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At first I hated the Yellowstone movie. Now I’ve changed my mind

Yellowstone is one of the best TV series of the past decade but at one point I was a John Dutton doubter. Here's how the Western drama show changed my mind.

Yellowstone movie Kevin Costner

Fathers (Kevin Costner; Taylor Sheridan) forgive me, for I have sinned. When I first watched the Yellowstone movie, I had a truly awful experience. But now I see the error of my ways. Like the cowboys marked with the Yellowstone brand, I’ve been given a second chance.

Here’s an important piece of context: the remote control for my TV is broken. I’ve tried replacing the batteries. I’ve tried smashing it angrily into a coffee table. Still, it stubbornly refuses to work. So instead, I use an app on my phone.

However, when I decided to finally boot up Paramount Plus and jump into the saddle, my phone was on very low battery. I hit play, and less than a minute later, my phone died, and my power over the TV was gone with it.

My charger (along with my watch) was upstairs and, being sat comfortably on the sofa, getting up wasn’t an option. I couldn’t see how long was left in the episode, I couldn’t pause it, and I had no way to measure the passage of time. And, naively, I had assumed the start of Sheridan’s epic Western series would be an easy-to-digest 40 minutes.

This was my first mistake. I didn’t realize the show’s debut was, actually, a Yellowstone movie. With a 92-minute runtime and initially conceived of as a film by Sheridan, the start of the Duttons’ tale is, for all intents and purposes, a fully-fledged neo-Western feature. You can think of it as the start of a long-running movie series, broken up into chunks.

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But not knowing this, as the Yellowstone movie chugged along before me, I was instead left thinking 40 minutes were lasting an eternity. After what must have been the halfway mark, I felt certain that every new scene was the last. But it kept carrying on, and on, and on.

With no way to see how long was left, I felt trapped in some Montanan hell. John Dutton’s thick, oily voice mumbled away gruffly in such a low frequency that I was never certain I knew exactly what he was saying. I was very tired, and I didn’t know what was happening.

It took me some time to recover from that. I felt like Jimmy after being strapped onto the horse: exhausted, and violated. I waited around two weeks before I felt ready to tentatively touch Yellowstone again.

But by the time the second episode began, it was like it was my first time all over again. I couldn’t remember names, or how people were related to each other. I didn’t know why John Dutton was getting so angry about his fences.

That was my own fault because my second mistake was, wrongly, assuming this was something I could watch half-heartedly; mindlessly. I thought I’d be able to appreciate the story of Yellowstone as it played along in the background while I did other things.

Boy, was I wrong. I did make it to the end of episode 2, but as it concluded I decided to call it a day and quit. I couldn’t figure out who was killing who, or why. It felt like events were happening entirely at random, with the dinosaur and the meth lab explosion. I hadn’t been pulled into the family dynamics, and the schemes against John Dutton felt impenetrable and convoluted.

So imagine my surprise when I felt an itch, several weeks later, to return to the ranch. I found myself daydreaming about Costner as the colossal Dutton patriarch. Even without having given the series my full attention, his role in the Yellowstone cast stuck with me. And, his children were each entirely distinct too. I didn’t know their names, but I knew there was a sexy-but-simple one (Kayce), a bully one (Beth), a bullied one (Jamie), and a dead one (Lee).

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When I eventually gave Yellowstone a second shot, my best decision was to give it the attention that it, and John Dutton, demanded. This time, I watched it unfold with fresh eyes.

Now aware of its status as the Yellowstone movie, I was able to appreciate that it is, genuinely, cinematic. Huge in the scope of its ambition, Yellowstone’s opener is packed with sweeping, wide shots of trucks racing along the open Montana freeways. The state’s domineering mountains enclose the Yellowstone ranch like a rugged, snow-topped crown. The production design is dirty and real, and the ranch is inhabited by huge, archetypal personalities.

And, that’s only the beginning. Yellowstone gets better and better as it progresses through its first season. There are moments of tenderness, too, with scenes of John and Tate fishing coming as sweet relief from the otherwise unceasing scheming and misery. The villains, if there are any characters in the series who aren’t villains, are tangible threats, and there’s a delicate precariousness about the Dutton’s situation which just makes the whole thing oh-so watchable.

After seeing the first episode for a second time, I stormed through the first season in a matter of days. I watched in awe as Kayce seemed to murder someone new every 10 minutes, and in revulsion as the relationship between Jamie and his sister unfurled. The conclusion to the first season left me stunned.

Yellowstone movie Taylor Sheridan

I then absorbed the next four seasons seemingly in one go, inhaling every new second of the show. I now have an image of Kevin Costner on a dartboard, where a paper effigy of him pays a daily price for scuppering the plans of the almighty Sheridan.

Sheridan initially struggled to find a home for the Western drama series due to his complete unwillingness to negotiate. And thank god for that. It has many flaws, but the series is one person’s vision wrought large. No trade-offs, no compromise. Anything else wouldn’t be Yellowstone.

So, like you, I’m now a Yellowstoner. I’m a Duttonista. I once had my doubts, but now my heart belongs to Montana.

For all the latest from Montana, take a guide to the Yellowstone cast and Yellowstone timeline, and find out more about the 1923 season 2 release date, and the 6666 release date. You can also find out why Luke Grimes refuses to watch Yellowstone, or see why he owes his part to Clint Eastwood. If you want a break from Montana, we’ve also got a guide to everything new on Paramount Plus and you can see our picks for the best TV series of all time. We’ve also got a list of the best Taylor Sheridan TV series and movies of all time.