Yellowstone is a brutal series sometimes. It also happens to be a place where people have to swallow their pride. On season 2 episode 2, Rip’s loyalty to John Dutton was put to the test; the end results were kinda sad.
No matter who Rip is, he’s still not John Dutton’s son. He has to reconcile that, and he also has to deal with the fact that John’s going to push forward Kayce to the top of the family food chain. He is Dutton’s son and tonight Kayce had to wage a little war in front of a crowd. His victory in front of the crowd didn’t represent anything more than proving himself worthy of being there and being in charge. It was a total “shut up and listen to me” move, one that John appreciated after Rip threw in the towel. The moment were Rip instructed Kayce to deliver the final blow was one of the sadder ones we saw this season. Beyond that was seeing Rip and Beth talk about his relationship with John after the fact, and then eventually Beth going to Kayce to talk out their concerns.
The Beth/Kayce conversation may be the most important one of the season in terms of fit. The truth here is that Kayce can’t just waltz into Yellowstone, jostle with Rip over control, and get to do whatever he wants. It sets off the balance and it brings the other characters into a difficult place. It’s a place where nothing quite fits. He’s had a home and for some reason, he’s thinking that becoming John Dutton’s protegee is suddenly more important than Monica, than the home that he had. Beth encourages him, pushes him to find that home; it’s more important than whether he stays in the bunkhouse and becomes that leader of men. She claims that she won’t fight him for control of Yellowstone down the road, but now is not the time for him to do what he’s doing. She’s preoccupied with her own challenges at present, including trying to find a way to keep the vultures around Yellowstone at bay.
Rather than trying to tell some larger story about external threats at Yellowstone, season 2 episode 2 went a little inward; it was about a few characters and what they mean to each other. For Kayce, maybe he understands more of what matters most now and how he can’t just put on a mask, have a fake fight, and think all is going to be well.
How is John’s condition?
He’s going to do everything that he can to avoid his doctor’s advice — though nothing spared him from going to rehab at the end of the episode. There was a lot jammed into that scene at the pool, whether it be John’s attempt at defiance, characters (Kayce and Monica’s lives) hitting a collision course, and John trying to assess his physical condition. He’s not going to recover anywhere near as fast as he’d want, so he better continue working on accepting that. There’s no miracle cure for a man his age with the mileage he’s got on those tires.
John should just be happy that he’s alive. There’s a universe where he would’ve been killed at least three times over due to some of the stuff that he’s been through on this show alone.
By focusing this story in, Yellowstone season 2 episode 2 delivered a great portrait of some of the series’ key players, including a conflicted Kayce, a Rip desperate to protect what he has, and a Beth still working to protect the ranch itself and play the long-game. How reasonable these three will continue to be will define the rest of the season. Rip to us still remains the show’s most fascinating character, a man who knows no real other life than with John Dutton and has to continuously prove himself, even though his actions speak louder than any word or puffing-out of the chest.
In looking beyond Yellowstone season 2 episode 2…
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