‘Yellowstone’ Season 5 Premiere Brings Devastating Loss to Dutton Family [Spoilers Alert]
Yellowstone Season 5 is here, and it's an emotional gut punch for fans who have been so heavily invested in the future of the Dutton family.
As fan speculation had feverishly predicted in the runup to the Season 5 premiere on Sunday night (Nov. 13), Monica Dutton (Kelsey Asbille) loses her baby in the season opener, setting the stage for another very dramatic story arc for her, Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) and Tate Dutton (Brecken Merrill) in Yellowstone Season 5.
The premiere begins in a flash-forward from the end of Season 4, with John Dutton (Kevin Costner) elected governor. Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) is in rare tears of joy, while Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) — whose own personal ambitions seemed destined to be forever thwarted by his family's needs — is brooding over what that probably means for him as the season opens.
But he's not the only one who's unhappy. Despite his decision to run, John Dutton is such a reluctant participant in the process that it seems, for a brief moment, like he might refuse to take his oath of office before he's finally sworn in.
He makes it immediately clear to Beth and Jamie, who is now Montana's Attorney General, that every decision he makes as governor and everything they do collectively moving forward is not going to be about the good of Montana, it's going to be about what's best for the interests of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch.
Beth and Jamie's terrible relationship is even worse than ever before as Season 5 opens, with Beth missing no opportunity to remind Jamie that with the blackmail material she has on him for the murder of his biological father, he belongs to her completely now. As bad a person as Jamie can be at times, one still almost has to feel sorry for him as his humiliation deepens.
Beth is showing growth in other areas of her life, however. A flashback early in Episode 1 gives fans more insight into her early relationship with Rip (Cole Hauser), as their younger selves go on an ill-fated date that shows her playing the kind of emotional cat-and-mouse games that also characterized long stretches of their adulthood. It turns out to be a dream memory, and Beth tearfully offers her husband a blanket apology for everything she's ever done, with him assuring her that he doesn't regret anything that led to them being where they are now.
Episode 1 also gives Yellowstone viewers their first look at Lainey Wilson in her new role as Abby, a musician who may develop into a real friend for Beth later on.
The end of Episode 1 comes out of the clear blue, as we see Monica for the first time, immensely pregnant and calling Kayce in distress as their baby is coming early. He agrees to meet her at the hospital, and she and Tate set out, but she's in too much distress, and after a most unexpected obstacle in the road, we hear the sound of a terrible car crash before the scene cuts to Tate in a hospital waiting room, his arm in a sling as John Dutton walks arrives.
"I had a brother," Tate says in an anguished voice before delivering the hardest emotional blow of them all:
"They named him John."
The second episode of the Yellowstone Season 5 premiere flashes back partly to the horrifying aftermath of the car crash, with Tate suddenly thrust into adulthood as he's having to try to make the decisions that might make or break the outcome. It's a scene that sets the tone for large parts of Episode 2, which features particularly fine performances from Asbille, Grimes and Merrill as a desperately grieving family. Asbille is putting together the best-crafted and most nuanced performance we've seen from her so far across the seasons of Yellowstone, but the real revelation here is Brecken Merrill, who is making the transition from child actor with a few lines to young adult actor who can carry an equal role right in front of our eyes in the opening episodes of Season 5.
Episode 2 features John Dutton at his most bullheaded, stubbornly making decisions regarding public policy in Montana that openly favor his own interests in a way that threatens to court political and legal disaster, and disregarding all counsel to the contrary.
Episode 2 also introduces the new character of Sarah Atwood (Dawn Olivieri), who arrives as Market Equities are trying to decide what to do next after Governor Dutton cancels their leases and pulls their funding despite Jamie pointing out the unintended legal consequences of those moves, which could cause the Duttons to lose their land instead of preserving it. In a surprising scene, John tells Beth that he intends to undercut Market Equities' position by placing the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch into a conservation easement, which will essentially nullify anyone's ability to exploit its resources — including the Duttons themselves. It's the first hint we've ever seen that John may value the land itself more than the family keeping possession of it, and one wonders what it means for the rest of the season.
We also see a little bit more of a mentor relationship begin to form between Rip and Carter (Finn Little), when Rip unexpectedly asks him to ride along with the men on their daily tasks. But don't expect them to suddenly hug it out ... Rip isn't exactly easy on him, and the day goes badly wrong after an accident that leaves nobody happy.
Episode 2 doesn't tell us what Kayce's Vision Quest meant at the end of Season 4, but it reveals what it did not mean. When Monica asks Kayce if their loss is what "I saw the end of us" meant, he tells her that "the end of us" is a choice, and that's a choice he would never make.
Elsewhere in the Yellowstone Season 5 premiere, we see an interesting battle royale forming between Market Equities head Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver) and her new enforcer Atwood, Beth and Angela Blue Thunder (Q'orianka Kilcher), who returns to advise Chairman Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) as the Broken Rock Reservation's interests are also threatened by John Dutton's new public policy orders.
But that's not the only trouble brewing, of course. As Episode 2 closes, the Bunkhouse Boys inadvertently create a potential PR firestorm for the new governor after shooting some wolves who've been attacking the Yellowstone's cattle. They turn out to be collared and protected wolves from the national park, and when Rip tries to cover the mess up, it looks like one small detail could unravel the whole thing — which surely won't help the new governor one bit.
The two-episode Yellowstone Season 5 premiere covers a lot of ground, but it also leaves a lot of unanswered questions, as well as posing new ones. What does Kayce's Vision Quest mean? Can Monica ever come back from her loss? Will Rip and Beth step up as real parental figures for Carter? What does Jamie's simmering rage mean for the rest of the family? Can John Dutton possibly not end up in prison if he uses his office for personal gain?
Those are just some of the questions surrounding Yellowstone Season 5, which airs Sunday nights on Paramount Network. The season will consist of 14 episodes that will air in two arcs of seven episodes each.
As part of Taste of Country's comprehensive coverage of all things Yellowstone, check out our Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.