Major spoilers follow for Yellowstone episodes 1 to 3. Turn back now if you’re not caught up.
“Sometimes good men have to do real bad things.” It was this piece of grim wisdom, imparted by John to his son Kayce at the beginning of episode 2, that was grippingly realized throughout 'All I See Is You' – from the brutally efficient killing of the remaining militia, to John’s confrontation with Chester Spears, the mastermind behind the orchestrated assassinations last season.
By the end of the episode, whether they could continue to think of themselves as “good” or rather as men willing to do anything to protect their land was brought into question.
The inaugural episodes of Yellowstone season 4 had the difficult task of introducing new storylines while bringing a degree of resolution to old ones, and after the action-packed opening of the show, the drama stalled – jumping from incident to incident with little immediate connection. By episode 3, however, there’s an engagingly consistent timeframe, tone, and clarity of focus.
The narrative threads from episode 2 are effortlessly picked up and woven together, with events unfolding over 24 hours – from dusk until nightfall – and concentrated around the Dutton ranch.
– Episode 3 (of 10), 'All I See Is You'
– Written by Taylor Sheridan
– Directed by Guy Ferland
In that time, Kayce met John after the swift and efficient retaliation on the militia, saddling up and lamenting the current uncertainty of their lives. The bunkhouse crew prepared to bid Jimmy farewell as he reluctantly departed with Travis to the Four Sixes ranch in Texas – leaving a disgruntled Mia behind – and Rip and Beth disagreed over the best approach to parenting 14-year-old Carter. Meanwhile, John had to “take out the trash” when Mo and Chief Rainwater disclosed who ordered the Dutton family hit.
The opening 2-minute sequence was a barrage of violence without any dialogue or sound, save for Colter Wall’s Sleeper on the Blacktop on the soundtrack. During that time a SWAT team led by Kayce mercilessly took out the remaining members of the militia that had been hired to exterminate the Duttons. Cutting between events, there’s a breathless force to this depiction of retributive justice. One by one the perpetrators were gunned down in their homes or garrotted in their cars, while we repeatedly cut to John staring contemplatively into the fireplace: the “good man” whose will Kayce had ruthlessly enforced.
Episode 3 repeatedly reminded us of the absolute power that the Duttons wield over Yellowstone, with John depicted as some kind of Godfather-like mafioso in the opening montage. This power is propped up by the local police force. Yet, aside from the authority their presence bestows, nothing else about their actions seems legal.
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A blur of red and blue dominated the highway as a police cordon blocked the passage of two of the perps; and, after one of them sneakily reached for a gun, Kasey unleashed a blast of bullets at the two guys like a scene from Scarface. There was no intention of taking anyone quietly down to the station: retribution, not justice, was the aim of the game.
Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Perhaps. The show shakily maintained that Kayce and John were honorable men doing only what necessary to protect their land and their family. But we see Kayce abuse and even overestimate his authority in far less high-stakes situations too. The Livestock Commissioner has a surprising amount of sway over the Yellowstone police, which we saw in episode 1 as he barked orders to the sheriff to pursue his father’s attackers. Surely a Livestock Commissioner wouldn't outrank a town sheriff?
Later in episode 3, he’s visited in his office by Emmett Walsh. The man’s riled because his neighbor, a “son-of-a-bitch from calif-f**king-fornia,” has put cattle grids down all along his easement, making transporting his livestock a nightmare and costing him a fortune. He’s out of options. So, with a weight of expectation, Kayce asks what he would like him to do about it, and Emmet euphemistically says, “I don’t know. Something.”
Like Rip, Kayce has become a bit of a fixer, and the reluctant expression on his face implies he knows that force will be required. A few scenes later he’s at the Peterson Ranch, flinging its obnoxious owner Ralph (Jonathan Kells Phillips) to the ground – who’s only raising llamas for the tax break anyway – and binding him with cable ties. When an incensed Ralph threatens to call the police, he shouts back that he is the police, and furthermore, that he doesn’t need a warrant.
