It’s hard to have much of a reaction to this season finale of Yellowstone. That’s partly because, besides the supersize run time, the episode doesn’t feel like much of a finale.
What story was Yellowstone season four trying to tell? “Grass on the Streets and Weeds on the Rooftops” offers little clarification. In many ways, Jamie’s corner of the show is the most main plot–like; there’s inherent drama built into the story of a weak man torn between his adoptive father and his biological father, the former of whom is the protagonist, and the latter of whom tried to murder most of the main characters.
But Yellowstone routinely seems to forget about Jamie, treating his story line like a matter of little urgency. In the finale, he doesn’t appear until 55 minutes in.
As has been the case for a while now, Beth is the main plot-driver of the episode. After a warning from Rip that she’ll never be able to undo it if she leaves him, she apologizes to John for what she did to Summer, then asks to stay. Before the five-minute mark, they’ve completely made up, and what seemed like a potential source of real human drama last week is treated like a silly one-off spat.
At least that frees Beth up to take care of some business, including popping into work to get fired and chewed out by Caroline Warner for committing corporate espionage. It’s fun to see Jacki Weaver deliver such a vengeful monologue, but it makes Warner look naïve, doesn’t it? She’s correct to point out that Beth was always totally up-front with her about her motives for taking the job, so I’m not exactly sure what took her by surprise here. Beth started at Market Equities to get revenge on her last employer, and now Market Equities wants revenge on her. But Beth doesn’t feel particularly concerned about Warner’s threats, and neither do I.
That threat addressed, Beth schemes her way into a conjugal cell meeting with Terrell Riggins to finally get the truth about his involvement in the Dutton hits. He probably saves his own ass by pointing out that he was just the middleman, redirecting Beth’s rage to Jamie (the easiest target). Knowing what she needs to do now, she kidnaps a priest and brings him to the ranch to spontaneously marry her and Rip. It’s a lovely, romantic scene, and I continue to appreciate how the show resists contriving some reason to break Rip and Beth apart. They’ve become the most stable part of the show.
Jamie’s story has been heading in an obvious direction all season, even if it hasn’t gotten the screen time it deserves. It’s always been clear that Jamie would have to choose between fathers and that he’d probably choose the dad he has known longer, even if John doesn’t offer the validation and affection that Garrett Randall does. That choice is hastened by the arrival of Beth at Jamie’s office. (It’s never going to be a good day when Beth shows up.) She confronts him about Riggins, and Jamie tells the truth: He didn’t know Randall was involved until he held a gun to his head, but he still couldn’t kill him.
Beth points out what we’ve known all along: Randall doesn’t care about Jamie. Or if he does, it’s in service of his real pursuits: land and power. Jamie has known that all along too, deep down. Maybe that helps with making his decision to do what Beth says and kill the man once and for all, shooting Randall in the head right after exchanging “I love you”s. She makes sure to snap a photo of Jamie disposing of the body on the same cliff where the Duttons have tossed countless bodies before. You’d think that wouldn’t be enough leverage considering it implicates everyone at the ranch, but Beth reports back to John that he’s back to having Jamie in his pocket. It’s a predictable reversion, and I’m not quite sure it works. Isn’t Jamie the one with the power to some extent? Hasn’t he been covering up the ranch’s crimes even while estranged from John? I would think he could still do a lot of damage if he wanted. And what does this all mean for the gubernatorial race?
John certainly doesn’t seem busy with campaigning. Instead, the bulk of his screen time during the finale deals with Summer, who is facing life in prison. John puts pressure on the judge to be merciful, but he wants to make an example of her, excoriating her in court for eroding the rule of law. It’s a bleak moment, a brutal exit for a character we’ve come to know, if not love. But then John revisits Mitch in his office and convinces him to shorten the sentence, so she’ll probably be out in under a year. So much for serious consequences.
There is also not much to really take away from Kayce’s vision quest. He has a few different hallucinations during the episode, including of his late brother, Lee, who turns violently angry when Kayce refuses to let him into the circle. He also flashes back to the war and dreams about Avery, confirming he does have some attraction to her, though it’s too soon to know whether that means she’ll pose a genuine threat next season.
Kayce’s last, most helpful vision comes when he sees a woman, the personification of the wolf who has been following him. She leads him to two paths, and that’s when he wakes up. When Monica later asks him what he saw, he replies, “I saw the end of us.” But we don’t know yet what exactly that means — the end of Kayce and Monica’s marriage, or the end of the Duttons’ lives on the ranch? The most obvious interpretation is that soon, Kayce will have to definitively choose between the family he grew up with and the family he made with Monica and Tate. This time of domestic bliss has been nice, but before long, it’ll be time for Kayce to think about leaving the reservation. But season four really hasn’t made this an ongoing point of tension: Kayce had his dad’s reluctant blessing to leave, and I just don’t see him choosing John over his wife and kids now. It’s hard to know what this all means for his trajectory next season, besides a general threat to his stability.
Stories like Kayce’s and Jamie’s could have some real weight and tragedy to them with the right amount of time and focus. Unfortunately, focus has never really been Taylor Sheridan’s strong suit as a writer — not that he’s overly interested in conventional narrative rhythms anyway. Oddly enough, in retrospect, the most focused and complete story of the season was that of Jimmy Hurdstrom, who became a cowboy by escaping the drama of the Yellowstone and making a new life for himself at the Four Sixes.
It’s a little silly that Emily rides with Jimmy back to Montana after the dramatic good-byes of the last episode just to get in a dumb catfight with his ex and prove how cool she is to the ranch hands. And their romance has just happened way too fast to really care about. (We learn they’re engaged in this episode.) But it’s gratifying to see Jimmy finally understanding himself and where he’s headed, and I really like the scene in which John relieves him of his debt. Sending Jimmy to the Sixes and back was never about labor; it was about forcing him to grow up. And as we see him confidently roping steers and joking about fucking Colby’s mom, it’s easy to see he has become the type of man he always looked up to on the ranch. “Look who went off and become a cowboy,” Lloyd muses.
Jimmy’s story line was often a distraction this year, a transparent case of franchise-building totally disconnected from the rest of the show. Instead of advancing the stories of characters like Kayce, Jamie, Monica, and Chief Rainwater, almost every episode spent long, languid scenes hanging out with Jimmy as he fell in love, learned to rope, and followed Travis around. But those scenes also typified the vibe that Yellowstone shoots for so often. In a way, maybe Jimmy’s story line was the one that best represented season four: intermittently rewarding in its beauty and thoughtfulness but a frustrating experience overall.
The Last Roundup
• Carter Corner: When he calls Beth “mama” and sweetly says he wants her to be his mom, she coldly rebuffs him, saying, “You lost your mom. You don’t get another,” and “Crying doesn’t help.” Poor kid. He doesn’t deserve her cruelty.
• Where’s Christina, and where’s Jamie’s son? Does this latest turn mean they’re off the show again?
• Probably the funniest line of the episode is from John: “Sweetheart, that’s a priest. We aren’t fucking Catholic.”
• Beth’s rant about how Riggins will die alone in prison seems to go on forever.
• Mia can definitely be annoying, but it’s a shame the show punishes her so much during her return, making her look crazy when she throws a tantrum about Jimmy and Emily.
• Two mentions of rape here, both by women. Warner tells Beth she is going to “rape [her] fucking ranch to death,” and Beth later tells Jamie that if he goes to prison, he’ll “probably commit suicide after [his] first rape.” Gross.
• Thanks for reading!