't.
And you just get more guarded as you age - especially in a Trump era.
But back to Beth, I take that back - there is a second time you are cheering for her, in a very brutal scene, but how she handles the murder of her assistant and subsequent rape, planned by the Beck brothers, to intimidate her and her father out of the land, leaves you cheering her on despite your intense dislike of her.
However, before we get into that, rewind for a second - first we have to introduce John Dutton's "other" son, ranch foreman, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser).
Cole Hauser, by the way, you may recognize from other roles, normally looking like this instead :)
John Dutton took him in as a teenager, while actually helping the local sheriff's department on a manhunt looking for him, after he beat his father to death (after his father beat his mother and brother and sister to death, believing he'd killed Rip as well). Dutton finds him in a barn and asks him if he knew what he did, and though crying, says, "Yep, and I'd do it again - because they keep letting that son of a bitch off for beating my mom until he finally killed her AND my entire family."
Thus, Rip is forever grateful to Dutton for saving him and will do anything he asks - which includes getting the cowboys/ranch hands to do whatever vigilantism it takes to protect the Dutton ranch.
Rip is your silent, strong, cowboy type - tough and tender at the same time, and he's fond of giving everyone a second chance at life by working on the farm, black, white, whatever - but throws his morality and compassion out the window if John Dutton asks him to - and has a certainn amount of rage from his past. It's hard to pull out of him, but if that button gets pushed, God help whoever it is that pushed it, because nobody fights like Rip.
He's also fond of letting the men physically fight things out until they get it out of their system - and a slight bit of hazing new people is okay, but if the strong are just bullying the weak, he'll step in and tell them to fight him instead.
Rip doesn't care anything about money - he just wants John's approval as a true "son" after saving his life and believing in him - but knows it never can be, despite earning it 2000 times over - because he's not true "Dutton blood."
(Similar to Kentucky folk, that way.)
Think Maximus in Gladiator - only with a cowboy hat, shiny belt buckle, riding western style - and this is why he's my husband's favorite character :)
I love Maximus and Gladiator, but to me, Rip falls short of that image, for some of the amoral things he does for John.
Thus, Rip actually my second-favorite character - and my favorite character is actually tie between Kayce and Monica :)
They're two people in love, who are actually the sanest in in this crazy-ass family, just trying to create some normalcy for their son - but unfortunately, end up taking most of the sh*t for everyone else's sins instead.
Then there's the cowboys themselves ... themselves are a lovable, goofy-but-brave bunch of men - and one woman (who earns their respect by roping and wrangling just as well as the men, but takes off mid season, which is unexplained, other than you get the sense that she doesn't want the brand for life and what that means/what they have to do, she just wanted to be a cowgirl) - but their stories would take too long to tell here.
All you need to know is they come from rough pasts themselves, but found something they're particularly good at - and after they have earned the respect of the others, they are literally branded - and there's no way out - you do what Rip and the Duttons tell you to do - for life.)
By the way - this is not a "politically correct Hollywood" photo - it's a more historically accurate one - because in reality,it is estimated 1 in 4 cowboys was African American.
It's just another example of how we white-washed the importance of their efforts out of American History, too - particularly in press and early Hollywood hands. There aren't a lot of pictures (tin-types were expensive) - but ranch records made from a time of racial inequality enough in the East to cause a war, don't lie.
Many escaped slavery by heading West, or settled there after their emancipation after the Civil War.
The West symbolized freedom - and even the lawlessness, harsh climate, and low pay was preferable to being owned and mistreated by another human being.
Bounty hunters did often come looking for them, but the challenges the West provided were the same for everyone, so often it was just let go - if they managed to successfully escape (no easy feat itself ) - few slave owners wanted to lose more men and money looking for them.
Here's another "fun fact" most people don't know - there were no segregation/Jim Crow laws in the American West for African Americans (except parts of California)- until the end and AFTER the Civil War ...
... when former soldiers on both sides began to settle there and the end of the war drove Easterners to once again, follow journalist, Horace Greeley's words to "Go West, Young Man," more than ever before for a renewed gold rush prospecting/mining fever and other economic pursuits.
Until then, beggars weren't choosers on Western ranches - if you were strong enough to survive the journey and brave enough to rope, wrangle and ride, in any type of weather, you could be a cowboy - regardless of your skin color - Native Americans and Latinos included (as long as you proved your loyalty) :)
And today, African American cowboys still exist - but Latino immigrants have an even stronger presence - because they're cheaper labor than both white and black US citizens on the 21st century ;)
Regardless, back to Rip - Rip and Beth have a long history - having been each other's first love - and are still in love, but Beth won't admit it, and in fact, is very cruel to him upon her return - especially when he's being sentimental.
