Yellowstone makes its network television premiere on CBS on Sunday night (Sept. 17), and the debut episode packs plenty of emotional wallop, culminating in two deaths that will help set the stage for a lot of upcoming drama.
Yellowstone follows the saga of the Dutton family, who own the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. Titled “Daybreak,” Episode 1 of Season 1 introduces us to the main characters and plot situations that will drive the rest of the show, beginning with John Dutton (Kevin Costner), the gruff, no-nonsense patriarch of the family who is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their control of their land — even if the means aren’t strictly legal.
The rest of the family consists of:
- Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly), John’s tough-as-nails daughter. She’s carved a fearsome reputation for herself, and has now returned home to help her father fight off all who oppose him.
- Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), John’s oldest son, who also serves as one of his Livestock Agents and helps protect the Duttons’ interests from behind a badge.
- Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), John’s next son, who’s become a lawyer in order to try to please his father and to help defend the family’s interests in court. He seeks John’s approval, which John often denies.
- Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes), John’s youngest son, and the only one to leave the Yellowstone ranch and go off on his own. A military veteran, he’s moved back home, but lives on the Broken Rock reservation with his wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille), who grew up there. They are raising their son, Tate (Brecken Merrill) on the reservation because of the alienation between Kayce and Monica and John and his methods.
Other main characters include Yellowstone foreman Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), who is endlessly loyal to John and has a longtime on-again, off-again relationship with Beth that is very tempestuous; Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White), a troubled young man who Rip takes in as a ranch hand more-or-less against his will at the request of his grandfather by branding him with the Yellowstone brand, which pledges loyalty for life to the ranch and the family; and Chairman Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), the newly elected head of the Broken Rock Reservation, who wants to throw his power around to cement his reputation.
The plot of “Daybreak” centers around some new developers who are moving into the valley contiguous to the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch with plans to develop an entire residential grid, which will require them to dam up the river, causing tremendous damage to the Yellowstone. John orders his men to put a stop to that by setting off some charges that shift the course of the river, putting a temporary halt to the plans and setting up the developers as a new adversary.
Meanwhile, some cattle have “wandered” off from the Yellowstone and onto the reservation after a section of fence is conveniently cut, and Rainwater intends to keep them to divide up as a demonstration of his new power. John vows not to let them go, and the Duttons stage a late-night raid on the reservation to reclaim their cattle.
Forced to choose between his reservation family and his blood family, Kayce tries to intervene and drive the cattle back onto the Yellowstone without violence, but gunfire erupts on both sides, and Monica’s brother, Robert, shoots and kills the oldest Dutton brother, Lee. Kayce then shoots and kills Robert, setting up more future conflict not only between the Yellowstone and the reservation, but also between Kayce and Monica, who does not know the circumstances of her brother’s death.
The episode ends with a funeral for Lee and all of John Dutton’s family reunited under one roof again, in an uneasy truce as they band together to once again face multiple challenges from outsiders.
Yellowstone Season 1 airs on CBS every Sunday night.
PICTURES: See Inside Kevin Costner’s Spectacular Colorado Ranch
Yellowstone star Kevin Costner lives the ranch life when he’s off the set of the hit show, too. The Oscar-winning actor owns a 160-acre ranch in Aspen, Colo., that’s a spectacular getaway, complete with a main residence, a lake house and a river house.
The luxury retreat also features a baseball field, a sledding hill, an ice rink, multiple hot tubs and views of the Continental Divide. The ranch property comfortably sleeps 27 people, and it’s currently available to rent for 36,000 a night.