Wednesday, June 27, 2018

REVIEW: 'Yellowstone' - Kayce is Burdened by His Secrets While John Covers Up Some Crimes in 'Kill the Messenger'

Paramount's Yellowstone - Episode 1.02 "Kill the Messenger"

As the dust settles from the dispute, the Duttons deal with the potential repercussions. John calls in a favor and collects on some old debts. Jamie meets with the governor to do damage control.

A character discovers a dinosaur early on in this week's episode of Yellowstone. That's just something that happens on this glum and serious show. It's a twist that initially reads as playful and ridiculous. Kayce is trying to remove a tree stump from his yard. His tracker flips over instead of being able to get the job done. Then, he just decides to blow the stump up. He cautions Tate to go back inside. But ultimately, he successfully triggers a detonation. And then, the two of them examine the fallout and discover that dinosaur bones have been in their yard this entire time. As such, it's up to Tate to continue the excavation. He wants to keep this discovery to himself. He wants to keep it a secret to ensure that no one can take it away from him. This is his dinosaur. He feels so special. And yet, the show is mostly using this discovery as a metaphor for all of the plot machinations happening elsewhere. John gets down in the hole to help Tate as well. He is able to tell a tale sharing the whole history of this creation. Tens of millions of years ago this area used to be cover with water. The ocean stretched this far inland. This dinosaur was probably just going to the water to find something to eat. Then, it probably fell prey to a creature that was much bigger than it. It could have been another dinosaur. Or it could have been a shark in the water. All that the family has is suspicions and guesses. John mostly tells this tale in order to encourage Tate's sense of imagination and wonder. But the young boy starts wondering what people who dig up their bones tens of millions of years from now will wonder about their lives and the way that they died. Right now, they are only seeing this dinosaur through the way that it died. They aren't really talking about the life it could have lived. Tate is having that existential crisis that toddlers can sometimes get about wondering just how small they actually are in the world. Meanwhile, John can just toss all of these ideas aside because he needs life to mean something even if it ultimately means doing a bunch of bad things in the hopes that it will protect the world as he sees fit.

It's not surprising that the need to dig up all of the dinosaur bones isn't the core focus of this week's episode. It's disappointing too because that presents a very different show than the one that is actually being depicted. In fact, it's strange to see just how much "Kill the Messenger" decides to change from how things ended in the premiere. No, it doesn't undo Lee's death or Kayce killing his brother-in-law in immediate retaliation. But it renders the funeral that the family had for Lee completely null and void. Of course, it's crazy for the show to be suggesting that Lee's body was released to the family already anyway. It was a part of an ongoing investigation that easily could have been classified as murder. As such, the body probably would have stayed in the medical examiner's office until the cause of death was determined. It would be one thing if these two men died because of their personal actions. Monica's brother shot first and Lee fired back out of self defense. Both injuries ultimately killed them. That would be the end of this investigation. The bodies could be returned to the families for their proper burials with nothing more needing to be added to the stories. And yet, it seems likely that the bodies would have been kept in storage in order to avoid anyone trying to tamper with the evidence. As such, the show seems to be suggesting that John is acting out of fear that his son's body will be dug up and re-examined over and over again by all of the federal agencies that will want to be in on this case. He doesn't want that for his favorite son. And so, he's the one who ultimately digs up the body and makes it so that everyone's story changes in order to avoid any more questions in this investigation.

But it's just not compelling watching John dig up Lee's body and have it cremated in a facility meant for horses. He's doing all of this in secrecy. He wants to keep all of this quiet to ensure that word doesn't get out that he was trying to avoid a second autopsy being conducted once the first report comes out declaring this to be a homicide. John believes that destroying the evidence will protect Kayce's guilt. Kayce is still refusing to share his side of the story. John and Jamie understand exactly what happened out there in the field. Lee was shot and Kayce fired back. He was the only person out there that night who had the training to fire five shots within a few centimeters of each other. He has that training from his days in the navy. As such, it's easy to place guilt on him right away. The audience knows exactly what happened though. That makes it difficult to care when Kayce is agonizing over this secret and who he should tell while risking the destruction of those relationships. John is still looking out for his children and trying to ensure that one stays out of prison. This is a scandal that the family simply can't endure right now. Kayce wants nothing from his father. But John is more involved in his life than ever before. He burns Lee's body, he gets the witness connecting Kayce and Lee that night to change his story and he orders the death of the medical examiner. It all occurs so easily for John as well. He has the connections to make this happen. He can get a priest to tailor a homily to target one specific individual in the parish. Of course, that sequence is completely unnecessary because the audience has no real personal stakes in that moment. It would be just as easy to say that it worked after the fact. There's no need to live in that moment. Meanwhile, the coverup mostly just proves that Rip is willing to do anything for John because he has that protection from him. He can kill and make it seem like it's something that the medical examiner actually wants to do. That's horrifying but that's the story being told here.

