Everything you need to know to start watching ‘Yellowstone’

When Yellowstone premiered in 2018 on the Paramount Network, the network was incredibly proud of it, telling the Television Critics Association at the time that the show “truly encompasses everything we want Paramount Network to be.”

But they had no idea then just what a huge hit Yellowstone would become. The total viewers for the series have actually gone up each season, which is practically unheard of in television, so if you haven’t been watching it and you’re wondering what all the buzz is about, here’s what you need to know to jump in on season four.

Be warned of light Yellowstone episodes spoilers ahead for Yellowstone season 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

The Cast

Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner as John Dutton, a cattle rancher and widower in the Yellowstone area, who owns the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. His sixth-generation ranching family is continually at odds with outside forces looking to disrupt his way of life, including land developers and the nearby Native American tribe. 

John’s four grown children are Lee (Dave Annable), the oldest and John’s right-hand man on the ranch; Beth (Kelly Reilly), a whip-smart banker, who runs the family’s finances and has an addiction problem because she blames herself for her mother’s death; Jamie (Wes Bentley), a lawyer and aspiring politician; and Kayce (Luke Grimes), the youngest and a former Navy SEAL, who is married to a Native American woman. Lee, however, only appears in flashbacks after the pilot episode in which he is killed by Robert Long, a would-be cattle thief and Kayce’s brother-in-law.

Cole Hauser plays Rip Wheeler, the ranch foreman with whom Beth is wildly in love. Kelsey Asbille is Monica, Kayce’s wife, and Brecken Merrill plays Tate, Monica and Kayce’s son.

The Creators

Yellowstone comes from the minds of Taylor Sheridan, the award-nominated writer behind Sicario and Hell or High Water and director/writer of Wind River and John Linson, the producer behind Lords of Dogtown, The Runaways and Sons of Anarchy.

Sheridan and Linson’s vision has been gorgeously realized in Yellowstone‘s production value, with the series shooting entirely on location in Utah and Montana. It has the feel of a feature film week in and week out. Couple that with their writing skills and Costner told the Television Critics Association that he couldn’t turn it down.

“I’m drawn to writing and it’s what led me … to ‘Yellowstone,'” said Costner, adding, “You don’t often get [to work with] the writer and the director, and that was really appealing to me … when you wake up in a place as beautiful as that, then get a chance to go do that, it’s — when you feel like you are armed with the words, it feels like the thing is almost 90 percent done.”

The Plot So Far

In the first season, the Dutton family is facing off with both a land developer, Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), who wants to build condominiums on their ranch, and a Native American casino king, who sees the ranch as his people’s birthright. The repercussions of the episode one shootout ripple through the season because the Dutton family lies about what really happened to Lee and Robert. John is also harboring a secret — he wants to get his family and his ranch in order because he’s dying of cancer.

When season two starts, Kayce and his family move off the reservation and onto the ranch. He is now his father’s right-hand man, a role he stepped into after his brother’s death. Jamie, meanwhile, is given an ultimatum by his father at the end of season one and chooses to pursue politics and be written out of the family business. However, when a journalist tries to expose the Dutton family’s nefarious deeds, Jamie decides his loyalty lies with his family… so he kills the journalist and returns to the fold.

The big nemesis in the first two seasons is Jenkins, who, at the end of the second season, has his henchmen kidnap Kayce and Monica’s son with the help of a group of white supremacists. The Dutton family eventually finds the hideout and kills several of the kidnappers, and Kayce eventually hangs Jenkins.

All the while, John tries to decide who is best to succeed him as head of the family ranch, and, at the end of season two, he chooses Beth’s love interest, Rip the ranch foreman.

Season three sees Jamie dealing with the bombshell of finding out that the Duttons adopted him when his father went to prison for murdering his mother. Reeling from this information, he uses his power of attorney to take control of the ranch and try to sell it right out from under the Duttons. As the season ends, all of the Duttons are in danger, as they are targeted, one by one, by an unknown assassin.

Season Four

Season four kicks off with the cliffhangers of all the Duttons in grave danger. In a season four featurette, star Asbille teases that the premiere has just as much “chaos” as the season three finale and Bentley adds, “It’s gonna be pretty spectacular to see.”

He continues, “They’ve amassed quite a list of enemies — could be anyone involved in Broken Rock. Could be big money players trying to bring the ski resort. Could be small-time criminals looking for retribution. Or it could be someone right in their own living room. … It really feels like battle lines are being drawn.”

Hauser comes right out and says that Rip suspects it’s Jamie who is behind the violence. But viewers will just have to tune in to find out.

Need more Yellowstone in your life? Try 1883, the prequel that stars Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as Dutton ancestors settled in Montana. 

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