Season five of Paramount's Yellowstone picks up a few months after the last season ended. Kevin Costner's character, John Dutton, who will do absolutely anything to hold onto the family ranch, has won the top spot in Montana government. Yet he looks miserable in the same black suit and black hat he's worn to funerals and to announce his candidacy. The patriarch only ran to ensure his son, Jamie, did not become governor.
Dutton appears caged in the capitol's marble halls yet remains determined to do what he must to ensure the family legacy. Sure, he's killed many -- never without cause, as he sees it -- always in service to the Yellowstone or his family. Gladhanding folks, building alliances, and listening to people he abhors, to Dutton is torture.
"I fight for what's right," Dutton said in the season premiere airing Sunday, November 13, on Paramount Network. "I don't care who supports it."
This episode was screened on Thursday, November 3, at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. On a big screen, the panoramic shots of Montana are even more breathtaking. The first episode has what Yellowstone fans have come to expect -- sleek horses galloping across pristine lands, an ongoing fight between what some consider progress and others cling to as tradition, an enduring romance and several even more enduring feuds.
Creator, showrunner, writer, actor and director Taylor Sheridan was away writing, said his producing partner, David C. Glasser, CEO of 101 Studios. While stars Costner (pictured at top) and Kelly Reilly, who plays Beth, his daughter and now chief of staff, were shooting movies, Glasser introduced cast members Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Jefferson White and Gil Birmingham before the episode was shown to a rapt audience.
"The trailer did things we never thought it would do," Glasser said. That 1:38-minute trailer teasing the new season garnered more than 14.4 million views online within 24 hours of its September 29 release.
At the after-party, speaking exclusively with MediaVillage, Glasser confirmed that the show is continuing past this season, which is why Sheridan was holed away writing. Before a commitment is made, Glasser said, he and Sheridan talk.
The conversation focuses on, "Can you keep it going?" relayed Glasser, who's also an executive producer. "Is it fresh enough? Is it new enough? Now that we have John Dutton as governor, I think that's what will keep us on our toes."
Considering that Sheridan is one of those rare executive producers who does it all -- acts, creates, writes, directs, produces -- he needs to shut out the noise to write the many series he's involved with, including Mayor of Kingstown, Tulsa King, Lioness and Land Man. "He has a cabin in Wyoming, with a cot on one side and a fridge," Glasser shared. "It's by a river."
And there, Sheridan is writing Yellowstone Season 6.
"As long as Taylor sits down and is inspired, he'll keep going," Glasser said. "He loves the story. He loves the Dutton family. We have the perfect cast."
Although Yellowstone isn't amassing Emmy Awards (save production design for that realistic bunkhouse), last season's finale brought in 10.3 million viewers, a 79 percent increase over Season 3's cliffhanger. More than twice the number of people watched the Yellowstone finale last year than visited Yellowstone National Park.
The drama has become the sort of juggernaut most networks only fantasize about. In addition to Yellowstone, the series spawned an origin story, 1883, starring Sam Elliot, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. It chronicled how the Duttons barely survived the Oregon Trail to lay claim to the largest ranch in Montana. That series shattered records on the sister streamer Paramount+.
Another prequel, 1923, starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, is scheduled to begin streaming on Paramount+ on December 18. Both these series shoot in Montana and use Sheridan's horses after actors learn how to ride in Cowboy Camp.
While Yellowstone is a saga and a family soap, it is also the story of America -- not just how the West was won, but of the West now. It offers a respectful look at how Native Americans and descendants of homesteaders live. The series never shies from uglier issues including racism, greed and entitlement.
Maybe it was being cooped up during the pandemic or the allure of movie star Costner squinting into the endless sky, but whatever the reason Yellowstone has sucked in folks who wouldn't normally become fans of a series where horses outnumber humans. John Dutton could be seen as a hero – the all-American man who's standing up for his rights to save the land. And he could be seen as the lucky scion to a family that took the land from those who had always lived there.
His entitlement could be argued, but his devotion to the land cannot. In addition to trying to preserve this family's land, he's also trying to save his beloved western state from coastal creatures. Dutton disdains New Yorkers and Californians who treat Montana like their personal playground, and in his brief swearing-in speech immediately imposes taxes on them. He also announces a halt to the development of an airport and Park City like-sprawl. Clearly, Dutton plans to be a one-term governor and these stances give his enemies plenty of fodder to fight back this season.
"It's a good thing for the land, but I don't see how it's good for us," Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock, says about Governor Dutton.
The reservation abuts the ranch. Dutton and Rainwater forge alliances against common enemies when necessary. Ultimately, though, they are on opposite sides; both want the same land.
"I think it's a great exploration of the dynamics shifting in the power struggle," Birmingham said from a banquette at Time Warner Center's Porter House, where the post-screening party was held. "The new season is elevated in its confrontations."
Birmingham says working Costner and again with Sheridan -- he was in Sheridan's Wind River and Hell or High Water -- "is the gift of my career. I'll ride whatever project Taylor has and feel honored."
Yellowstoneis telecast Sundays on Paramount Network at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
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