“New Beginnings” settled a long-brewing conflict, and officially severed some ties ready for the future.
This recap of Yellowstone Season 2, Episode 2, “New Beginnings”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
You have to imagine that nobody predicted quite how successful Yellowstone was going to be, and so you also have to imagine that several decisions that have been made in its second season have been made with a mind to snip away any plot threads that weren’t necessary anymore. One of those is the health of John Dutton. He spent a chunk of last season ignoring what was believed to be undiagnosed colon cancer; in the Season 2 premiere, he collapsed. As it turns out in “New Beginnings”, it wasn’t undiagnosed colon cancer, but an undiagnosed ulcer. It ruptured, but thanks to the work of the ranch’s veterinarian and the local hospital, it’s more or less sorted now. I guess we should take the title of Yellowstone Season 2, Episode 2 quite seriously.
Speaking of serious, there’s Beth, roaming the state of Montana like a piranha, chewing up and spitting out landowners as she sees fit. Beth has always been a compelling character but spent large parts of the first season without much to do; in the absence of Jamie, she’s handling all of the ranch’s business and political dealings virtually alone, but she’s still something of a pariah at home by virtue of her femininity. The actual day-to-day operation of the ranch, it seems, must stay between the men, and now that Kayce is at home, John wants those responsibilities to fall to him. The problem with that is that they must first be wrenched away from Rip, who currently enjoys the privileges of top dog amongst the ranchhands.
It’s a conflict that has been simmering since basically the start of the show, and finally boils over in “New Beginnings” in a dusty punch-up. Rip, ever underappreciated in his complexity, obviously throws the fight, but it feels like a necessary change in leadership, both in the context of the men who work under Rip and for the audience who want to see him do something different. It also positions Kayce in a position of power that will, one assumes, hasten his decline into the family-focused criminal that his father would like him to be, and that he has been embracing more and more in the absence of Monica and his son.
Monica, meanwhile, is doing quite alright in Yellowstone Season 2, Episode 2. Her new university teaching gig offers her faculty housing and physical therapy, as well as the opportunity to teach Native history in her own way. The show’s approach to power dynamics — and its increasing willingness to place much of it in the hands of its previously underused female characters — is interesting and something to look out for in subsequent episodes. While it’s still prone to a monologue and to reinforcing archaic attitudes and ideologies, Yellowstone is also clearly willing to break its own mold, to do things that are surprising and compelling, and while not all of them ring true, the ambition is there. And with Taylor Sheridan liable to break into a madcap diversion at any moment, there’s simply no reason not to keep watching.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.