I so-o wanted to like the Yellowstone TV series. Great premise about a modern day rancher fighting all the pressures around him. Well, the rancher, played woodenly by Kevin Costner, ends up being richer than Croseus and an absolute shit, to boot. It’s hard to feel sorry for a greedy land baron owning a sizeable chunk of Montana, and I spit out my ice cream when he actually had the balls to call the Native American chairman who stole some of his cattle a thief. Psst – remember? Your venerated ancestors stole this land from his venerated ancestors who were here first?
Said rancher has three sons and a daughter. Spoiler alert – one son dies early on and seems like a decent enough guy, but we never get to know. The second son, the ranch lawyer, is a Daddy’s boy and as slimy as one would expect for a TV lawyer. The daughter is damaged goods and rather than trying to rectify her life she wallows in her “Mommy didn’t love me” victimhood. The youngest son is trying to be a nice guy, in between murdering people. He’s the only character who’s at all sympathetic but even in just the four shows I watched he just keeps making abysmal choices.
Excepting him, there is not one character who isn’t all about me-me-me. Ostensibly the patriarchal (in the worst connotations of the word) rancher and his spawn are saving the ranch for their family. Ostensibly the tribal chairman and his henchmen are trying to reclaim it for their people. Let’s not even get into the creepy land developer who almost seems nice in comparison. There isn’t a redeeming character in the whole show and after cringing through four episodes my wife said, “I don’t like any of these people. Why are we spending time with them?”
We’re not. I wish this had been a show about a small rancher trying to survive against modern-day odds – that may have truly invoked sympathy. But it’s hard to feel sorry for a cowboy who runs around in his own helicopter blowing up rivers and siccing his hitman on people who stand in his way. What made me even sadder is that so many people I know and love really dig this show. And that hurts because I think “Yellowstone” is a reflection of where we are as a society. Everyone in the show is concerned with their individual rights and justice, not societal justice. The characters only care about their tribes and what their tribes want. Everyone else is expendable, literally — I’ve already lost count of the bodies piling up. In “Yellowstone” as in modern culture, problems are solved with guns and explosives, rather than dialogue, compassion and a willingness to compromise. It is a troubling show because it is sad, soulless, and superficial. And I fear that may be where we are as a nation.