Elsewhere, Kayce is agonizing about the destruction he has just done to his family. He is furious at the world and the secrets that he now feels the pressure to keep. His family wants him to be honest with them but he's still holding onto the truth about what happened out there in the field. It's his own personal guilt that is dictating his actions. He's willing to return to his military service and escape all of the consequences of this life. He and Monica were willing to start trying for a second baby. And now, Kayce is trying to run away saying that he needs to be the man who can provide for his family instead of counting on his wife to make the living. It's just a convenient excuse. But it's also one laced in some horrible gender norms about what's accepted in society. Kayce has no real problem with Monica making more money than he does. He is doing the kind of work that he loves. But now, he needs to put distance between them because he believes she will hate him and push him away as soon as he says that he killed her brother. Now, her brother wasn't a major character before he died. He was an annoyance to Kayce long before that fateful moment together in the field. And yet, it's a secret the show is actively choosing to keep. Monica is pushing for honesty from her husband. Instead, she's just struck with plot devices to keep him from opening up to her. That presents itself with an explosion that happens at the building they just happen to be passing by at the moment. It means that Kayce has to kill once more. He has to put a man out of his misery after suffering significant burns to his entire body and knowing that the ambulance is 45 minutes away. It could still figure into this whole big murder investigation. But Rainwater and the local sheriff are able to make it go away because they understand the action and have compassion for what Kayce did. It just creates more of an opportunity for Rainwater to exploit knowing that Kayce is the key for him ruining the Dutton family for good.

But again, that explosion is the only reason why Kayce doesn't tell Monica the truth. When he eventually comes home later that night, she is basically telling him that she will forgive even the most monstrous acts he could ever commit. She believes she could forgive almost anything from him one day. Kayce doesn't think that's true at all. Killing her brother seems like a pretty significant betrayal that will tear this family apart. So instead, Kayce keeps his secret and retreats to his son's bedroom to talk about their secret dinosaur. That brings Kayce some comfort. But it's also clear that the walls are closing in at home. Jamie was able to get the heads up that the report coming out would be very bad for the Duttons. That information was shared with law enforcement on the reservation as well. Everyone knows that Kayce killed his brother-in-law after Lee's death. And yet, John believes he has done a sufficient job in covering up all the evidence so that the investigation can't proceed any further. And yet, these copies of the report already exist in the world. The governor and Rainwater have copies. As such, it will be easy for them to push these findings should they want to. It paints a pretty damning picture against Kayce. As such, John may not have accomplished anything in this hour. That's probably the most frustrating aspect of this episode. He is so emotional when taking his son's ashes to his late wife's grave knowing that he was never suppose to bury more people here. He wasn't suppose to be here for his son's death. And yet, that's his reality. And now, it's going to continue creating more problems for him because the truth always finds some way of sneaking out.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Kill the Messenger" was directed by Taylor Sheridan with story by Taylor Sheridan & John Linson and teleplay by Taylor Sheridan.
  • I'm already significantly annoyed by Jamie's whole "I'm not gay. I'm celibate." moment. That just makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, this world would be greatly benefited by there being an LGBTQ character. That would bring a different perspective into this very conservative and testosterone-filled environment. And yes, it is difficult to come out and even have the clarity on one's true identity. But here, it's just such a lame and awkward moment that can only lead to more bad and lame things.
  • Beth really is operating on a different show than everyone else. She doesn't seem to be bringing anything to the table at the moment. Yes, she has one moment of being emotionally supportive for her father as he has to make a difficult decision. But the rest of the time she's just acting like she is on vacation. She's doing and saying whatever she wants while also believing that she's going to die before she even turns 40. That's so destructive in a main character. But it's so disjointed as well.
  • Beth's main story is mostly about Rip commenting on how she is the craziest person he has ever met. She is demanding him to take her on a date that actually fits her personality. That means getting drunk and watching wolves eat an elk. That's so specific and so completely random too. It's terrifying to watch her drunkenly get out of the car and run straight at the wolves. That shows just how reckless and dangerous she can be.
  • The ranch is trying to make a cowboy out of Jimmy. He's still so completely naive to this world. Right now, he has the daunting task of wearing the new horse down so that it can actually be of use around the ranch. That just means him being strapped on until the horse gets tired. That's exhausting. And yet, it's also clear that Jimmy is protected because of the brand on his chest. That immediately earns him respect even though he really hasn't earned it yet.
  • Gretchen Mol can be seen in photos around the Dutton house as John's wife. As such, that makes it seem inevitable that the show will feature flashbacks of some kind in order to tell some kind of personal story about the past with the ranch and the family. If not, then it's really odd for the show to have cast her in a part that absolutely no one would really notice or care. Well, Beth does break that picture that is hanging in her room. That has to mean something.