In Kayce’s mind this is still the Wild West and legal protocol is just so much red tape. Plus, people like Ralph – wealthy, entitled folk from the city with no idea about the hardships of rural life – merely illustrate a modern world whose incursion into the Midwest looks to eradicate everything the Duttons hold dear.
Strangely, the law in Yellowstone seems to bend towards corruption. Later in the episode, John arrived for a secret rendezvous with Chief Rainwater, who is holding Chester Himes captive in the boot of his car – the guy who organized the hit on the Duttons – and he’s been chaperoned by a member of Brocken Rock police department. Before the beaten informant is revealed, he drives off, arguably to avoid being implicated in the crime.
While the vigilantism of the Duttons doesn’t appear to incur any criminal charges, their morally dubious actions take a personal toll. After bundling Ralph underneath one of his own cattle grids, Kayce returned home to find that his wife Monica and son Tate hadn’t left their room all day. Taking two plates of food upstairs, he found an exhausted Monica sitting on the floor, waiting for a severely traumatised Tate to emerge from under the bed. “He’s not coming out today. He’s worse today” she sighed.
It’s viewers first time seeing Monica and Tate since they were assaulted in their home during episode 1’s dramatic opening, and Tate – having been kidnapped by the Beck brothers last season as well – is now mentally and emotionally scarred. Rather than placate his son, Kayce pulled the terrified boy out into the room. And, although he settled down pretty quickly, a distraught Monica launches into a tirade about the “evil” of Yellowstone and Kayce also being “evil”. Despite the notion that John and Kayce are honorable men, their amoral actions have repeatedly put their families in danger. How “good” are they really?
While John and Kayce provided moral mirror images of each other through the episode, there were interesting similarities between the storylines of rodeo wannabe Jimmy and 14-year-old Carter too. Their scenes were full of quietly touching moments in which they wrestled with the bleak determinism of their circumstances and the slim possibility of exercising autonomy over lives.
There was a somber mood as morning came and the bunkhouse woke to the news that Jimmy was leaving. Having gone against John’s word and injuring himself at the rodeo, John had informed him that he would be leaving with Travis to represent Yellowstone on the road. When his devoted girlfriend Mia found out that he was headed to Texas, she exasperatedly informed him that “everything in that place is trying bite you, stick you, or sting you.” He glumly replied that it wasn’t his decision to go.
His inability to choose himself, to “grow up” as Rip puts it, causes him a significant amount of pain. Despite lamenting his fate – feeling dutybound to John as the only family he’s ever known – a hurt Mia pointed out that he could have chosen to be with her. She was the one person who offered him unconditional support after his accident and physical therapy. But, having failed to realize this, she told him that “your only other choice is fucking done with you” and promptly stormed out of the bunkhouse.
John felt his responsibility in this too. After Mia snubbed Jimmy’s attempt to reconcile, John followed Jimmy into the barn to tell him that his exile wasn’t a punishment but an opportunity. Mia won’t leave him because, well, “love doesn't walk that easy.” If she does? She was never his to begin with. Jimmy anxiously enquired who decided when he’ll be returning, and John said, “you do.” It’s a reminder that, even if Jimmy’s options appear limited, his own choices and conduct will be what speeds him back to the ranch and to Mia.
When Jimmy departed on Travis’ trailer, it was a deeply poignant moment. He received a whole heap of disrespect from Travis even before they’d left – who called him “Jerry” instead of Jimmy and demanded he make himself useful because “this ain’t no f—king Uber.” Seeing him as a burden, Travis and his crew bemoaned his every breath. So, it was sad to see Jimmy share a protracted look with Mia as she bitterly watched them drive away, with the brooding, heartfelt lyrics of All I See Is You playing out on the soundtrack. It’s unlikely this is the last we’ll see of the luckless Jimmy this season though.
