'Yellowstone' episode 6 review: 'The Remembering' marks show's riveting return to its roots
'Yellowstone' is gradually beginning to improve, with 'The Remembering' an improvement on previous attempts, but still not quite up to the mark.
Last episode 'Coming Home' was the series' best till date, providing some much-needed background into the characters we had loved to hate over the season, though it wasn't without its faults either. Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) makes a welcome return to the fold as his father's ever-present and dependable right-hand man, called into action to bail his brother, Kayce (Luke Grimes), out of trouble.
Kayce found himself in custody after law enforcement managed to trace the bullets he had used to kill two assailants back to him. But in typical lawyer fashion, Jamie warps, contorts, and bends the law just enough to tip the scales in his favor, leading Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) to proclaim that they'd been worried about the wrong Dutton. The episode was, for all intents and purposes, a sneak peek into his political ambitions and ploy to run for Attorney General to further his family's influence within the governing political bodies in the state.
Audiences also get a look behind the fractured relationship between him and sister Beth (Kelly Reilly), as well as a genuine reason behind her emasculating personality. In a drunken stupor, she reveals to Jamie how he will never know loss the same way she does because neither did he have to look into the eyes of their mother as she breathed her last, nor did their father personally blame him for the death. We see a soft side to her that she had, so far, expertly hidden, and hurt that would have eroded lesser persons. Jamie once again comes to the fore here, offering an empathetic ear and selflessly offering himself up as a target to whatever pent-up emotions had coiled up within her over the years.
Rainwater, purportedly the series' primary antagonist and who featured heavily in the first three episodes, had been consigned into an insignificant, brief cameo in the police station. A preview for 'The Remembering,' however, teased a return to the center stage. The show also welcomed a new cowboy in Walker (Ryan Bingham), walking us through the branding and brotherhood process once again as he submits himself to the hot iron. What seemed at the time like an irrelevant detail would later prove consequential to episode 6.
Episode 6: 'The Remembering'
Creator Taylor Sheridan has a unique style of storytelling that's apparent from his work in 'Sicario' and 'Hell or High Water.' It's breathlessly paced and non-linear, shuttling full-steam ahead knowing that the audience will inevitably catch up at some point. It's a formula that works well with features that run for 120 or 150-odd minutes but often fails to translate onto the small screen the same way. A season of a television drama is spread out over 8-10 hours, with each episode spaced a week apart, meaning there's a good chance that 'suspense' factor is instead now one that builds frustration. 'Yellowstone' had a few too many storylines for its own good, making it feel as though it lacked a proper direction, though Sheridan did well to rectify some of those loose ends in 'Coming Home.' With 'The Remembering,' he closes out a few more, choosing to focus on two fathers: John (Kevin Costner) and Kayce.
The tension between John and Kayce had been palpable over the previous five episodes, and though Sheridan had hinted at possibilities, he had stopped short of elaborating any further. As it turns out, the branding on Kayce's chest was the clue to unlocking the mystery. What little we saw of John's personality around his children painted the picture of a strict disciplinarian who did not take no for an answer, and Kayce was apparently one who had taken a liking to the word. When asked by Monica (Kelsey Asbille) why her husband hated him, the senior Dutton enthuses it was because he had disobeyed him and impregnated a girl he barely knew: Monica. The branding on the chest had followed, with John even admitting he had seen to it personally and that it went on those who he felt deserved a second chance.
A scene that took all of five minutes, it now painted swathes of the show, as well as Kayce, in a much more poignant light. Having previously appeared to be a character who, despite being well-meaning, was furiously indecisive and morally compromised, he was suddenly now a caring father who didn't want to subject Tate (Brecken Merill) to the same upbringing he had to live through; and no, we don't feel he's being selfish by keeping him from that privileged lifestyle. Their contrast in parenting styles is a product of Kayce's tendency to overcorrect, with his father-in-law elegantly laying it out the rationality later in the episode. The much-needed dimension to his personality should serve 'Yellowstone' well, especially with how the episode almost tragically closed out.
But there was one altercation that stood out like a sore thumb. As Kayce stands down a large brown bear, possibly praying for divine intervention, Rip (Cole Hauser) comes to the rescue. A brief exchange of words later, they're both taking fists to one another. A hostility that's never been alluded to before, the confrontation is quite a bolt from the blue, with Rip viciously suggesting to Kayce that he was "tired of covering up all of your secrets." It's an interesting angle to be sure, but one that's unlikely to be visited again, which is disappointing. What did emerge from the melee, however, was Rip standing tall, literally and metaphorically. Portrayed as John's most fierce and trusted rancher, the cowboy is proving to be a surprise package in the show with his grizzled beard, machismo persona, and never-stand-down attitude.
There's also a return to the show's roots, with Sheridan diving further into Jamie's ambitions to become Attorney General. Jamie's and Beth's visit to the lavish Montana Capitol throws up the episode's best segment with courtesy to Wendy Moniz's Governor Lynelle Perry. As she plots out the best route for Jamie to take office, discussing possible endorsements and how he will have to embrace a non-partisan approach, Beth, unapologetically herself, interrupts to make a crude joke alluding to her brother's new pretty assistant. A scathing, venom-laced monologue from Perry that follows sees Beth cowed for the first time in the series, though just for a brief moment. She's back to her aggressive best a few seconds later, threatening that she "ruins careers for a living" and calling Perry's son a "p****."
Perry's brief moment in the sun aside, Sheridan once again resorts to pigeonholing Beth into her facade of bravado, which despite Reilly's acting and the tragic backstory, is still getting increasingly tiresome. He steers viewers towards her difficult relationship with John immediately after, but that's merely a band-aid that he's trying to slap on a gashing, gaping wound. If that character is to be of any use to the series, there has to be further added layers to her. Currently, she's not even doing the job she's been brought in for, which is to destroy her father's enemies.
Accompanying the political squabbling is also the return of Rainwater, who by the look of things, will prove vital to the progress of the story. After the initial whirlwind of an introduction to the Dutton ranch and the enemies who seek to down it, the series had stalled in its tracks, with little to nothing building on those first attempts to unseat John from his lofty standing. Rainwater makes his comeback to ally himself with Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston), plotting his way into getting one over his cross-town rival through Jenkins' failing real estate venture. In doing so, Sheridan provides a welcome reminder of the war for development that is raging across the country right now, pitting traditionalists in the audience against those who espouse a changing world.
One does notice that, because the show has very little going on at any given time, there's often these random spurts of violence to spice things up. This episode, in fact, has two such incidences — Kayce's fight with Rip, and the fight in the schoolyard in which Monica gets caught up — and both seem so random that you can't help but wonder why Sheridan even chose to include them. Neither do they offer aesthetic value and nor have they featured as a part of a noteworthy subplot.
The flaws in 'The Remembering' are ones that have been prevalent throughout, but the episode is still a marked improvement on previous ones. Change beckons, and has for quite some time. But the question is, will Sheridan stick, or will he twist?
Preview of episode 7, 'A Monster Is Among Us'
'A Monster Is Among Us' is set to premiere on August 8 and will see Kayce deal with the aftermath of his wife's sudden collapse following her head injury, as well as Rainwater's scheming to outmaneuver Dutton in the fight for land and pride.