Is it ever too late to set things right?
At the beginning of Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 10 John was saying goodbye to his father in a way only someone on the Yellowstone could.
Sitting high atop the mountain, John's father recalled all of those he lost and he loved. The warmth they shared seemed to transcend words, and saying goodbye like he did obviously meant a lot to John.
Senior wanted John to hold onto every last inch of the Yellowstone with all of his might. In doing so, John's life turned about a lot like his father's.
He lost his wife and his son much too early. But this time around, John wasn't going to lose.
My whole life's just a long series of losin' things I love. I'm not gonna lose this one, Rip. Not this one.John
John has come a long way since Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 1 in which he found life again after giving himself a death sentence. He knew then he had a lot of work to do to right the wrongs made because he never saw a future with himself in it.
A lot of damage had been done by that time, and much of Yellowstone Season 2 has dealt with the inevitable fallout of John's once lacksadasical attitute.
But he's still learning and changing.
By the end of this season, John has to be wondering if seeing his family torn to pieces like his immediate family before him was worth holding onto the Yellowstone with such a tenacious grip.
John was rethinking everything in the wake of Tate's disappearance while he prepared for the journey to secure his grandson's rescue.
If John thought his life was over at the end of last season, he was willing to put his life on the line to save Tate at the end of this one.
John: I need you clean of this Beth.
Beth: No one's clean of this.
John: You can't know what we do, honey, and Tate's gotta come home to somethin'. Give me this, please.
It wasn't just his life he was putting on the line, but the lives of everyone he loved and trusted, as well, except for Beth, if only because he had to make sure someone was left standing when Tate returned.
True to the nature of Yellowstone, they set about preparing for battle. Monica previously compared the Yellowstone to the Alamo, and she wasn't far off.
The family wasn't going to get torn asunder fighting to save the land, but they would go down for Tate.
This is going to be the end of us. But we're gonna do it anyway.John
The Beck brothers were on a tear across Montana. We knew Tate wasn't their only target, but that they had begun an all-out offensive against their perceived enemies was bananas.
Tate couldn't have been gone too long by the time their thugs reached Dan Jenkins.
Poor Dan. He didn't even get to take a sip of his wine before he was in the midst of a shootout in his kitchen.
To his credit, he mastered shooting quite well and managed to level his two opponents with just enough time left to reach the front door and get a look at the incredibly blue Montana skies before he discovered he still wasn't alone.
They don't call Montana Big Sky Country for nothin'.
Having lived in Colorado for 20 years of my life, seeing the sweeping vistas shared on Yellowstone give me a twinge of homesickness for the mountains that were once right in my backyard.
It's easy to understand Dan's desire to be a part of that magic, even if he was misguided in the way to do it.
But he went down fighting like a gunslinger as he fought valiantly for the right to be in such a beautiful place.
His family wasn't on his mind as he drifted into death. Nope. And he wasn't even regretting his decision to try to make a play for a little part of Montana. His last words echoed what he told John during Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 9.
I have every right to be here. Every right. I have a right. This is America.Dan
John said then that no one has the right to Montana and it's a right you had to take. Dan made a good run at it, but it got the better of him. I'm gonna miss the old bastard!
For the second time (at least) this season, John had to call on Sheriff Donnie to choose a side.
It wasn't something he was going to go into lightly. It's hard to choose a side when both sides want the same thing and have all the might to drive home their point in the matter.
Donnie's advice to John was to tend to the Becks as if it was all about the cattle so they could control the narrative on the situation no matter the outcome.
Protecting Tate's story from getting out to the public was of the utmost importance, and by making it an official Livestock Association action, Donnie thought they'd have their best chance to come out clean.
The Becks were formidable if foolish foes and too arrogant to estimate their opponents correctly.
It's hard even to remember the root of their cause. From not wanting a casino at the mouth of Yellowstone National Park to demanding a cut of the action if it proceeded, they were all over the map.
But they sure were entertaining. Malcolm's having his trunk checked for a kidnapped child, and his response is to pull the old, "don't you know who I am" attitude with Donnie.
You just called me by my first name. Who the fuck do you think you are? You want to know what I wish for, Donnie? I wish to God that you had children. Now go fuck off.Malcolm
I have to hope that Donnie chose at that moment the right side of the issue. The only side when a child gets kidnapped is on the side of the victimized.
But if the Becks didn't want to talk, the Duttons were getting answers nonetheless.
It seemed impossible to fathom that the Beck brothers were so insane they'd go up against the Duttons like they did, but bullies gonna bully. As we eventually discovered, the answer was quite simple.