Meanwhile, Carter shared a warm exchange with the philosophical Walker, who asked what had brought him to the ranch. “Life kinda robbed me of my options” he said. Shortly after, Rip and Beth butted heads regarding their divergent approaches to raising Carter. Compared to the tough-love of Rip, it was endearing to see Beth’s more protective, lenient nature emerge. But sadly, it proved to be completely misjudged. Offering to buy the boy a new hat, jacket and boots, Carter immediately tried to take advantage of the situation, and Beth was left heartbroken and enraged by his ingratitude.
After an altercation with an interfering mother made her doubt her parental credentials, she sagely informed Carter of the four options available to him if he wanted a life of material wealth. As he wasn’t in a position to inherit a fortune, nor clever enough, in her opinion, to be a career criminal, his only choice was to work really hard, keep learning, and be prepared to fail. The fourth option? Well, that wasn’t worth the jaw ache.
Then as night fell, John drove into Wyoming with a bloodied Chester in the boot, whom Chief Rainwater had handed over to John to dispose of. The scene provided an interesting bookend to the introductory sequence, in which the diabolical nature of John’s actions was highlighted as he stared deep into the roaring flames of the fireplace.
Here, our expectations of John’s character were toyed with, as he was personally tasked with executing the man responsible for organizing the attacks on his family. He stood over Chester with a loaded gun, but surprisingly, dropped it to the ground. When he pulled a knife out instead, Chester started to panic. But rather than go all Quentin Tarantino, John freed him from his binds.
For a second it looked like John would let him go. No. He proposed a more conscionable solution to his dilemma and said, “we’ll have ourselves an old-fashioned shoot out.” It was a risky move. But, after Chester got the first shot off, he was gunned down by John and toppled backwards into the canyon, becoming fresh meat for the cayotes. As Caravan of Fools played us out, the song hinted that this cycle of reckless decisions and violence could end up having dire consequences later on this season.
It’s early days yet, but this episode proved the most enjoyable of season 4. It was a richly satisfying, self-contained offering, whose focus on the interpersonal dramas of the characters – particularly Jimmy and Mia’s reluctant farewell and Beth and Carter’s evolving mother/son dynamic – resulted in some wonderfully poignant moments and a wistful mood, particularly as Kayce noted life for the Duttons was rapidly changing.
While we haven’t yet got answers as to who authorized the assault on the Dutton clan, that mystery expanded in a potentially unexpected direction. Having discovered that the hit came to a man in Deer Lodge prison before reaching Chester – neither of whom were familiar to John – the suggestion is that the Duttons have an enemy completely unknown to them. That feels more probable given that the show has eased suspicions towards Market Equities, Chief Rainwater, and John’s adopted son Jamie during the last few episodes.
We’re expecting some thrilling developments in the next few weeks. And, if Jimmy hasn’t been written out of the show for the foreseeable future, we can only hope to see Travis knocked down a peg or two while Jimmy adjusts to life at the Four Sixes ranch.
Yellowstone season 4 trivia
- We got a glimpse into the domestic life of Mo, Rainwater’s right-hand man (played by Mo Brings Plenty). And the people playing his wife and child were his actual wife and child: partner Sara Ann and his son Jernyce!
- This was the fifth Yellowstone appearance for Gunsmoke actor Buck Taylor, who played disgruntled farmer Emmett Walsh. He last featured in the season 3 episode ‘The World is Purple.’
- Did you recognize Emmett’s obstructive Californian neighbor? That was Jonathan Kells Phillips, making his first appearance in the series. The actor has previously starred in Condor, The Americans, and True Blood.
- This episode was dedicated to country singer-songwriter John Prine, who passed away in April 2020 from COVID-related complications, and whose 2018 song Caravan of Fools played over the end credits.
- Guy Ferland returned to direct his fifth outing for Yellowstone. The director has worked alongside Joel Schumacher and has produced episodes of Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead.
New episodes of Yellowstone debut on the Paramount Network every Sunday at 8PM ET.