If it seemed impossible to create more tension in the assault on the Dutton Family ranchlands in Montana than a Season 2 that ended in a high body count, Yellowstone upped the ante in a Season 3. It ended with patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) shot on the roadside, his ruthless daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) blown up when her office is firebombed, son Kayce (Luke Grimes) in a shootout with assassins, with estranged son Jamie (Wes Bentley) telling ranch boss Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) to not call him anymore — this after Jamie found out he was adopted with a murderous biological father who advises him to “kill the king” if he wants to run the Dutton Ranch, which makes him as much a suspect in the attempted murders as the corporation trying to condemn the ranch to build an airport and a city on what is now Dutton land.
Hauser, Reilly and Gil Birmingham (who plays Thomas Rainwater, leader of the Broken Rock Reservation whose inhabitants once lived on the Dutton land) gathered for Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event to discuss where the Yellowstone saga was taken by show creator and writer Taylor Sheridan in a season that turned in towering ratings. With such a complex tapestry woven into the modern-day Western, perhaps this is the year that Emmy voters will take notice.
It wasn’t all action, all the time. One of the highlights was the blooming romance between Rip and Beth that simmered the first two seasons, finding they could drop their guards as two damaged people fit together to make a whole.
“As far as Rip’s concerned, that was his first and only love from when he was 15 years old,” Hauser said. “Time stopped for him and he realized how really special she was and what she could give to his life. But he has lost her a lot over time. I love what Taylor did. He made it a slow burn for us and it has taken four years now to investigate each other as people, and how their hearts beat. And it has been a pleasure to do that with Kelly.”
Said Reilly: “Beth and Rip are soulmates and have been since they met. They are so tough and hard headed and the capacity of violence is in them both, but they provide a safe haven for quiet, peace and love and she doesn’t have that with anyone else in the show. … We see them with all the other characters and then when they are together they just bring out a whole different color in each other. It provides a level of healing for Beth, a place for her to rest and lay down her weapons. Rip loves her in a way that’s so unconditional and she’s starting to settle into that place. It’s so beautiful these broken characters are finding some sort of home with each other.”
Birmingham, an actor of Comanche heritage, noted how Sheridan’s determination to highlight real-world problems on Native American reservations has created awareness where there was none. The problems range from economic hardships to substance abuse, depression and especially the unreported assaults and murders of women. “It is raising awareness of conditions that have happened on reservations historically going back 400 years to now,” he said. “Taylor has incorporated these themes to inform people while entertaining them. It’s not a podium, but there are serious issues that most people were unware of. It is critically important for Native people in being recognized as being present, and not historical artifacts and that these issues are important for us and for society as a whole.”
As for how the season-ending cliffhanger will resolve itself in the show’s fourth season – the odds seem heavy against Beth being able to survive the blast and Costner’s John Dutton a volley of bullets — the participants were predictably circumspect. Reilly said the season is most satisfying, while not saying whether she was speaking as one who participated, or observed from the sidelines.
Goaded by a ruthless advisor to take out John Dutton and reclaim the land for their people, the honorable Chief Rainwater seemed a possible suspect in the violence, and to that Birmingham said, “Well, we don’t see it as John Dutton’s land, we see it as ours, so that’s a different perspective…we’ll do what we have to do to survive. That’s always been our ancestral resilience.”
As for Hauser, whose Rip has a hair-trigger propensity for violence, he acknowledged that the first episode might be titled “Wrath of Rip.”
“Everybody’s in danger in Montana after that,” he said.
Check out the conversation in the panel above.
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