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‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End


Paramount

Yellowstone

Paramount’s “Yellowstone” opened up season 4 with an explosive premiere. This was the first time fans had a new episode since June 2020’s major cliffhanger, and it was well worth the wait.

This episode was the perfect way to kick off the new season. As always, Kevin Costner stole the show as John Dutton. But Kelly Reilly’s portrayal of Beth and Cole Hauser’s portrayal of Rip rivaled Costner and might end up being what most fans talk about in the week to come. We met two out of three of the new main characters joining this season. Finn Little’s portrayal of Carter was perfect and I’m really looking forward to seeing him more in the episodes to come.

This is a review and recap of “Yellowstone” season 4 episodes 1 and 2. This review was written live as the episode aired.


The First 16 Minutes Were Insane

The episode begins right where the season 3 finale left off. John Dutton is lying on the highway, bloodied and beat up as vultures and crows circle. His phone was shot and he has no way to ask for help. He’s not dead, but he’s barely hanging on. A car speeds past, and thankfully it’s Rip!

Meanwhile, Kayce is on the phone with Monica when SHTF and he’s under attack. He responds immediately by firing back and tells Monica to hide in the bunkhouse. But when he steps out of his office, he’s left seeing carnage outside. Rip calls and tells him that a blue two-tone van shot his dad and he’s barely hanging on.

Kayce is not fooling around. He has all of law enforcement at his back as he hunts down this van.

But what about Beth?

She’s alive too. she steps out of her office, beat up and bloody from the explosion, barely lucid. She’s shell-shocked. All around her is carnage, wrecked cars, and destruction. Her body has been shredded by the explosion and she can’t hear a thing. She asks a nearby man, who’s healthy but shaken up, for a smoke and he gladly obliges. A police officer finds her, but she doesn’t even register that he’s there. This scene is shot so beautifully and perfectly. It clearly demonstrates the complete war that’s been waged against them.

But Monica is the one in the greatest danger. Someone has been sent to the bunkhouse to attack her and she fights back with a frenzy. The man almost gets the better of her, but Tate — armed and ready to fight — takes him out before he can shoot and kill his mom. This episode is insane already and we’re only eight minutes in.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

Lloyd arrives and orders Monica and Tate into the bunkhouse, while Kayce speeds off in pursuit of the van that tried to kill his dad. He slams into the van and immediately shoots, not taking any chances. The men fight back, but they don’t really stand a chance. It’s an intense battle though, because the men in this van are extremely well-armed. One man steals a woman’s red car and manages to make a break for it, but Kayce guns him down and kills him before he can escape. But he gets shot in the process.

“Officer down, multiple GSW,” someone shouts as Kayce collapses.

Meanwhile, Rip is rushing to the care flight, trying to get John there in time, yelling at him not to die.

Monica arrives at the bunkhouse to see Mia finding Jimmy passed out, unconscious after the horse knocked him off. They’d waged a battle there too, but won.

When Rip arrives, he sees smoke blazing past the bunkhouse. It’s his home. It’s been burned to the ground. 😭

And with that incredibly powerful first 16 minutes, the intro begins to play. “Yellowstone” has knocked the beginning of the season 4 premiere out of the park. I couldn’t have imagined a better beginning. All the actors were at the top of their game for this one.


The Next Segment Begins with a Flashback & Then a Small Time Jump

While my heart is still racing from the last scenes, we start out the next section with a flashback. I’m glad we have this moment, so I can catch my breath a little. The unnamed Dutton agrees to let the native American and his family bury his dad somewhere where no one will be able to find him. Dutton is accomodating and offers them food for themselves and their horses. They never go back to this scene and it’s unclear how it will play with the rest of the season.

Now we’re back to present-day, and John Dutton is in the hospital alive and well, one month later. Beth has healed up quite a bit herself. She reveals that she was told he would never wake up, so it’s a miracle that he’s alive at all.

