There’s no denying that there’s an abundance of television shows being released each year, so much so that it’s easy to have some go completely off your radar regardless of how strong the cast is or how good a show’s premise may be. That was the case for me and Yellowstone, as I’m a big Kevin Costner fan and had absolutely no clue the show even existed. I’m in Canada, so it’s not available up here in any format other than this newly released Blu-ray form, so that gives me a bit more of an excuse; however, I’m sure there are plenty of people across the board who may not have heard of this show until now. I will say this, it’s better late than never!
In fact, it may even be better late than never, as I was going to do a review of Season One and then begin Season Two for its own review, though I’m happy to report that Yellowstone is incredibly binge-worthy, so I just kept going and decided it best to place reviews for both seasons together here as I’d just recommend picking them both up at the same time, saving you the trouble of having to go through Yellowstone withdrawals while waiting for your order of Season Two to get delivered. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of time for that while waiting for Season Three to get released, as that’s already wrapped and aired in the States.
Yellowstone begins with a massive 90-minute premiere episode that introduces us to the Dutton family, lead by family patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner.) John Dutton controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. It borders a reservation and the land of developers, all of whom want a piece of what John Dutton owns – or all of it completely. This is a show that covers themes and topics all over the spectrum, with a major focus on the value of land and how many people want what belongs to others.
Intertwined with that main story are the lives of the Dutton children, and how growing up without a mother (who died in an accident on the ranch) has impacted each of them. There’s a lot of drama to be had here, and the show doesn’t pull any punches. This is a violent show, though the violence is based in reality and none of it is gratuitous. We’re talking more beatings and the likes over graphic beheadings or torture – but when the premiere begins with John Dutton having to put a bullet into an injured horses head after a car wreck, well, you know you’re in for a ride that isn’t afraid to go where it has to.
TV shows can be hard to review sometimes due to not wanting to spoil things for those who may be interested in checking it out. It won’t do anyone any good if I delve into part of the story that doesn’t take place until the end of season one or the middle of season two, as part of what makes great TV shows so great is the journey. So what I like to do – especially when there are a couple of seasons to work with that are released at once – is answer some of the bigger questions, with the big one being: does the show keep delivering quality all the way through?
The answer to both of those questions is, yes. First up on the selling points list you have the incredibly talented Taylor Sheridan, who created the show alongside John Linson. Sheridan writes each episode and has a fantastic grasp on this world that he’s created, the drama he can pull for it and just how far he can push the story to keep people invested, while never fully revealing his hand.
In fact, there was a point in one of the seasons where John’s only daughter, Beth (Kelly Reilly) is just verbally and emotionally tearing into hear brother, Jamie (Wes Bentley) and I thought it felt insanely harsh, even for these two characters that clearly have animosity from the premiere episode. This isn’t a spoiler, as they bicker constantly, but this felt so much more vicious than any previous encounter to the point where it almost felt out of place. Like, I had no idea why she was acting this way and it felt like something just wasn’t explained properly to the audience. But then I saw in a special feature (where the cast actually talk about each episode individually) that even Kelly and Wes have no idea why Beth was being so harsh, because Taylor Sheridan keeps this so close to the vest that even his cast are eager to find out what secrets may be revealed in the seasons to come.
So knowing that Taylor has a plan for things to come that he’s slowly playing out just makes the show that much more interesting. Laying the groundwork for things that may come into play a dozen or so episodes down the line is just great writing, and while that can’t always be trusted, when it’s someone like Sheridan behind the computer screen, well, the audience can be rest assured that they’re in good hands.
Then there’s the actors, who are all superb. Kelly and Wes are both fantastic, and their other brother, Kayce, is played equally great by Luke Grimes. What’s fantastic about the actors behind the Dutton family is that they all beautifully showcase the rift that’s been placed between them all since childhood, the day their mother died, and just how their father views them all differently both before and after the accident. There’s also the incredible Cole Hauser, who I’ve always been a fan of, and he really gets to dig into some strong material here. Hauser plays Rip Wheeler, the ranch foreman, but also John Dutton’s right hand and enforcer. Whatever John needs done that’s below board, Rip is sure to take care of it.