Teal: Oh, man. I'm shot to shit.
Kayce: Don't you know about my family? You didn't think we'd fight back?
Teal: No. Nobody ever fights back.
Kayce: Until now.
Teal: No. No, please! Not on a toilet. I don't want to die on a fucking toilet!
Kayce: I promised my wife I'd kill you. All a man has is his word.
Nobody had ever bothered fighting back before.
Losing your life on a toilet has to be one of the most humiliating things ever (just ask Elvis), and even Teal wanted the opportunity to die elsewhere. But we needed some levity, and in spite of itself, that provided it.
Terry Serpico didn't have the opportunity to do a lot with Teal, but he nailed his swan song exit. There have to be a lot of stories to tell about filming that one, and I hope to hear them someday.
While Kayce was out securing the information necessary to locate his son, John was busy finalizing his life plans.
I need to make an amendment to the trust, Beth. Read this, and then do what it asks. I know who loves me. I know who's loyal. I always have.John
The story took an emotional twist when John realized his family was complete only because of the son he had yet to recognize.
Beth had been adamant all season that John see Rip with clearer vision than she believed he'd been. Getting tested yet again forced John to see through a clear lens, and at the end of it was Rip.
The way Beth presented to Rip his inheritance was beautiful.
Rip: I feel kinda silly feedin' animals today. I should be helpin'.
Beth: No matter what we're goin' through, they still gotta eat.
Rip: What's goin' on, Beth?
Beth: Walk with me.
It was a very significant moment for the man she loved, and Beth took a lot of care in sharing it with Rip.
Getting the land was certainly a lovely shout out, but it meant nothing in comparison to the contents of the letter John gave to Beth to amend the trust.
Beth: I'm gonna read to you.
Beth: My great-grandfather had a dream. All of his sons on the same road, the same ranch working toward the same goal. That dream survived a hundred year, until me. With me, it died. I didn't have enough sons. They just kept dying or quitting. And one day, not too long ago, I realized that I have enough sons after all.
Rip: I don't understand, Beth.
Beth: He's sayin' it's yours.
Was there a dry eye in the house?
Cole Hauser has been a rock as Rip, and he's proved that his character has many layers but hiding them has become second nature.
Whether it's the tender and caring way Rip worked with Tate and Lucky, sharing with Beth how he's spent his well-earned salary over the years, or Beth's gallant and daring rescue at the hands of Beck's thugs, we've never lost sight of the fact Rip has a gentle soul begging to be loved.
The inheritance was much greater than a land grant.
John acknowledged that he has everything he could ask for because he allowed Rip into his life, a man who not only sees John as a father figure but who he sees as a son.
Rip: He called me a son.
Beth: Yeah, baby. He sure did.
Whether he mentioned it or not, we've known this. It was evident in the kitchen when John was getting scolded by Beth for his treatment of Rip. John has never faltered in his respect of Rip, but now he finally dared to bring Rip closer into the family circle.
Go get Rip. I can't risk you, son.John [to Kayce]
Still, I couldn't have been the only one who was slightly taken aback knowing that in one breath he was offering Rip a special connection and in the next putting Rip into the line of fire instead of his natural-born son.
Even John's apology came off as kind of odd. He recognized it was a rather momentous occasion, but without the looming potential disaster of it all, he wouldn't have made the amendment.
John: Of all the days to ask this of you, I'm sorry it's today.
Rip: I can't think of a better day for it, sir.
So without one, there wasn't the other. Instead of apologizing, John should have thanked him for always being at his side and added a nice tight, fatherly squeeze to the shoulder.
It all offered quite a dreadful scenario.
In the cover of night, the Livestock agents prepared to go in after Tate, and Rip got one of the biggest challenges riding straight into the mess.
It would have been a soap opera trope to give Rip one of the things he wanted most only to send him to God with the next breath, but it didn't stop me from thinking, even for a split second, that Rip's end was near.
He even got a heroic, shotgun-raised-while-on-horseback-in-the-moonlight moment. But Taylor Sheridan must know what a gem he has created with Rip. Nobody better mess with our Rip.
Did you catch all of the propaganda that floated throughout the finale?
The guy who blew his head off instead of leaking Tate's whereabouts was wearing a right to bear arms militia sweatshirt, and when the agents stormed the little house in White Fish, there was pounding heavy metal music and White Power blazing across the small television set.
Were they tongue-in-cheek messages, or did they have a more significant meaning? Hopefully, somebody will pose the question to Sheridan because I'm intrigued.
Yellowstone isn't exactly the place you'd expect to find such messages, and they threw me off a little bit.