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While Beth waits outside the hospital, she runs into Carter (a new character for this season played by Finn Little.) Carter’s waiting outside the hospital because his dad is dying from heroin. The kid can match Beth’s attitude point-for-point, and they seem to bond a little over that. I’m actually loving this exchange between the two of them.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

Beth tells the nurse that she’s a friend of the family, because she’s bonded quickly with this kid and is worried about him. The doctors tell him that his dad is brain-dead and only the machines are keeping him alive. Beth takes control of the situation and is immediately protective of Carter.

This is a heartbreaking scene, but it’s also a beautiful moment for Beth. She’s already protective of Carter and helping him through such an incredibly difficult time. The two actors really have a great screen presence together.

After the next commercial break, we start out the episode in a casino, which is a big shift in tone. This episode masterfully moves among very different scenes and tones, handling the transitions flawlessly.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

The jerk at the casino brags about shooting John. Rainwater’s assistant, Mo, overhears the exchange on a security camera. The man was dishonorably discharged and spent time in prison, Mo tells Rainwater. Rainwater tells Mo that they need to figure out who’s trying to take Dutton’s land, because they’re coming after them next. All this time I assumed it was Roarke’s and Willa’s men, but maybe I was wrong. Rainwater’s men basically torture him to try to get the truth out of him about who he was working for.

Meanwhile, Beth is helping John get ready to leave the hospital for his long-awaited homecoming, but she’s also worried about him. When John asks how the ranch is, Beth just mysteriously tells him that they’ll talk about it when they get there.

As they’re leaving the hospital, they pass by Jimmy, who’s still there. He’s in physical therapy after his horse accident, but he’s alive! And Mia is there right by his side. I’m honestly surprised (but glad) that Jimmy is alive. I kind of figured that if they killed anyone off the show, it might be his character since he’s a little less central to the plot.

When they arrive at the ranch house, the paramedics insist on carrying Dutton’s stretcher all the way up to his room. Of course, John’s not going to follow orders and will insist on doing his own thing, including firing his in-home care nurse.

Beth later tells him that she and Rip moved into the foreman’s house because Rip’s cabin burned down.

“They decided to kill that too,” she tells her dad.

“What else did they decide to kill?” he wants to know. But Beth doesn’t want to tell him anymore. She wants to end the day with a victory. The show never really gets back to what else the militia mysteriously killed, because the rest of the characters we thought had died all managed to survive.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

It’s after this scene that we finally learn that Kayce is alive! He looks like he recovered completely. He tells his dad that they came after all of them, and he was shot too. He looks really subdued compared to when we last saw him, so I’m wondering what they still haven’t told us. But as it turns out later in the episode, Kayce is back to his old self and there really aren’t any other major secrets that the show was holding back.


The First Episode in the Two-Part Opener Comes to an End with Jamie’s First Appearance

Episode 2 bleeds right into Episode 1 with little break, and it begins with the first glimpse of Jamie we’ve had during the entire episode so far. Beth visits him in his office and says she’s waited two months for this moment when she was assured that her dad would survive.

She tells Jamie that she is going to kill him one day. Jamie reminds her that he’s a state official, but she doesn’t care. Her anger toward him and thirst for revenge is pretty much all-consuming. I’m guessing this is because Jamie decided to lease their land last season. He felt it was the best decision for the family, but it brought a lot of anger and he’s no longer really part of the inner fold.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

We finally see the bunkhouse group in the next scene, for the first time since the episode began. John Dutton visits everyone there and acknowledges that working there is tough.

“I’m here to say I’m sorry and I’m here to say thank you,” he tells them. “I’m sorry people came after you to get to me… Sorry you went through that. Now thank you, from the bottom of my heart… Thank you for fighting back.”

He then tells them they won’t have to fight anymore because he’s back and he’ll do the fighting. He has a beer with the group and joins them in a game of poker, building some much-needed camaraderie after everything they’ve been through.

Thankfully, things are still going well for the ultimate power couple, Rip and Beth.

And we also learn that Roarke is still alive too. We haven’t seen him this entire episode until 1 hour and 11 minutes in. Rip shows up to confront Roarke… AND HE HAS A RATTLESNAKE IN A COOLER.

What on earth? Apparently, Roarke had never met Rip before and has no idea who he is. After being bit, Roarke tries to flee but doesn’t get far before collapsing. Rip leaves him for dead while “It’s Plain to See Plainsmen” plays in the background.