The supporting cast is equally strong, with Kelsey Asbille playing Kayce’s wife, Monica, (Brecken Merrill plays their young son Tate.) Gil Burmingham plays Chief Thomas Rainwater, who is looking to reclaim the land John owns on behalf of his people. Then there’s Danny Huston, who plays Dan Jenkins, a billionaire land developer that also wants his piece of the pie that is Yellowstone Ranch and the surrounding area. Jefferson White plays a former convict turned ranch hand at Yellowstone named Jimmy, who’s brought into the fold by Rip in an attempt to give Jimmy a second chance. There are plenty of more, but let’s just say that there’s no misfires when it comes to casting. This show is rock solid right across the board.
That’s especially so for Costner, who is just perfection in the role of John Dutton. I love Costner, and I want to cheer for him just because of that reason, but John Dutton isn’t that clear cut a character. He’s not the hero of the story of Yellowstone, he’s just a major player in it. In fact, there are lots of things to hate about John Dutton. He’s a complex character that has lots of layers, as are many of the characters in the show. It’s easy to think that Rainwater is right in his thoughts that the land belonged to his people before white people ever landed on these shores and took it; however, he’s not as cut and dry as that either. Everyone has things about them where they may not be the hero, but they’re also not necessarily the villain. Okay, well, Jenkins is kind of just a dick billionaire land developer that I’m sure everyone wants to see get punched in the face, but Dutton still plays him fantastically.
So if you’re looking for a new show to get into that’s more than worth your time, I highly recommend picking up Yellowstone Season One and Two on Blu-ray. The show has already been renewed for a fourth season, so there’s no fear of it just vanishing just when you become invested, which is always a plus and something to look out for. I’m not sure how long it will go for, as I have no idea where season three goes or what direction season four is headed in, but as mentioned above, I believe Sheridan has a plan and that it’ll all come to a proper conclusion when the time is right. Until then, strap in, because if you’re just getting on board the train to Yellowstone, you’re in for one hell of a ride.
Yellowstone looks phenomenal on Blu-ray. One aspect of the show that’s also a huge selling point that I didn’t mention above is the ranch and its surroundings, which are just gorgeous landscapes and truly fitting of the show. They look incredible in this Blu-ray transfer, and it’s clear why so many people want a piece of the Dutton land with how it looks here.
Everything looks fantastic though, as the show is filmed as though it’s a movie (which is how Sheridan views it, not as a TV show, but as a really long movie.) The settings look fantastic, and everything is sharp and rich in natural colours and blacks be it day or night scenes. The audio transfer is just as strong, with great dialogue coming through clearly alongside the sound effects, which can be packed at times with action sequences or just the natural sounds on a ranch. As whole, Paramount once again delivers a top tier Blu-ray quality release with both seasons of this show.
I’ll break this down for both seasons, which sees the majority of the special features found on Disc 3 of each. There are a lot of promotional type materials used as special features; however, there are still some solid behind-the-scenes features on each disc that help elevate them in the bonus material area.
Taylor Sheridan and Kevin Costner on Yellowstone – This is the big 25-minute feature for the season one bonus materials, and is the one carrying the load for what to check out if you want to learn some more about Yellowstone after finishing up this season. Here we get to see Sheridan and Costner talk about the show, how it came to be, the challenges they faced and so forth. It’s a really great watch, and well worth checking out once you’re done season one.
Behind the Story – Every episode has its own “Behind the Story” featurette, and I’d recommend either watching them after you finish said episode, or watching the few the disc has to offer after you’ve finished watching each episode. They’re brief 5-10 minute on average pieces that see the cast talk about what’s happening in that particular episode, how they feel about it and where they think it may go. They’re pretty fun and it’s nice to hear from the actors on an episode by episode basis. There aren’t any commentaries on the discs, so this is as close as you’ll get to hearing about each episode individually.
Inside Yellowstone: Season One – This is a featurette that’s pretty much promotional and just under four minutes in length. That’s actually the case for the remainder of the special features, which I’ll quickly touch upon. They’re fun to watch and so quick they’re harmless, but you won’t really learn much more outside of just hearing the cast praise the show and how it’s been working on it.
