The Duttons have been getting away with murder for generations.
It seems like their under-the-radar status is about to take a hit with John's new role as the governor of Montana.
If it was east coast tactics that spelled his competitor's downfall, it could be the Dutton's myopic, ranch-driven interests that sink them.
Most of us are our own worst enemies, but we don't have the country's largest independently-owned ranch to protect.
So far, John's rules have worked just fine on his land, but now that he can count the state of Montana as land under his jurisdiction, it's going to be a little trickier getting things done Dutton-style.
Lynelle: You need to change laws if you want them to never come back. To change laws, you need favors.
John: You should have never let them in, Lynelle.
Lynelle: I didn't grant them the lease, John. Jamie did, and he was really wise to do so. The land board is made up of five offices -- the governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the auditor, and the public interests superintendent. Now, who do you think funded the campaigns for the other three? If it had gone before the land committee, the state would own your land. That's their next move when you cancel their lease, by the way. You could be a really good leader, John, but you're a shitty polician because you won't play the game. But if you don't play the game, the game plays you. I'm here for another month. Use me.
John: That's a refreshing thought.
Lynelle: That's not what I meant.
During Yellowstone Season 5 Episode 1, at Lynelle's suggestion, John wastes no time bolstering his team with those he loves and trusts. Beth was always going to be his right-hand man, and Jamie came with the job.
It's interesting seeing this toe-to-toe between Beth and Jamie because, for the first time, Beth is a little out of her element.
As Lynelle said, you have to work within the sandbox of the job. You can't run ram shod over others, even if they have opposing interests. The Duttons have used that method of compromise for the longest time -- there is no compromise; there's only the Dutton way.
Your political career was over the moment you chose your father over mine. You're in my prison now, and if you ever forget it, I'll put you in a real one.Beth
Even though Beth holds Jamie's life in her hands, he knows how to manipulate the system to their advantage. They've molded him in that vein, and he's ready to take on the responsibility.
Like it or not, the Dutton family is the only family Jamie has left other than Christina and the baby, and as long as John is on his side, he'll maintain a stake in what happens to the ranch.
It would be stupid for him to scuttle it to get back at Beth, but Jamie's not known for his excellent decision-making. Perhaps the fear of Beth will keep him on point.
Jamie is the weak link, though, and Market Equities immediately honed in on his demeanor.
They're going to make it very difficult for Jamie to resist whatever they have planned. If they're as good at digging up dirt as they likely need to be in their line of work, then Jamie's other family will soon be making his life even more miserable.
During Yellowstone press day, I tried asking Wes Bentley and Cole Hauser about that elephant in the room, but both refused to answer. Their lack of words could say more than they intended, or it could be a ruse.
But since the story is picking up a year and a half after Yellowstone Season 4, and the shit doesn't seem to have hit the fan yet, I'd not count out Market Equities using Jamie's family to drive the ultimate wedge between them, effectively upending John's plans as governor.
After a year of marriage, Beth still has nightmares of how she treated the man she loves.
You need to find somebody else to fight, or you're going to sit around the house and beat the shit out of yourself.Rip
Kids do awful things, and it's where they are now that counts, but as long as she harbors that intense grief, she's walking a very thin line, and it would be very easy to upset whatever progress she and Jamie work out to support their father.
With as much as the family has going on from the government perspective, things on the ranch impose a more relevant threat.
Rip has his hands full running the ranch in John's absence. Thankfully, the bunkhouse is finally in order without silly relationship drama kicking up dust, but that doesn't mean it's clear sailing.
The season's theme is grand and notes how the government makes a mess of things because they don't consider the needs of the people before its own. Anyone who thinks the government works for the people should heed what they're seeing here.
Like John and the Yellowstone, the government looks out for its own interests first. Self-perpetuation is their driving force -- remaining in power and pushing their agendas, local people be damned.
That's why Lynelle thinks John can move mountains in his position if he'll just play the game, ugly as it is. If his goal once in office isn't singularly focused on his reelection, he'll have the freedom to make bold moves.
