Love it or hate it, it’s kind of impossible to escape “Yellowstone.” The Paramount Network Western series, co-created and written by Taylor Sheridan, is one of the most popular series currently on television (and is a primetime Emmy nominee for Best Production Design). The series follows the Duttons, a Montana ranching family led by patriarch John (Kevin Costner). Alongside his three children, he’ll do whatever he has to in order to maintain his family’s ranch.
Because of how ubiquitous the show, which just wrapped the first part of Season 5, has become, it’s a good time to look back and celebrate the episodes that made “Yellowstone” the series it is today.
Here are the 10 best episodes of “Yellowstone.”
10. “Daybreak” (Season 1, Episode 1)
This is the episode that started everything. On the one hand, “Daybreak” is a standard pilot. It introduces the Duttons and their central conflicts. On the other hand it announces exactly the type of show it is the minute the eldest Dutton, Lee (Dave Annable) is killed in a shootout. It’s from this moment that the series situates the complex web of love that is being a Dutton child, and how quickly (and often) violence enters the ranch. We also get the best introduction to Beth (Kelly Reilly) propositioning Rip (Cole Hauser). We don’t know much about these two, but it’s obvious there’s an intense and passionate chemistry between them.
9. “A Knife and No Coin” Season 5, Episode 8
The halfway point between Season 5 marked a crossroads for Beth and Jamie. Jamie decided to finally grow a bit of a backbone and try to impeach John. He also revealed to Beth that if she got in his way he’d reveal all about the family train station where all the dead bodies the Duttons have accrued end up. Is this the moment that Jamie finally becomes someone to fear? Probably not, but it does leave the audience wondering if all the loose threads connected to Jamie Dutton are finally going to be tied together by Beth herself.
8. “Resurrection Day” (Season 2, Episode 7)
This has to be on the darkest “Yellowstone” episodes on record. This was the episode wherein the Beck brothers, the villainous duo who wanted part of John’s ranch, sent over a group of henchman to threaten Beth. It was one thing to see Beth’s poor assistant end up meeting his demise — another person whose mysterious disappearance was apparently never questioned — but it was another to see Beth attempt to go down swinging, even when she was threatened with sexual assault. As if that wasn’t enough, Jamie attempted to kill himself, and little brother Kayce (Luke Grimes) sent out some dead bodies to act as a gruesome surprise. It was a lot! But through the blood and horror was the chance to show how determined the Duttons are, even when their lives are on the line. It was the first time it felt like the Duttons were at a turning point from which there was no going back.
7. “No Good Horses” (Season 1, Episode 3)
It’s surprising that we’ve only ever seen Dutton family matriarch, Evelyn (Gretchen Mol), in Season 1 because so much of Beth’s own self-worth is bound up in her relationship with her mother. As “No Good Horses” shows up, Beth’s relationship with her mother is built around harsh judgement and Beth’s own guilt that the accident that killed Evelyn was her fault. It’s also an episode that showcases John’s deep love for his wife. Though he’s been involved in relationships since, it’s clear that Evelyn looms large in his world, so much so that he says in the episode “today’s the day I want to forget.” We don’t know much about John and Evelyn’s marriage, so here’s hoping viewers get Mol in future episodes someday.
6. “Blood the Boy” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Remember when Jamie murdered two people? Well, the series might not be interested in doing much with that subplot but it all started with this Season 2 episode. In one of many moments where Jamie expressed his anger at his family, he talked to a reporter named Sarah (Michaela Conlin) about all the corruption the Dutton clan was a part of. Unfortunately, he felt it wasn’t right to do and urged Sarah to take out his quotes. When she refused, Jamie snapped, hitting her head against her car and strangling her. Jamie’s always been at odds with his capacity for violence and this episode was a perfect showcase of Wes Bentley’s talents. Hearing his cry and “I’m sorry” as he strangled Sarah felt both odd and heartbreaking. For someone so desperate not to be like his father, Jamie certainly falls into violence when it suits him.
5. “Horses in Heaven” (Season 5, Episode 4)
We’ve seen Beth and Jamie verbally (and physically) spar in a car; it happened back in Season 2. But from the moment Beth discovered Jamie had a car seat — and that he has a secret son from a previous relationship — everything changed. For Beth, it wasn’t fair that Jamie, the man who took away her ability to choose whether she wanted to be a mother or not, was given the opportunity to be a parent. And Jamie realized this was another nail in his already overloaded coffin. It’s unclear how Beth plans to “take” Jamie’s child away from him, but no doubt after the most recent episode she’s gonna be brewing something.
4. “Cowboys and Dreamers” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The previous seasons packed a punch with their brief flashbacks to the Dutton children as teens, and none more so than this one. Here is where we see why Beth hates Jamie. Pregnant with Rip’s child, a teenage Beth went to Jamie for help. Jamie took Beth to the local clinic on the Broken Rock reservation to keep things quiet. The problem: The clinic only allowed abortions with sterilizations. Yep, Jamie sterilized his sister. This might have been a chance to see Beth justified in her hatred of her brother, but it also alluded to what Indigenous women experience with regards to forced sterilization. It was a gut-punch of an episode.
3. “Enemies By Monday” (Season 2, Episode 9)
We talk often about Beth’s inability to find anything passing for peace, and it’s hard to see her having any friends. But the closest relationship Beth has with another woman has to be her sister-in-law Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and it was presented in grand fashion in this Season 2 episode. Monica experienced serious racial profiling upon entering a store, resulting in her having to strip in front of strangers. This resulted in Beth coming to her rescue and making the salesgirl pay for her racism. Not only is this a great showcase for Beth and Monica understanding their need for each other, it also gave Monica a significant plotline. Season 2 really saw Monica attempt to position herself within Indigenous issues and this was a big moment for her to discover that, despite being John Dutton’s daughter-in-law, she isn’t afforded all the privilege that comes with that.
2. “Grass on the Streets and Weeds on the Rooftops” (Season 4, Episode 10)
This season finale lacked the bombastic punch of the previous season but it set off a chain of events we’re still dealing with in Season 5. This was an opportunity to show the many styles of Kelly Reilly, specifically a daring dress and fur coat combo she utilized to enter a prison and talk to someone who revealed Jamie’s biological father orchestrated the Dutton attack. This compelled Beth to tell Jamie to choose whether to deal with his father or have Beth reveal to John what happened. Jamie murdered his father (because of course he did!) with Beth snapping a picture of Jamie’s corpse disposal as future leverage. When Beth wasn’t scheming she was kidnapping a priest at gunpoint to marry her and Rip leaving that dress and coat to serve a dual purpose. The wedding was especially significant as it was a moment of genuine happiness for Beth that’s led to her trying to find a kinder, simpler way to live…while still being Beth Dutton.
1. “The World is Purple” (Season 3, Episode 10)
The “Yellowstone” season finales are always epic events and this one was nothing but! The whole thing culminated with a massive attack on the Duttons, with Beth being blown up in her office, John being gunned down on the side of the road, and Monica and her son being threatened on the Yellowstone ranch. Several other sites have compared this episode to the “Who Shot J.R.” episode of “Dallas” and it’s understandable why: the season finale ends with the audience not knowing who, if any, of the Duttons survived. Thankfully, the premiere of Season 4 said they all did, but the attack set in motion a harsh change of events.