And that’s the end of Roarke.


Episode 2 Begins Immediately After Roarke’s Death

Episode 2 begins with John Dutton going for a ride on his horse and Kayce following him, worried about his health. John’s soaking in a “warm bath” at the top of a mountain. He’s not supposed to drive either, but he says that riding a horse is OK.

“One thing I know about life, you stop moving it’s over,” he tells Kayce.

Kayce stays behind to keep an eye on his dad. They wonder aloud about who paid the militia to go after them and conclude it couldn’t have been at Jamie’s behest. Kayce thinks they did it on their own, so John suggests that Kayce make Jamie serve the warrants on the militia to determine whose side he’s really on.

“I’m not asking you anything, I’m telling you I’m gonna kill them,” John says.

I’m not 100% following the gist of their conversation here (and saw online that some other people had the same problem.) But I think John is saying he wants to kill every member of the militia so they can no longer carry out that kind of an attack against his family again.

In the next scene, we see Jamie surveying a property that looks absolutely beautiful with a creek that never freezes in the winter. His biological dad, Garrett, is with him. He’s looking into buying land with cattle and this seems like a good deal.

“It’s time you grew your own shadow son,” Garrett tells him. So Jamie decides to buy the land.

While digging at the airport site (or at least, what I think is the airport site), the construction detail comes across a huge native American burial site that might end up throwing a wrench in all the development plans.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

After the next commercial break, we see another new character for the first time, Caroline Warner, a powerful CEO portrayed by Jackie Weaver. She’s the chair of Market Equities’ board of directors, so is essentially stepping in and taking Roarke’s place.

She’s upset about the relics, which will halt their construction until all artifacts are removed. She’s not connected to the violence against the Duttons, because she talks to her assistant about how the violence surrounding the Duttons is concerning to her.

“From now on we stop stoking their fears and feed their greed,” she says.

Weaver does a good job of portraying this new character, who apparently has a lot of savvy and strength.

She proposes to Rainwater that they’ll fund the build so they can influence what he builds and who it caters to. She says a casino will bring an element “people don’t want,” so she wants him to build a higher-rated casino that caters to all the rich people who will be flying to the resort from around the world. This offer is being made in exchange for him stopping all his efforts to slow the rebuild.

But Rainwater later tells Mo that he believes her offer is too good to be true. Looks like he doesn’t trust her.

In the next scene, we’re at the Dutton Ranch and John references the 825,000 acres of the King Ranch in Texas. He wants to establish a legacy, like how the King Ranch protected themselves. His goal is to make the world know where they are. He’s buying a lot of horses up front because he wants people to associate his ranch with horses, and he’s willing to pay a few million for that. (On a side note, as someone from south Texas originally, I enjoyed how they brought the King Ranch into this conversation, lending the show another note of authenticity.)

“Let me build you a team,” the horse trainer advises. He says he’ll stack huge checks on John’s desk ultimately if he goes all in, and John agrees. Kayce is worried though, because he thinks they can’t afford it.

“We can’t afford not to son,” John replies. “Not anymore.”


Here’s a Quick Look at Beth’s Background with Bob

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

ParamountParamount

In the next scene, Beth meets up with Bob again. They’re wanting to fire her with a severance package that includes a noncompete clause. She tells Bob that she made him a fortune, but he quit on her when her family was in the fight of its life. She tells him he needs to retire before she takes him for everything.

In case you need a recap, Beth’s work with Bob dates all the way back to season 2. Beth had told Bob about her plan to buy land that’s put into a conservation easement to lower property tax. Then the government will pay them not to farm it to control the supply through a CRP. They’ll pay every year, depending on the land, up to $400 an acre. Ultimately the government will pay off their land for them. Beth suggested they start with $100 million investment and funnel the CRP payments into more land payments. They’ll be profitable by the end of Year 2. She told Bob that she was doing this to protect her dad’s ranch and buy up land around it through this scheme. So now Bob is threatening that very land that she helped him acquire.

