Yellowstone episode 5 review: 'Coming Home' is arguably the series' best episode yet
'Coming Home' works towards tying up the loose ends that have built up in the series and gives some much-needed backgrounds into the show's titular characters
Recap of episode 4, 'A Long Black Train'
Episode 4 saw Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) contemplating his guilt over killing his brother-in-law, leading to his bereaved and broke widow to commit suicide and leave four children orphans. Kayce had no choice but to reluctantly send son Tate (Brecken Merill) to father John Dutton's (Kevin Costner) Yellowstone Ranch to shield him from having to see his cousins getting taken away. However, as he grapples with the pros and cons of letting Tate spend more time with his grandfather, law enforcement and Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) have linked the charred remains of the two molesters that he killed to his gun.
Elsewhere, audiences got to live through the day-to-day workings of the Dutton ranch vicariously through Jimmy (Jefferson White) as the former two-bit drug addict who gets thrown head-first into his new role as a cowboy. His determination to not give in— despite his constant protests and grumbling suggests he's not cut out for the life — even when he's beaten down by a fellow ranch worker is oddly inspiring. The beatdown also serves as a means by which director Taylor Sheridan continues to insist on this notion that the sprawling ranch harbors a cult of brotherhood amongst those that are branded; reinforced when Rip (Cole Hauser) comes to Jimmy's aid despite previously giving him hell.
The scenic panoramas of the ranch and the town that had punctuated the first three episodes were equally present in 'A Long Black Train,' and so were Beth Dutton's (Kelly Reilly) continued attempts to destroy and humiliate Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) as per the instructions from her father. Her portrayal as this quick-witted, mean-spirited, hyper-aggressive woman with little background resumed as well, as did the repeated hints at Rip representing her 'weak spot.'
Fred (Luke Peckinpah), the meathead that had attacked Jimmy, was killed off by having a bullet put into his brain because he apparently "knew too much," and the episode closes out with the arrest of Kayce, leaving viewers to wonder how Dutton will work to get his son out of this mess during episode 5.
Review of episode 5, 'Coming Home'
'Coming Home' sees Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) hustling once again, diligently serving as his father's right-hand man when called upon. Previous episodes had indicated Jamie, despite his undying loyalty and obedience, to be John's least-favored child, but still, one who will sacrifice himself for the betterment of the ranch. While most of the characters retain that sense of unpredictability, Jamie remains pleasantly steadfast in his mannerisms. You know that when it comes down to brass tacks, he will override his personal feelings to listen to his father — look no farther than how he gives up on his political ambitions on the instructions from John in previous episodes for proof.
Called into action and tasked with freeing Kayce from police custody, he goes about the job with no fuss and a characteristic panache. Bentley plays the role of the typical cocky lawyer with the greased up hair to perfection, owning the police cabin as he enters it. Utilizing every possible ambiguity and loophole, he pokes holes in the case and turns it on its head to ensure his brother walks out scot-free. "I think we've been worried about the wrong Dutton," Rainwater proclaims after their brief interaction.
The brief cameo in the police station was all the screentime he was given in 'Coming Home,' and 'A Long Black Train' similarly saw him out of the so-called 'big picture.' Central to the drama's first three episodes as he consolidates his power through the casinos and locks horns with John over land and cattle, one notices that he's now been confined to the periphery. Whether this stagnation of his role is a result of Sheridan's attempts to develop one of the umpteen other storylines is something we will only learn about later. One will hope that Rainwater returns to his conniving best sooner rather than later, lest John get a little too comfortable and bore viewers. Family time is great, but it's not nearly as entertaining as blatant power grabs, petty squabbles, and political maneuvering.
The way Sheridan has decided to tell the story, as he almost always does, is to proceed ahead with full steam, hoping that viewers will catch up and connect the dots. It's a risky formula that's worked for him with 'Sicario' and 'Hell or High Water,' but seems to be falling short with 'Yellowstone.' It's not too surprising because, as a TV show, the longer one leaves these loose ends up, the more frustrating it becomes to watch, while in a feature, one knows all the answers lie at most 1.5-hours away. However, 'Coming Home' looked to answer some of these looming questions, the most primary of which were the reasons for the estrangement between John and Kayce, and Beth's personality.
The former was the crux of the episode, with Kayce forcefully turning down his father's request to move into the ranch and an innocent remark from Tate on how their living conditions 'sucked' compared to the ranch leading to an uncharacteristic outburst. Injected into this father-son dynamic was Kayce's wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille). We were treated to further glimpses of John's itch to want control over every aspect of his family's life when he wields his influence to try to get his daughter-in-law on his side through a possible job opportunity. But, to his exasperation, she proves to be just as stubborn as his son.
'Coming Home' takes to addressing Kayce's dislike towards his father, a notion that was uncertain at best from their previous interactions. It's a step in the right direction, and the exact reason for this dislike is one that should be elaborated on further and put to rest for good in, hopefully, the immediately following episode.
We also get an explanation for why Beth is the way she is. As she drunkenly stumbles out of a bar and begrudgingly calls Jamie for help, we see a side of her that we've never seen before: weakness. As she threatens to off herself by putting the barrel of a gun up against her chin, much to Jamie's initial amusement, she discloses how she has to live every day with the memory of her own mother telling her with her last breath that she was responsible for her death. Given the context, it's understandable how a heavy statement like that can weigh on someone their entire lives and turn them hollow and bitter inside.
The title of 'Coming Home' is quite apt. It doesn't allude to just one aspect of the episode, but quite a few — Kayce's release from incarceration and return to the Yellowstone ranch, Jamie's return to the fold after a brief hiatus, Beth 'coming home' and tussling with her haunted past, and even new cowboy Walker (Ryan Bingham) embracing his new home and 'gaining tenure' after he agrees to be branded with the sacred Y. While a decidedly irrelevant detail, it's fascinating that so much thought goes into something that most gloss over without a second look.
While it lacked the stunning visuals from episodes past, this was arguably the best of the season so far. Sheridan makes up for the lack of clarity and direction from the first four in one fell swoop, making one finally feel for the character by detailing their backgrounds and giving them a base in reality. Hopefully, the trend continues.
Preview of episode 6, 'The Remembering':
A teaser for 'The Remembering' shows John at loggerheads with Kayce once again, and Dan Jenkins in negotiations to team up with Rainwater to take down Yellowstone ranch. A possible confrontation between Kayce and Rip seem to be in the works as well.