Yellowstone’ Season 1 Is Still The Show’S Best


The possibilities were as beautiful and endless as the land they lived on. Yellowstone Season 1 exploded onto the scene when it premiered on the Paramount Network in June 2018, and television has not been the same since. It was not only the TV show of the summer, it was the TV show of the year, as people across America fell in love with the Dutton family. We finally had a new dynasty with a new family that entered our television screens every Sunday night, and we rooted for them every step of the way. Season 1 was a callback to the golden age of television in a time of streaming where hundreds of shows made it nearly impossible for everyone to watch the same thing. The first installment offered hope, heartbreak, and hardship on the Yellowstone Ranch, and as the series progressed, it served as a kind of escapism, especially during the pandemic.

Part of what makes Season 1 so great is watching the birth of the complex characters within the Dutton family, so masterfully crafted by series creator, writer, and producer Taylor Sheridan. In the years since, he has begun to build an empire built upon the Yellowstone Ranch, and the various spin-offs have offered up more glory and praise, but at the price of the original gem. With just a few episodes left in the series, Yellowstone has dwindled down to become a soap opera set in beautiful spaces. But there is no denying Season 1 was its greatest, and Sheridan hasn’t written a greater season of Yellowstone since.

Taylor Sheridan Does His Best Writing in ‘Yellowstone’ Season 1

In the past 10 years, Sheridan has established himself as the King of the Western. Originally an actor in series such as Sons of Anarchy, he then transitioned to writing. Picking up a pen to write his first story, he’s never stopped since. His first big breakout film was the neo-Western crime drama Hell or High Water. Starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, he received Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture, along with the film receiving various other nominations as well. Sheridan’s follow-up neo-western,Wind River, also received critical acclaim, and there was no doubt after its success that he was not only here to stay, but introducing a Western renaissance in film. Then, Sheridan made the move that would change television in the years to come when he began Yellowstone, and its instant success and acclaim led to several other Westerns debuting on television.

Sheridan’s writing throughout Season 1 is relentless, powerful, and fearless. As we meet every single Dutton in the pilot episode, he is not afraid to make the Duttons unlikeable and difficult to swallow. He understands that audiences like to be challenged, and disregards the facade of the American dream despite the Dutton family’s picture-perfect presentation to the public. The cast, chief among them Kevin Costner, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, and Gil Birmingham, brings Sheridan’s dialogue to life effortlessly, and it’s clear the actors love what they do. Sheridan writes Costner his best role in years, reintroducing him to the public as the beloved cowboy they once knew.

But no Yellowstone character had as great an introduction as Beth Dutton in Season 1. Reilly served as the season’s breakout star, and her complex performance of a woman still grieving her mother’s death and becoming her father’s fiercest warrior was a revelation despite detesting life on the ranch. Sheridan supplied Reilly with endless monologues full of profound meaning and a lot of swears that never ceased to pack a punch. In the seasons since, however, Beth has unfortunately become a gimmick of the fierce woman she once was. The various other characters have started to become caricatures as well, with Wes Bentley’s Jamie Dutton being the most glaring. As Sheridan works on his other spin-off series, he’s letting his characters go, and doing the complex Season 1 characters he worked so hard to build a disservice.


‘Yellowstone’ Season 1 Would Be A Great Limited Series

Sheridan has clearly come to love the Yellowstone universe he has created, and sometimes the hardest thing to do is to say goodbye. Though he’s moved on to bigger, greater projects, he seems to have trouble saying goodbye to Yellowstone even as it’s lost some of its quality that the earlier seasons possessed, which makes it all the easier to fantasize about it as a limited series.

Yellowstone Season 1 is a masterclass in pacing, character development, and acting, and it is the crowning achievement within the long-spanning five seasons of Taylor Sheridan’s creation. It’s a Western epic about revenge with a Shakespearean family at its core, searching for meaning in a brutal landscape where meaning is often never found. The pilot episode is a sprawling, movie-like introduction clocking in at a whopping hour and thirty minutes, and Yellowstone makes it clear right away it is not like any other western on TV. Each Yellowstone character feels like a fresh invention, the villains have yet to turn into flimsy construed mimics, and each Dutton member still offers unpredictability at every turn.

In the seasons since, Sheridan has developed a wandering eye as he’s focused on spin-off series, and the series has begun to wander itself as a result. But there’s no denying that Yellowstone Season 1 could have made for an excellent limited series, if not one of the greatest of all time. As Costner’s John Dutton leads his family on a path toward salvation after the murder of his firstborn son, Lee, the stakes were never higher. Humanity is at the core of Season 1, with themes of good versus evil as well as the battle for land and property.

With its hard truths about America, and disregard for the stereotypes the Western has enforced upon its characters for decades, such as damsels in distress and toxic, ruthless cowboys with no softness, Season 1 of Yellowstone is nearly perfect. The biggest revelations were quiet and understated, and the series had not yet become an at times empty hour of entertainment where men and women fight with no real substance behind their words or actions. Sheridan clearly had something to say about the soul of America, and our treatment of nature, and it made for profound lessons each episode. As Season 5 marks the end of the Dutton family and a potential new beginning, it’s nice to return to that first installment and see where everything began.

Too much of a good thing won’t be good for long. Lots of television find that out the hard way, and oftentimes the beginning is stronger than the end. It’s easy to wonder what Yellowstone’s impact would have had if it had just been a one-season wonder about greed, the death of the American dream, and a family drama with gut-wrenching consequences, but it was not to be. Still, it’s always worth revisiting Season 1 to be reminded why the series became the most-watched series on network television as it examines broken dreams within a broken system, and all the heroes on a dying ranch trying to find a journey towards peace.