In the two-hour fifth season premiere of Taylor Sheridan’s modern Western Yellowstone, an unexpected No. 1 hit, rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is a man poised somewhere between stoic and sad, wearing an unwanted new suit and reluctantly prepared to be installed as Montana’s new governor. He remains a man beyond tears, disinclined to empathy and determined to keep rich snowbird outsiders from invading with their big-state ways and development plans. Montana for Montanans — especially Duttons! But his ruthless daughter, Beth (Kelly Reilly, the rising star of the series), is more overtly snarling, with the brains to unpack conundrums and the quiet savagery to make her points stick.
John’s adopted son, Jamie (Wes Bentley), is on John’s side too, but he looks more haunted than ever after Beth made him kill his biological dad (for threatening Duttons) in Season 4’s finale, then snapped a photo of Jamie with the body to blackmail him into her control. Jamie has committed an act out of Greek tragedy and wears the aftermath on his always interesting face.
He and Lynelle Perry (Wendy Moniz), the former Montana governor who’s now a Montana senator and John’s sweetie — but no friend of Jamie’s — often seem to be the only ones in the room with a lick of political and jurisprudential caution. John and Beth are more apt to come out with sixguns blazing. Jamie and Lynelle are often saddled with being the show’s plot explicators, what director Ridley Scott called “Irving the Explainer” characters, but they’re vivid anyway.
Lurking dangerously in Dutton’s domain is newcomer Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver, who was brilliant as the monster mom in Animal Kingdom). She’s the killer queen of the powerfully bankrolled, utterly loathsome Market Equities, which is out to build megadevelopments to besmirch pristine Dutton country. She expresses displeasure by splattering table servings on the walls, along with you if you get in her way.
Yet perhaps the most promising new character is Dawn Olivieri’s corporate moray eel Sarah Atwood, fresh off the private jet from odious Manhattan. She’s fiercely attractive, self-identified as greedy, and possibly looking for a real man who knows how to rip a bodice. Like Beth, she was put on earth to, in Thomas Pynchon’s apt phrase, “tantalize and send raving the race of man.”