“The Beating” takes its foot off the gas in a major way, relying on a major family discovery which doesn’t come as much of a surprise and almost forgetting about the overarching narrative altogether.
This recap of Yellowstone season 3, episode 7, “The Beating”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Allow me to break a recap tradition by spoiling the big twist of “The Beating” right up front: Jamie Dutton is adopted. Yes, that’s a twist, or at least it’s treated like one, and so no, we presumably weren’t supposed to think that anyway. I watch a lot of television shows as part of this job, probably too many, so at some point I got my wires crossed and earnestly believed we’d already had this revelation before. I thought the show had already made a whole big deal of it and I was wondering why we were going through this rigmarole again. Then I remembered I was thinking about Rip. It’s a line he has late on, in relation to a subplot about Beth proposing to him, which tipped me off. Then it all came flooding back.
It’s an easy mistake to make, I think. Rip is the best character in Yellowstone and Jamie is the worst. Rip is the beloved “son” of John Dutton and an unswervingly loyal acolyte of his “father”, to whom he owes everything, whereas Jamie is the black sheep of the family who has never fit in and never much aspired to anyway. If one of them had to be adopted, if one of their lives had to be a lie, if you didn’t know any better you’d definitely assume it was Jamie. I did know better and I still assumed it was Jamie; I’d even rewritten the backstory to accommodate it. Needless to say, then, that this big moment wasn’t really news to me.
But it was certainly news to Jamie. Yellowstone season 3, episode 7 spent a big chunk of time building up to it, contriving a reason for him to require his birth certificate, and then honing in on his aghast expression when he learns the truth: His biological father beat his biological mother to death with a showerhead, and the Duttons took him in as their own. In a late confrontation with John, Jamie is absolutely fuming that a man who is ostensibly all about the sanctity of one’s word could have lied to him his entire life, but John is so blasé about the whole thing that it actually sucks the drama out of the scene. He tells Jamie that his biological father was a terrible guy, but he’s welcome to find him if he wants, and that’s pretty much that.
Except it won’t be, will it, since the entire third season prior to this has carefully cultivated a scenario in which Jamie has been handed enough political power to ruin a family who have gone to great lengths to ostracise him and who he has now learned aren’t actually his family anyway. I don’t think there’s any mystery where this is going. And it’s probably just as well, since “The Beating” did very little indeed to progress any of its overarching narratives, most crucially the one involving Market Equities.
In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking the Duttons had forgotten about these things entirely save for some passing remarks. We’re a ways into the season now, let’s not forget, but the bulk of this episode is divided up between little capsule stories which are fun and exciting but also very little to do with what’s actually going on. Rip takes one of Yellowstone’s seemingly unbreakable horses to a rodeo with Jimmy and Mia, but that whole thing – beyond the hilarity of Rip trying to put up with the barrel racing girls – seems designed entirely to caution Jimmy against rodeo as a pastime. I thought breaking his back doing it would have been enough to convince him it’s a bad idea.
Nevertheless, Yellowstone season 3, episode 7 spends a while on this. It also contrives a reason for John to run into his old buffalo-herding nemesis Wade and his boy, whose sole utility seems to be getting clouted by the Duttons. We get a bit more of a sense why these two have a rivalry – Wade betrayed John and possibly stole something from him – but that’s all; the rest is just ominous to-be-continued posturing. “The Beating” also gives Kayce a subplot in which he and his fellow livestock agents get into a shootout with some rustlers, which is bloody and exciting but, again, not really anything to do with anything.
I enjoy all of this stuff, obviously. Rip is endlessly funny, and his relationship with Beth is wonderfully charming – they decide to get married in this episode, which seems like a big deal but isn’t really treated as one, but I could spend a whole episode watching the pair of them frolic on Rip’s porch. What I’m worried about at this point, though, is that I might actually have to.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.