“Yellowstone” is currently the most important drama on television

Despite the sprawling TV empire, the most direct analogy for Taylor Sheridan’s work isn’t Shonda Rhimes or Dick Wolf. Nor is Sheridan white Tyler Perry. The next point of comparison for Sheridan is west wing Creator Aaron Sorkin. In both conceptions, personal events are intended to illustrate relationships with institutions.

Sheridan’s desire to undermine institutions is as strong as Sorkin’s desire to strengthen them: In yellowstone, the Duttons see government agencies, the law and the state as instruments to be manipulated in order to preserve the ranch; in Sorkin’s Shows, from west wing to The newsroomSorkin writes impassioned arguments for the state, for the media, for the Constitution itself. Sheridan seeks ambivalence while Sorkin seeks awe. Both use the same instrument to play radically different melodies.

yellowstoneThe fourth season ends with John Dutton issuing what can be taken as a thesis statement for the show. When a powerful corporation tries to build an airport in the middle of his land, John responds by running for governor. In his launch speech, he stoically proclaims that “a war is being waged against our way of life. That’s progress in today’s world.” Then a warning: “If you want progress, don’t vote for me. I am the opposite of progress. I’m the wall it hits And I won’t be the one to break.”

By the time season five premieres, we see that the message worked: Dutton is indeed the new governor. Deeply unfazed by the way a traditional politician should operate, John issues a series of edicts designed to punish those who consider Montana as a second home or vacation home. When his eldest son Jamie objects, saying some of his father’s policies will set the state back 30 years, Beth replies, “That’s a good start, the plan is to set it back a hundred.”

Sheridan scoffed at the idea yellowstone as a “red state”. successor‘ and he’s right about that. if yellowstone conservative, his conservatism is not modern conservatism: Republicans are obsessed with identity politics and the free market. yellowstone is explicitly anti-capitalist – the Duttons regularly reject unfathomable sums of money and opportunities to get richer. The show has a solid pro-environmental slant, though it occasionally deigns to stoop to the environmental movement (a subplot pokes fun at animal welfare protesters for failing to understand the close relationship between ranchers and animal welfare).

yellowstone also doesn’t shy away from supporting his native characters in their goals of self-liberation. Kayce’s wife, Monica, plays an active role in baiting the white men who prey on local women; Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) wants the country back and is willing to do anything to get it. The show has been praised for its three-dimensional depictions of Native Americans in story (if not necessarily in casting). In Dutton’s version of Montana, there’s plenty of room for black cowboys and both good and bad Indians. Racial diversity is not a threat in Montana yellowstone.

If yellowstone whether or not it’s a “conservative” show isn’t a particularly interesting question. The back and forth over who owns land and who is trying to take it away and what the land is for is just as urgent today as it was 200 years ago, and yellowstone examines it skillfully.

The real threats are the outsiders who want to change the country. In the show’s pilot, Kayce tells his son during a routine visit to an ice cream parlor that the transplants “surely can make ice cream.” When the child asks what a transplant is, Kayce replies grimly, “It’s a person who moves into a place and then tries to make that place the way they left it.” It doesn’t pay off for the little boy . “That doesn’t make any sense,” he replies. “Not a bit,” Kayce confirms.