TV Review: 'Yellowstone' Season 1 Is A Gold Mine Of Thrilling Family Drama

Yellowstone Kevin Costner John Dutton Paramount Network
Throughout a steady first season, the Kevin Costner-led Western, "Yellowstone," exceeds expectations at every turn. A complicated meditation on family and all of its thorny and rewarding ties proves an enthralling 9-episode viewing experience.

The drama is set in the present day and focuses on the Dutton family and their ranching dynasty in Montana. An ensemble effort, it centers around family patriarch, John Dutton (Kevin Costner). He actively controls the largest connecting ranch in the United States.

In Season 1, tensions between the Duttons, the newly elected chief of the local Indian reservation, a land developer, and other forces rise. The question becomes how far John Dutton is still willing to go to keep his family's ranch.

In many ways, “Yellowstone” is a lot like your favorite sword and chainmail epic. Similar to its costume drama counterparts, it deals with a family trying to hold on to what they have amidst raging familial politics and compounding outside forces. Sibling rivalry, mutual affection, and a minefield of shared history work to both unite and tear the Duttons apart at the seams.

The answer to most of John’s successor-related problems is apparent, but he wants his biological children to step into the gap. That means his loyal right-hand man and best option, Rip (Cole Hauser), is out of the equation. Instead, John has three sons and a daughter to choose between.

There is oldest son, Lee (Dave Annable), who seems a prime successor and the Dutton’s exclusive on-call attorney, Jamie (Wes Bentley). Then there is estranged son, Kayce (Luke Grimes), a former US Navy SEAL.

Yellowstone Kayce Dutton Luke Grimes Monica Long Kelsey Asbille Paramount Network
[Image by Paramount Network]

Kayce is married to the wonderful Monica (Kelsey Asbille). Together, they have a son, Tate, who is John Dutton’s only grandchild. The family resides away from the reach of Yellowstone ranch on the local Indian reservation.

Joining the brothers is their only sister, Beth (Kelly Reilly). Caustic and comprised of tremendous self-loathing, Beth is the toughest Dutton sibling to predict. She is a wild card, whose only constant is her love for her father.

What will happen to this family? By the end of the first episode, it is nearly impossible to tell. Their road in Season 1 is lined with unexpected turns and exit ramps.

As each episode unfolds, another newly lit corner is explored. You learn something more about them in each installment, which leads to a deep mythos and even richer character development.

All of them feel naturally drawn and come across as poignantly authentic. The ensemble does fantastic work bringing all of their edges to life with dimensional turns that add to the series’ endless layering.

Leading the charge is Kevin Costner, who does some of his best work since “Mr. Brooks” in the series. “Yellowstone” is the perfect starring vehicle for the actor, and he takes full advantage of it.

Surrounding him is actress Kelly Reilly, who brings every nuance to the razor-tongued Beth. As the local Indian reservation's newly elected Chief Thomas Rainwater, Gil Birmingham, proves electric.

In another standout performance, “Wind River” actress Kelsey Asbille gives a fierce and haunting turn as Kacey’s wife, Monica. Cole Hauser also gives a memorable portrayal of Rip, the gruff cowboy with a surprisingly tender side.

A sturdy drama with an intriguing cornerstone, “Yellowstone” announces itself as an epic, which it proves throughout its first season, it absolutely is. The Paramount Network series is one of the rare ones to achieve the towering mystique usually saved for costume dramas.

Aiding in the series' distinguished bearing is Brian Taylor’s majestic score, which includes one of the best theme songs to recently grace television (listen here). Just like the genre mentioned above, there is a kingdom at play in “Yellowstone.” The battle over it is riveting.

Taylor Sheridan and John Linson have co-created a behemoth. One that touches on the vital vein that is the said and unspoken. "Yellowstone" has the legs to be around for a long time. Here is hoping it is.

Rating: 9/10

The first season of “Yellowstone” is currently available to watch on-demand with a cable subscription. Season 2 premieres June 19 on the Paramount Network.

[Featured Image by Paramount Network]