Sam Burnham, Curator
For a few months now I have been seeing advertisements online for the Yellowstone, the new show starring Kevin Costner. I'm a bit of a sucker for Kevin Costner's roles, especially his work with baseball and westerns. I'm a firm believer that his work with Field of Dreams, The Untouchables, Open Range, For the Love of the Game, Silverado, even The Hatfields and McCoys are more than enough to offset Waterworld and The Bodyguard, which were both terrible. And yes, The Postman was pretty bad too but he was great in Bull Durham.
All that to say they had my attention with the ads. I had never heard of the Paramount Network but I found the first two episodes on their website so I watched them both.
At an hour and 32 minutes, the first episode is approaching feature film length. The second is a bit shorter at 54 minutes, which I expect will be close to the regular length. In these early episodes you see three factions being set up. There's a developer, The Dutton family - long time ranchers, and an Indian reservation. All are getting into a heated property dispute. They're all vying for leverage, making alliances, and trying to gain the upper hand. The strange thing is that they each have something compelling about their claim to land but then you also see that each has a dark side as the plot develops. This is a western with no white hats from the traditional genre's styling. The conflict is further complicated as relationships cross battle lines.
Some of the themes are familiar to ABG. There is the abuse of power by large financial institutions. There is the agrarian opposition to unchecked development. You'll see imminent domain in the plot lines. The plight of native Americans plays a role. And, of course, there's a lot of dirty politics. There is a lot of traditional vs modern in the plot but the depravity of man keeps you from buying in totally for one side or another, even for a biased viewer such as myself.
The cinematography is well done. The primary setting is in Montana and the camera is set to make the mountains one of the stars. The scenery is stunning. But they also do a good job of portraying the action, capturing it with camera angles and perspectives that keep you tuned in to the action. For a weekly television program, this one is very well done. It's definitely not your typical studio backdrop.
Costner doesn't disappoint. Even as a fan I have to admit that he can get into a role that is basically "Costner dressed up like Robin Hood." But he can also make you buy into a character. He made me buy into John Dutton, a hardened old land baron trying to maintain his family's power and their enormous ranch. He is also supported by a solid cast, they make the plot real for the view and immerse you into the story.
The themes aren't family friendly. This is a grown up show. Put the kids to bed before this one. Both episodes were appropriately labeled with warnings in the beginning due to the language, violence, and some sexual content.
Overall, I have enjoyed the show. Both episodes held my interest and I'll definitely watch more as long as I can access them online. I enjoyed it but I'm not getting cable at the house for it.
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Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire