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What it’s like to watch Yellowstone for the first time

Rip is the best. All hail Rip.

Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, and Kevin Costner on 'Yellowstone'
Yellowstone Season 5 premieres Sunday, November 13 on Paramount Network

Warning: This post contains spoilers from the first four seasons of Yellowstone.

There was a moment when I knew I was a goner. I’d watched the first two seasons of Yellowstone in a matter of days, and I was enjoying it fine, but then, toward the end of season 2, I watched as Rip (Cole Hauser) got John’s (Kevin Costner) letter — fans know the one I’m talking about — and then, moments later, he offered to march into battle on his own and draw enemy fire. In a panic, I paused the television and called my brother, who lives on the East Coast and was trying to going to bed. (Sorry, Jacob.) I forced him to tell me if Rip was about to die, because I REFUSED to watch that happen to the show’s best character. And that’s when I accepted my fate: I was hooked on Yellowstone.

If I’m being honest, I really didn’t want to like Yellowstone. I remember, years ago, hearing about a scripted western on Paramount Network and having absolutely no interest. Then, as time went on and its popularity grew, I would roll my eyes and joke about the kind of crap people watched on television. And when the show really blew up, I fully turned my back. Often, when something gets really popular, I want to watch it less. It’s probably a stupid way to go through life, but I just feel like if there are already enough people watching it, it doesn’t need me! And the real kiss of death? My father told me to watch it. I love my dad, but he’s also been telling me to watch The Blacklist for years.

So, I had written Yellowstone off. Until recently, when I started a couple of new binges that struggled to keep my attention. I wasn’t finding a show that I wanted to stay up until 2 a.m. watching because I just had to see the next episode. After multiple failed binges, I was desperate. I put on the Yellowstone pilot. And man, what a journey that has been.

For those of you who don’t know, Yellowstone follows the Dutton family. They own the largest ranch in Montana, the Yellowstone, and they fight a lot of people to keep it that way. Like, a lot of people.

First things first, I cannot believe how this show starts. In the first 30 seconds you watch Kevin Costner shoot an injured horse. In the first 30 seconds! It’s a bold choice, and it’s one I will always hate. That was not a way to pull me into the story. However, the way to pull me in came about half an hour later when Kayce (Luke Grimes) brought his son to the Yellowstone and had a brother bonding session with Lee (Dave Annable) and Jamie (Wes Bentley). We love brothers! We love bonding! That scene rooted everything else that happened in that pilot, particularly how it was all going to end.

It was that familial element of the show that made me keep watching. Now, I obviously can’t touch on everything that happens in the show, so here are some notes I took in my phone while watching. Good luck following these.

Beth (Kelly Reilly) is either the best or … intolerable?
I like Rip.
This isn’t not Dynasty.
Wow they kill a lot of people.
Cowboy bunkhouse scenes are the best.
These cowboys are also ninjas?

This brings me to my real journey with this show: Falling for Rip, the greatest character that no one deserves. Heading into this show, my biggest Cole Hauser memory was from 2 Fast 2 Furious, in which he was great, but he was great at being the villain, so I was trained to hate him. And Rip starts off on Yellowstone in a similar fashion — he’s running around branding people and killing people on behalf of John. He doesn’t immediately come across as a good guy!

Cole Hauser and Kevin Costner on 'Yellowstone'
Cole Hauser and Kevin Costner on ‘Yellowstone’

But as they dig into his story and you realize that he’s the most loyal of all the loyal cowboys, it’s impossible not to love him. If you’re in trouble, you want Rip on your side. Period. He would never, ever betray John, which is more than I can say about literally anyone else. He’s also just cool.

I came into the show assuming that John Dutton would be the heart of it, but I was wrong. Rip is the heart of Yellowstone. He keeps that ranch running, and that character keeps the show running. His romance with Beth is the thing that grounds what would otherwise be a far too over-the-top character. And his friendship with Lloyd (Forrie J. Smith)?! I would watch that all day, every day.

Rip is the reason I watched all four seasons of this show in a week and now find myself rewatching specific moments of his. But that’s not to say I didn’t have thoughts on other characters. Get ready for some more notes from my phone!

This family is terrible to Jamie.
Jimmy (Jefferson White) just had sex with a broken back in a hospital bed?!
Is Ryan (Ian Bohen) my second favorite character?
Jamie sure bonded with his Remember the Titans father real quick.
“I’d rather kill 1,000 men than shoot another horse.” I STAN RIP.
Tim Riggins would NEVER!!! (I know it’s Terrell Riggins, but come on.)
Wow they kill a lot of people.
Welp, my feelings toward Jamie are COMPLICATED.
Four seasons of Beth ruining meals and all it took was Rip suggesting a different table. This man fixes everything.
Kayce told John he’d be gone for a few days and he just … bought a house?!

Going into this show, based on what everyone told me, I thought I’d fall for Luke Grimes and just get excited about watching hot men do cowboy stuff, and that’s part of it! But more than that, I fell for the characters, and then I stayed for the unbeatable combination of the wish fulfillment of a beautiful ranch life and the batsh– crazy twists that come along with it. I’m not saying this is the best show on television, but I’m saying I get it. It’s a heck of a lot of fun. The story constantly keeps things moving, and it’s full of the kind of shocking twists you want from a binge. The kind that will keep you up watching until 2 a.m.

Ian Bohen, Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, and Kevin Costner on 'Yellowstone'
Ian Bohen, Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, and Kevin Costner on ‘Yellowstone’

But its real achievement is that the cowboy bunkhouse scenes are just as much fun to watch as the huge shootouts. At the end of the day, the show works because the characters work and because the world feels real. (At least until the cowboys are all somehow SWAT-trained professionals, but whatever, I love it!)

All in all, I’ll say seasons 2 and 3 are my favorite so far. Weirdly, as much as I cackle at how insane this show can get, I prefer it that way? Season 4 obviously started off with a bang, but I missed some of the craziness in the back half of it all.

Source EW


WATCH: Beth Dutton being an absolute badass for 3.5 min

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