Bob tells her in this episode that he owns land north of Yellowstone and she “shouldn’t pick a fight with a bigger bear.” But Beth tells him he didn’t read the fine print, he only co-owns the land, and she’s the bigger bear. And honestly, I believe her on that one.

This show isn’t scared to get really detailed with its plotlines, which snake backward not by episodes but by seasons. This issue with Bob has been building for some time.


Carter Returns Near the End of the Episode

Jimmy, meanwhile, is still struggling. But he’s able to be discharged, so that’s good news at least. He’s surprised to learn the Ranch is sending a car for him, and he has a lot of mixed feelings about the whole thing.

Carter, meanwhile, shows up again at the ranch after he told a law enforcement officer that Beth was his guardian. I was wondering how they were going to bring him back to this episode!

When Rip arrives at their house that night, Beth is waiting for him on the porch. She made them dinner and casually tells him that “the kid sure liked it.” She introduces the idea to him all mysteriously, referencing a new kid who “might be our kid.” It’s kind of a funny exchange.

Beth tells him that Carter is exactly who Rip was 20 years ago, and he’s going to have to be the one to kick Carter out. Rip doesn’t seem to have a problem with that, though, and he’s pretty cold to the kid for the next few scenes. The next day, Rip drives him to town but after a spat, ends up leaving him on the road in the middle of nowhere, all alone. But as he sees Carter in his rearview mirror, he starts having second thoughts. (I knew he would!)

“Life doesn’t give people like you chances kid,” he says, adding that asking for one is just a waste of time. Rip tells him to ask him for a job (not a chance), so he does.

He can’t ride or rope, so Rip tells him to run out into the field and bring a plastic bag back to him. He does just that, and Rip tells him that he can stay as long as he doesn’t steal.

It wasn’t exactly a “heartwarming” scene, but I liked how Rip brought the kid under the fold while also making it clear that he will be watching him closely.


The Drama Continues

Rip introduces Carter to John and says he’s going to be a stall cleaner. John says he’s too young to be on the payroll, but Rip explains that he’s “just like me.” And the more John learns about the kid’s background, the more he believes it. It’s kind of touching how much Rip emulates John. He’s just as much a son of John’s as any of his biological children.

‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Recap: From an Insane Start to a Peaceful End

Paramount

Jimmy arrives at the ranch, and John goes out to greet him. He’s not happy that Jimmy broke his word to him and tells him that once he’s useful again, he’s just going to break his word again. So they’re sending him out with Travis where he’ll be taught how to be a real cowboy. I have no idea what any of that means, but Rip makes it sound like it’s going to be unpleasant.

In the next scene, Rip takes a moment with Carter, reminding him to never feel like he “deserves” his chance at Yellowstone ranch. “No one deserves it,” he tells him. I’m guessing that Rip is hoping Carter will avoid some of Jimmy’s mistakes.

The episode nears its conclusion with Rip bringing Carter back to Beth and their home. Beth has made dinner and it looks like she’s really taking to this guardian role. It’s nice to see this other side to Beth and Rip, especially after learning in a previous season that they can’t have kids. With everything that those two have been through, it’s nice to see them making a home for themselves and bringing along someone else who has been suffering too.

At the end of the episode, Carter rushes in to work with the horses and is upset when he finds out that John Dutton beat him to the barn. He and Carter walk outside together, as John struggles to get on his horse.

“You were the first one here,” John tells him. “That was a good sign. You keep it up.”

Carter tells him the trick that Rip taught him about never thinking he deserves anything, and John chuckles.

“If I don’t come back, you send out the search party,” John tells him.

It’s a sweet exchange between the two. I wonder if Carter might be taking over a bit of Tate’s role, since we only saw Tate in a few scenes at the beginning of the premiere.

The episode ends on a quiet note: John Dutton riding away on a peaceful morning.

All in all, this was the perfect way to open the fourth season of “Yellowstone” after a long break. While Kevin Costner as John Dutton stole the show, like he always does, I have to give props to Finn Little’s portrayal of the new character, Carter. It’s tough for a show to successfully introduce a new character, but “Yellowstone” has created a compelling storyline with Carter, Rip, Beth, and John.

READ NEXT: Yellowstone Season 3 Finale Review & Recap


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