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[This story contains spoilers from the first two episodes of Yellowstone‘s fifth season.]
If you ask Wes Bentley, there’s one thing he’ll agree with Beth Dutton about when it comes to his character: Jamie Dutton’s chance of redemption is over.
The formidable Beth, played by Kelly Reilly, says as much to her brother Jamie (Bentley) in the second episode of Yellowstone‘s fifth season. The Taylor Sheridan-created neo-Western returned to Paramount Network Sunday night with a two-episode premiere that set a ratings record.
“I want to believe that you’re advising what’s best for the family, I do. But then I remember, this isn’t your family. And he’s not your father. And we both know how you treated your own father,” says Beth, reminding Jamie (and viewers) that he is the adopted son to patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and that he murdered his biological father for his attack on the Duttons — a choice he made under Beth’s strong-armed guidance in the season four finale. “Just stop thinking that you have a chance to earn redemption, Jamie. You don’t.”
Throughout the first two episodes, Jamie faces insults, orders and dagger glances from both Beth and John, with the latter at one point telling his Attorney General son to sacrifice his own political ambitions and strengthen his “weak, self-loathing heart” for the sake of the family. “I love Montana, but I’m doing this for the ranch,” John makes clear to his children as he’s sworn as Montana’s governor, after running an anti-progress campaign. “We measure every decision against what good it does for the ranch. The ranch comes first, always.”
No matter what’s hurled his way, Jamie takes it. He nods, remains quiet and follows orders. But, as the Dutton family’s new enemies (played by Jacki Weaver and series newcomer Dawn Olivieri) see from his surly expressions, the reins on Jamie are tight — and he’s getting ready to buck.
“Inside, he’s boiling. And it will explode,” warns Bentley when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about what’s to come. “Jamie’s potential for being the threat is real. Is that redemption? Is that revenge? Or, is it survival? I don’t know. But something like that is going to have to happen. I don’t think Jamie comes back from season four events; I think he is a changed man now.”
With Beth blackmailing him and John pushing his way into the governor’s office, “any love that was there is gone with Beth, and his father basically took any job Jamie would like out of this whole arrangement, so now he views John differently, too. Jamie is a broken man, but at the moment, he’s a broken man under someone’s thumb who doesn’t have a way out, so he’s boiling and looking for that way out.”
When the season begins, Bentley says Jamie hasn’t begun to process the trauma that he experienced by killing his own father. The choice was made in a bid to save himself after Beth found out that Jamie’s father was the one who put the hit out on the Duttons — and she threatened him with certain death if her father or husband Rip (Cole Hauser) ever found out.
“In the first episode, Jamie is trying to survive,” says Bentley, following his finale choice. “Jamie has a strong sense of right and wrong, but it’s his own sense of right and wrong and it definitely has to do with his benefit. So, part of it was about him surviving rather than his dad surviving. He sized out that what his dad did was wrong, so when faced with the options from Beth, he decided it was right to kill him. As painful as that is to say or do, he was really left with no choice. But, despite that, that’s now led to some intense hatred and anger of Beth deep inside.”
He continues, “It’s devastating and it’s only going to be more devastating as time goes on, as Jamie realizes what he doesn’t have. His father [played by Will Patton] was his only real family. And I think in Beth voicing for him to kill his father, she has opened a deep wound. So now he has to figure out what he’s going to do about it. But, he is under her thumb and can’t do the instinctual thing, so he has to play her game — at least for a bit.”
That bubbling anger sits atop Jamie and Beth’s deep-seated hatred for one another. As has been explored in flashbacks, when Beth was a teenager and seeking an abortion, Jamie took her for a sterilization procedure without her knowing, and her infertility as a result has driven much of Beth’s hostility toward her brother.
Airing in a post-Roe world, Bentley notes that their timely history could elicit even more passionate audience feelings around the Beth and Jamie fractured relationship, but he also spots another political parallel.
“More than his politics, John running for office sort of mirrors what’s happening now in the sense that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in government or democracy that are running on selfish, self-promoting reasons,” says Bentley of the self-serving motivations behind John’s governorship. “John just wanted to be governor for his own personal gain, not for the people. And there are a lot of people running like that who don’t believe in government or democracy, who are just trying to get what they want, despite the opinion of the people.”
For now, Jamie is focused on trying to be the voice of reason and keep John and Beth from making decisions that he thinks will lose them the family cattle ranch, like going up against the coastal elites and any powerful billionaire developer who scouts in Montana. “He’s the only one who really understands how this works in the modern time. He thinks everyone else is playing a game of cowboy,” says Bentley of the land politics. “It’s very frustrating for Jamie because he has a stake in this — he wants a piece of Yellowstone as well. We have a lot of new people and new angles that are being attacked at the ranch, and a lot of relationship changes like between me and John and Beth. I think it’s going to bring up a lot of new and different feelings than in the last four seasons.”
And Jamie may not be the only threat. There are signs that a reckoning could be coming for the Dutton family: Youngest son Kayce (Luke Grimes), after seeing an ominous vision about the “end of us” in the season four finale, lost his unborn son after wife Monica (Kelsey Asbille) got into a car accident at the end of the premiere.
“It feels like they’re at an inflection point, almost entirely from their own decisions,” says Bentley of what the Duttons will be up against in season five. “It does feel like the world is coming down on them, or at least they’ve run themselves into a corner and they can’t get out of it. And also, not being able to deal with the emotions of all of this has got to be something that’s interesting that they struggle with.”
Yellowstone airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Paramount Network, with episodes or the full season available for purchase on select services. (The series is not available on Paramount+; previous seasons stream on Peacock.)
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