‘Yellowstone’ Season 5 Premier Recap: Political Intrigue

'Yellowstone' is back, and the Duttons are now embroiled in more political intrigue than they could have ever imagined. Will the show still find enough time to keep up with the ranch, or is it becoming a spiritual successor to 'House of Cards'?
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Yellowstone is back, and it seems like things are going to be a bit tighter this season. With the new political subplots taking up more screen time than in prior episodes, it seems like Yellowstone might be moving more into a political thriller direction and away from its more Western roots.

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With John coming into his role as the governor and control of the ranch largely relegated to the home crew of Carter, Rip, Colby, and Ryan, the show is now mostly focused on the intrigue surrounding our core crew of John, Beth, Jamie, and Lynelle.

John Is Out of His Depth

John, our dependable ranch owner who prides himself on his personal code of honor, is way out of his element in the world of politics. He’s got meetings scheduled with groups he barely knows. He needs to trade favors and grease palms to get anything done in the complicated world of local politics, and he’s having a hard time seeing the small things over his long-term goal of canceling the lease on the airport.

Another plot point develops in the premiere: John’s desire to set up a conservation easement on the Yellowstone ranch to prevent it from being able to be sold. While things are looking up for John as he ascends to political power, the easement discussion reminds audiences that his time in charge of the ranch could end unless he plays things very carefully. 

The new governor even gets his hands dirty when he starts trading favors with a pair of Park County commissioners who he promises will “still have their jobs” in two years. In exchange, they help him shoot down a rezoning request that would have made things harder for Yellowstone. 

Why Does Beth Only Get Two Basic Scenes?

For as refreshing as it is to see John in his new role, one character has been frozen in amber for a while. Beth gets the same two scenes in this premier that we’ve seen her act out dozens of times: she yells at Jamie in his office, and then she simmers in a bar and chews out a guy who hits on her. 

It’s clear that the show loves giving Beth soft targets so she can verbally execute them in front of an audience, but this particular motif is losing its effectiveness this late in the show’s run. Likewise, Beth and Jamie’s dynamic is largely unchanged from earlier seasons, with her unchecked control over him remaining an ongoing plot point that never quite gets resolved. 

Meanwhile, another new hard-nosed character is on the scene: Sarah Atwood, whom Warner has called in to help out the villainous Market Equities firm. Sarah seems to realize that Jamie is a man she can manipulate easily, so she starts in on him. It’s clear he’ll be an easy plaything for Sarah and Beth this season, so it’ll be interesting to see the two clash–and perhaps to see Beth finally meet her match.

Drama at Home

A subplot that will likely boil over into something greater involves Ryan and Colby back on the ranch hunting down a pack of wolves that threatens John’s cattle. In a strange twist, the pair discovers that the wolves were all tagged with GPS trackers and originated from a nearby nature preserve, so hunting them was illegal. 

Rip swoops in and helps them dispose of the evidence, tying the GPS trackers to logs and throwing them in the river. Naturally, that’s not the end of this saga: one of the logs gets caught, and the camera lingers on it with a dramatic musical stab. This will likely haunt the ranch as John’s political influence grows.

Meanwhile, Carter can’t catch a break. He gets a chance to ride John’s horse, but the horse gets wrong-footed and steps into a hole, breaking its leg. Rip has to put the animal down, breaking Carter’s spirit and leaving things on an uneasy note at the ranch. It will be interesting to see how the pull between the governor’s office and ranch impacts John going forward, and season 5 is off to an intriguing start.