‘Yellowstone’: Season 1’s Main Achievement was Finding Staggering Ways to Put Its Characters in Danger

IndieWire | 8/24/2018 | Staff
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At the close of the first season of “Yellowstone,” it’s worth noting how much the show is governed by actions we never see. Most notably, the diverting of the river — a massive ecological and financial chess move that fundamentally alters the growing resentment between John Dutton (Kevin Costner), Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), and Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) — is largely the provenance of informal high-roller strategy meetings. Aside from being crushed by a horse and having the worst maternal tubside manner, the late Evelyn Dutton’s (Gretchen Mol) psychological ruination of her offspring is wreaking havoc on the family property an entire generation later, with most of her behavior left to the imagination.

How, then, do you maintain audience interest in a show governed by so much personal and institutional history? By offering up weekly doses of mortal peril that would make the first season of “9-1-1” blush. The series that started with a horse getting shot right between the eyes was never going to be one that dwelled on the happier side of human nature. But through animal metaphors and escalating human endangerment, “Yellowstone” Season 1 opted to show a staggering level of violence that may not have been unique in TV as far as volume, but ran an unexpected gamut of different ways to put people in danger.

People - Cliff - Wake - Attack - Episode

Episode 7 ended with two people falling off a cliff in the wake of a bear attack. Episode 8 featured a woman being stuck through the stomach by a metal fence post. At the end of the season, Kayce’s wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille) is currently recovering from head trauma received from landing on a slab of concrete the wrong way during a fight at her son’s school.

One by one, each major player in this saga of Dutton hubris is visited by some...
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