The government makes them all the time.
On Yellowstone Season 5 Episode 2, we welcomed back young John Dutton at a time the government was actively poisoning fresh water because they were too cheap to clear land in an environmentally friendly way. Pesticides deemed "safe" by the FDA killed wildlife and John's stock.
When he discovered what was going on, he didn't bother to go direct to the source to clear things up because governmental red tape and bureaucracy ensure nothing ever gets done, especially not in time to save lives.
I'm always a fan of forcing a little of what ails us onto the perpetrator. The man in charge of the project isn't high enough to make a difference, but he sure was eager to assume that his government backing would save him from any real trouble.
Well, he got the surprise of his life, which was likely enough for the government to change tactics. So, it was a brutal direction to address the issue, but it got the job done.
Currently, another bit of government meddling is killing cattle on the Yellowstone. It seemed like a relatively innocuous request by Rip to kill the offenders. That didn't turn out to be the case.
Just read the news to see how little regard Americans have for ranchers and farmers. They'd rather eat fake food than admit their food comes from hard work and sacrifice.
Sacrificing a protected species at the expense of the food chain is a no-no, especially when they have social media pages and marketing the likes of organizations like the National Cattleman's Beef Association and other groups couldn't dream of. After all, if the government runs out of money for such projects, they just print more.
There is a rotting heap of bodies at the bottom of a canyon lovingly called the train station that goes unrecognized, but killing two wolves tracked by the US Government could be the death of the Yellowstone Ranch.
Even worse, the trick used to deceive the trackers failed. This is the most likely culprit to spell doom for the Duttons and John's run as governor. It won't be what others can do to them but what they do to themselves.
They've been protected because they weren't all up in everyone's business. But now that the east coast elites have dragged them kicking and screaming into the limelight, their way of life might be laid bare with devastating consequences.
If they can keep their methods hidden, they'll stand a chance, but the more people are looking under rocks for their secrets, the more likely they'll be found.
Before I go, let's touch on a couple of other things from the premiere that affected Kayce and Carter.
Carter grew up considerably in our absence, and he's cute as a button and still sweet as molasses, too. He's green AF, but Rip is rearing him to be a good cowboy.
As they all know too well, the job brings a ton of heartache, and ours and Carter's were ripped out when John's horse, with Carter riding, stepped into a gopher hole, cracking its leg. That crack sent me reeling, so you can imagine what it did to Carter's fragile heart.
I'm thrilled he's doing so well and has so many people in his corner now. Rip was fussy when Carter took too long to saddle the horse, but he handled the tragedy well without snapping at Carter despite the gravity of the situation.
Even John wasn't too put out about what happened and seemed concerned for Carter. While many of us wish Carter to be a part of Beth and Rip's family, it's clear that he's got all the family he needs now. He's in good hands.
The other young man on the show is amidst a family tragedy of his own. Monica was heavily pregnant when she went into early labor. Kayce was rustling horse thieves (comically so) and wasn't there to lend a hand.
A horrible accident leaving a buffalo gutted in the middle of the road and Monica and her baby clinging to life ended tragically, with baby John Dutton living only an hour.
Monica: When you said you saw the end of us, is this what you saw?
Kayce: No, baby. No, I never saw this comin', and this won't be the end of us.
Monica: What will?
Kayce: I'd have to choose the end of us, and I will never choose that.
Here's the thing. I'm not all that invested in the "end of us" between Kayce and Monica. Their child deserved to live, and I wish no ill will to anyone in their nuclear family, but they're on the outside of the story right now.
The real meat of the story comes from the governor's mansion and the ranch, and everything Kayce, Monica, and Tate are experiencing seems like everyday life drama. Dramatic, sure, but I just want to get back to the action during those scenes.
It says a lot about me, for sure. But I also wonder why I'm not invested and what that says about how their stories have been written. I'd be interested to hear what you think about that.
Actually, I'd be interested in hearing about everything on your mind.
Was this a fantastic and foretelling beginning to Yellowstone Season 5?
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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, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.