However, that time would come shortly thereafter - SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT ON - when the Beck brothers hire 2 men to murder her assistant in front of her and rape her at gunpoint to intimidate her and her father out of the land.
Beth handled it as best she could - better than I could have - and it's the best way to handle rape, but very difficult for women to have the presence of mind to do.
- and yet with this taunting, he truly cannot perform - and Rip crashes through the window and saves the day - and man, you don't even want to know what he does to those men next - and when he is finished, Beth goes berserk in rage on the dead men, for what they did to her - angry for they did, but also angry that as strong as she is, she couldn't stop this one and take care of this all by herself.
Thus, during this fit of rage, and to snap her out of it and remind her she wasn't alone, she didn't have to deal with everything by herself, Rip remembers what she says about telling her only when she really needed saving, grabs her, holds her, and repeats, "I love you, I love you, I love you" until she snaps out of it - and crumples in tears in his arms :' )
Thus, we begin to see Beth's soft side - not just with Rip, but with Monica, with everybody - but also, now, the war is truly on - and the Beck's take it even lower (yes, it is possible).
With the Becks' latest act (hint: It involves Tate, her son) - Monica changes her tune about violence and asks her husband to kill the men responsible for doing this to her child.
Shocked by this change in attitude, her husband agrees.
My husband questioned this sudden change in her character as a screenwriting/script fumble, because of her prior stance - stating people just don't change their character due to one event - do they?
Also, because he sees me a bit similar to Monica and how even when I could've taken violent vengeance on a few people, regarding my daughter, I didn't - because I realized I would not only be stooping to their level, I'd be beneath them/make honest people of them.
(He doesn't agree and believes I should just become scarier than they are, but also realizes that would be contrary to my character)
But to answer his question, I think it depends on the person, but yes, I've seen even one tragedy change people - sometimes for the worse, sometimes the better, and sometimes just temporarily - fear or grief can drive anyone at least temporarily insane, especially if over a child.
But in the end, there is always at least one situation in our lives where we are driven to the brink, a sort of moral test - do we stoop as low or lower to retaliate, thus continuing a never-ending cycle of retaliation - or do we rise above it?
And isn't justice itself somewhere in between the two, on the spectrum?
Finding that balance is the hard part - and until you walk in someone else's shoes and history - perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to judge.
And most of us mothers have a Mama Bear inside them - God help whoever it is if we let Mama Bear out for even a second (which I have, a time or two, but quickly chose the high road shortly thereafter - no easy feat).
In fact, much like Mama Bears, there's little scarier than a Mama Human Being who at least believes she's doing what she's doing to protect her child lol.
Plus I reminded him that she's also Native American.
Many tribes believe it is worse (and more cruel) to kill the spirit instead of the body - and that things like unjustified violence and rape that leave you alive are worse, because it can cause a person's spirit to be trapped outside of their body, kind of floating in between death and life, until there is justice - either the criminal dies or you do - it's their way of describing PTSD, you see :)
Like most other cultures in the world, they believe in ghosts, whether you died with unresolved issues or not - but unlike others who died peacefully, who can pass from the spirit world to earth and back, disrespecting the spirit/soul leaves the spirit earthbound in torment.
Many other cultures believe similarly (including some in ours) - except we believe that death is the worst possible injury to a person, whereas they believe killing the spirit is worse - thus why it's such an insult for us to tread or build on Native American burial sites, it's adding insult to injury of the spirit of the person(s).
However, the difference is, they hold the perpetrator personally responsible for what they did to the person's spirit - even beyond death.
But it's not a vengeance thing - it's a freeing the soul of the wounded-spirit-victim-into-peace thing.
Because what is preferred is that the perpetrator dies before the victim whose soul they killed, so the soul can return to the body instead of floating outside it - otherwise, the fear is the victim will be earthbound, tormented, and wreak havoc in bitterness in the afterlife.
It's not that they don't recognize the value of "letting it go" - of course it is preferable and possible - in fact, that's what creates a shaman in Native American cultures, one foot in the spirit world, one out, due to trauma.
It's just they know how difficult and rare that truly is for humans to achieve, than we Christians, and it's extra precaution lol.
Regardless, at this point, everyone - Rainwater, Jenkins, and even the local bought of sheriff and state police - despite having done other things to each other, are banded together, at least temporarily, over what the Beck's have done.
Conflicted emotions, complex characters, great writing - and I love it :)
Thus, though I half-watched this show as at least somewhat entertaining - the last 3 episodes just hit pro status - and I'm officially hooked like my hubby too - and audiences agree - their viewership shot up and have people scrambling to watch it.