"Yellowstone" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital) is a sprawling epic of a TV series, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, the former "Sons of Anarchy" whose career has blown up since he shifted to writing and directing. He was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for "Hell or High Water," wrote both of the excellent "Sicario" movies, and also wrote and directed the Native American crime thriller "Wind River."
He had almost 10 hours to work with in "Yellowstone." The series starts out like it's going to be an in-depth corporate thriller that digs into the secrets of Montana politics and land management, but it mutates into an epic family melodrama.
Gil Birmingham plays Chief Thomas Rainwater, a Harvard-educated businessman who embraces his Native American heritage and takes over leadership of the local tribe. Danny Huston plays Dan Jenkins, a developer who wants to turn Montana into a playground for the wealthy. Both face opposition from Kevin Costner's character, local megarancher John Dutton, the 6th generation patriarch of a family that controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.
At some point, the begins playing like a modern version of "Giant," the Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean movie that defined epic filmmaking in the 1950s.
Dutton has a complicated family. His wife was killed in a riding accident when the kids were young, and his four children Beth (Kelly Reilly), Jamie (Wes Bentley), Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Lee (Dave Annable) are each screwed up in his or her own way. They're haunted by commitments to family. Kayce rebelled by leaving home to become a decorated Navy SEAL, and now he's back living on the reservation with his Native American wife.
The fledgling Paramount Network (which most recently was the SPIKE cable network and originally began as The Nashville Network) liked the show and its ratings enough to announce a second season renewal before the final episodes of Season 1 were broadcast.
That's good because there are both a few cliffhangers and a wealth of loose ends to be resolved when the show returns next year. In the meantime, viewers can enjoy an outstanding performance from Costner and some of the most breathtaking scenery found in a TV series.