Costner on Yellowstone – This is another 3-minute promotional piece, with clips of Costner talking about the show, how it appealed to him and so forth. Nothing you won’t get from the larger behind the scenes piece that you should watch over these.
Cowboy Camp – This could have been a pretty interesting feature, but it’s turned into a brief featurette that’s under 2-minutes and just has the cast talking about how they attended a cowboy camp to prepare for shooting. It would’ve been cool to actually see them taking part in the camp, but it is what it is.
Character Spots – There are six spots here for Beth, Lee, Jamie, Rainwater, Monica and Kayce. Each are between a minute and ninety seconds, and just see the actor talk about their character briefly.
Working the Yellowstone – Two featurettes found here that probably could’ve been larger, but instead are again just promotional pieces. There’s the Production Design featurette and the Special Effects featurette. Both are under two-minutes, and are a good quick watch, but not much substance.
Yellowstone Official Theme Music Composed by Brian Tyler – This is a two and a half minute piece that sees Brian composing an orchestra to create the theme song. This is intertwined with scenes from the show. It’s a cool, quick watch that delivers exactly what you’d expect. It would’ve been nice to have heard from Tyler, even briefly, but again, it is what it is.
Season Two Special Features:
Only Devils Left: Making Yellowstone Season 2 – This is the big feature once again for this season, and it comes in at just over 30-minutes in length and sees the cast talk about the new direction season two took, while also expanding on places it went in season one. It’s a great watch once again, even if you skip the rest.
Behind the Story – Once again, each episode has its own little featurette that sees the cast talk about working on that episode. Each are a fun watch once again and you do get to learn a bit more by checking these out.
Yellowstone Stories From the Bunkhouse – Much like Behind the Story, Stories from the Bunkhouse are a new special feature this season, but instead of being found on each disc they’re all in one place on Disc 3. But each episode has its own Bunkhouse story that sees three of the actors (Ian Bohen, Denim Richards and Jefferson White) that play the ranch hands talk about how that episode affected those in the bunkhouse. This is a great addition, and it’s nice to see that new things may be added each season instead of just sticking with promotional materials.
Working the Yellowstone – This is another brief featurette that comes in under 3-minutes and sees Wade Allen, the fight coordinator for the show, talk about what it takes to do his job. It’s short, so there isn’t much outside of him talking about his job, but it’s nice to give someone like this a spotlight, no matter how brief it may be.
Yellowstone Tintype Photography Behind-the-Scenes – This is a cool featurette that’s just over 5-minutes in length, and we meet Sarah Coulter, the Senior Photo Editor at Paramount. For season two’s promotional materials they decided to shoot each character in old-school Tintype. It’s a fast feature, but it’s one of the more interesting ones that lets you see how they went about doing it and just how cool a lot of the images turned out. Well worth checking out.
Inside Yellowstone: Season 2 – Like Season one, the special features list begins with this one, which is just under 4-minutes in length is and is more or less promotional for season two. I think it’d make more sense to start with the heftier behind the scenes feature, but here we are.
Costner on Yellowstone Season 2 – Once again, a brief 3-minute featurette that sees Costner touch on what’s ahead for season two of Yellowstone.
Deleted Scenes – Finally there are a handful of deleted scenes. I watched one that saw Kayce and John talking about ranch financials and then decided against watching the rest. Had they worked with the flow of the show then they would’ve been kept in, so as someone who isn’t a big fan of deleted materials to begin with, I just passed on the rest. But for those who are interested, they’re at least fully finished pieces, though with no commentary it’s unknown why they didn’t make the cut.
Paramount Pictures Presents Yellowstone Season One & Season Two. Created by: Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. Written by: Taylor Sheridan. Starring: Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Brecken Merrill, Jefferson White, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Ian Bohen, Denim Richards, Forrie J. Smith. Running time: Season One = 465 Minutes/Season Two = 469 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Oct. 6, 2020.
Tags: Brecken Merrill, Cole Hauser, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Jefferson White, Kelly Reilly, Kelsey Asbille, Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Taylor Sheridan, Wes Bentley, Yellowstone