Tate had gone through quite the ordeal in the short amount of time he was gone.
Utterly ravaged by the experience both physically and mentally, he'll have a tough road back to the happy-go-lucky kid who spent five minutes on all the ways he'd care for a horse of his own.
It was never in question whether or not Tate would get rescued. Rescuing is sometimes the easiest part of an ordeal like for that for a child, so hopefully Yellowstone Season 3 spends some time exploring his recovery.
The Duttons are men of their word.
Kayce followed through on his promise to Monica, and John almost followed through on his to the man who was at the center of it all.
John: I'll call for a chopper, get you to a hospital.
Malcolm: I ain't gonna make it to a hospital.
John: Yeah, well, I gave you my word.
Malcolm: I won't hold you to it.
John: You want company or you want to be alone?
Malcolm: Alone. I wi, I wi, I wish we never met.
John: Yeah, I bet you do.
It was an interesting choice for John to approach Malcolm as a man of reason with a desire to go to heaven instead of hell in the midst of the madness, but maybe that's the kind of man John will be going forward.
John, and seemingly his father before him, have always looked at the Yellowstone as a dividing line. Everyone on their side is good while everyone on the other side of the property line is bad.
Rainwater promised that he was on John's side when it came to Tate's fate, but the door was left open for the two men to return to enemies once the coast was clear.
Could we expect a reformed John to view his land as more community in nature after all is said and done?
There is no doubt at all that what they've been fighting for is well worth the effort. If nothing else, keeping the land out of the hands of developers is a worthy cause.
But some of what Sarah said before Jamie killed her could come into play.
She's wrong that no one man should have that much land. On the other hand, it's a shame that so much gets between the Duttons and everyone else who could benefit from the ranch.
It's hardly going to become a dude ranch the likes of what we watch on many a Hallmark Channel romance, but maybe there is some middle ground where with a little more effort, John can have an influence into what happens just outside of his property by allowing access to what's inside.
There is a lot going into the next season.
Beth is almost certain but certainly wishing that the family loses the Yellowstone. We know that the show is renewed for at least another season, and the odds of the Duttons losing it are slim.
That doesn't mean all things will remain equal in light of what's happened. But Donnie's words to John about controlling the narrative will likely work to John's benefit.
John isn't a broken man, but he has a lot more to live for and to be thankful for than he might have once realized. Beth saw her father cry for what was probably the first time in her life.
As much as Beth and Rip have been through, they still aren't at a place where they are willing to give their relationship a chance.
Maybe with as much as they have in common through their painful pasts, there is still a lot that separates them that drives them apart. They'll likely do the same dance many more times before committing to each other, if they ever do.
But seeing Rip genuinely happy was a nice way to end the season. He's done some regrettable things, but he's also been there for John and the family in ways nobody else can surpass.
We don't have enough of a catalog of Yellowstone history yet to know if past mistakes will come back to haunt them, but there are literally quite a few dead bodies strewn about that could create problems if they ever resurfaced.
Where will their close call leave Kayce and Monica?
Monica was spiritually culpable in the Teal's death. She finally knows what it means to be a Dutton and understands their kill or be killed behavior.
That doesn't mean she's going to want to continue to raise her child in that environment or even that Tate will ever feel safe on the ranch ever again.
It might be important to the Yellowstone dynamic that the kids are always at odds with a future on the ranch and what it means to them. Can anyone in a family like the Duttons ever be satisfied?
Just as Kayce and Monica are going to be reevaluating their future, so will Jamie. He could have gotten wiped out of John's will just before he has a child of his own.
We still don't fully understand why Beth has such hatred for Jamie, so that storyline should be on the docket for another season.
It was surprising that the sabotage of the Becks' plane didn't come into play. What kind of press will ultimately get out about the abduction and the death of the Becks?
Avery's absence is still unexplained, and with so many departures from the bunkhouse, we can count on new characters rounding out the roster.
Josh Holloway's Roarke Carter, "a handsome, charming, shaggy-haired hedge fund manager with ambitious plans in Montana," will be among those joining the cast. An enemy?
There is also the death of John's brother to explore. Did we even know he had a brother? I could dig on some more scenes with Josh Lucas or even Kevin Costner sporting a whopping 'stache.
Whatever happened to the Governor? Her story dried up in the middle of the season. Where is Cassidy? Will either of them be on hand to help wipe the Becks' stain away from the Duttons and Montana?
What did you think of the finale? What are your hopes for Season 3? Have your say in the comments, and watch Yellowstone online anytime you need a fix between now and [gulp] next summer.
Thanks for riding with me. It's been a blast!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.