I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. This time we turn our attention to CBS. We’ve got you covered some seasons of television on Blu-ray from CBS:
Star Trek Discovery: Seasons 1-4
“In a very real sense, we are all aliens on a strange planet. We spend most of our lives reaching out and trying to communicate. If during our whole lifetime, we could reach out and really communicate with just two people. We are all indeed very fortunate.”
– Gene Roddenberry
I should confess from the beginning that I am a very dedicated Star Trek fan. I’m not a Trekkie or a Trekker, I’m a fan. I have often allowed my fan status to cause me to embrace the franchise even when it wasn’t necessarily so good. As a young 15-year-old kid I attended the first 10:00 AM showing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture with a handful of friends on the opening day. We stayed through six showings and left sometime after midnight the following day, occupying the front row center and subsisting off the day’s more limited concession offerings. Basically candy, popcorn and soda. Little has changed except for the lack of responsibilities that would allow me to spend 14 hours watching a single film over and over again. I’m still reluctant to dismiss anything Star Trek, but that’s nearly what happened When I watched the first season of Star Trek: Discovery.
The series happens approximately a decade before James T. Kirk becomes captain of the Enterprise. That means the show exists in a world that should be somewhat familiar to me. It wasn’t. It’s hard to imagine that in just 10 years technology would take a significant step backward, and uniforms and ship designs would undergo such a drastic change. Oh, and that Starfleet Command would move from Paris to San Fran. But all of this is the work of Alex Kurtzman. And we all know that he has a superpower. He has the ability to take a beloved franchise and run it straight into the ground at warp speed. But why is he always messing with things that I love? His Dark Universe over at Universal destroyed the hopes of seeing so many of my favorite Universal classic monsters once again reunited on the big screen. Fortunately, he was fired from that task after the abysmal Tom Cruise The Mummy failed in every way a film could fail. Thanks for that, Alex. Now you won’t be happy until you kill Star Trek.
character named Book (Ajala). He’s something called a courier. In the future the Federation has broken up and there is little organization. It’s a bit of a dark ages because dilithium is rare. A century earlier an event called The Burn destroyed most of it along with most warp ships. It all just suddenly exploded and that was a killing blow for Starfleet. The next episode deals with the arrival of the ship itself and their attempt to escape an ice planet where they crashed. It turns out they arrived a year later and Burnham has been with Book all of this time. The reunion puts them on course to locate the remnants of the Federation and try to rebuild this broken future.
To achieve this goal they head to Earth where Burnham had received a message from a surviving officer. When they get there they find Earth not so friendly and having nothing to do with whatever is left of the Federation. So who sent the message? Enter the second new regular. Adira (Barrio). At first she’s a she but we get into some woke gender stuff by the time the season is over. She’s a teen but she has a Trill who is, among others the Starfleet officer they are looking for and this leads them to a hidden outpost where Starfleet has been getting back on its feet. The new fleet is run by Admiral Charles Vance played by the more exciting newcomer The Mummy’s Oded Fehr. There’s going to be some growing pains and the ship gets outfitted with all the new technology. Now they have to solve the mystery of The Burn and fight the bad guys this season which is a terrorist network called The Emerald Chain headed by Orion Osyraa played by the season’s second best newcomer Janet Kidder.
This was a great move for the series. It takes them out of current Trek and gives them a place and story of their own. I find it far more interesting that we’re now exploring the Federation of the 30th Century. This could actually be a lot of fun. The crew has grown. Saru (Jones) is captain throughout the season but looks to be leaving with Burnham in charge starting next year. Doug Jones does get to play three episodes with his normal face without the make-up. Tilly (Wiseman) gets to try her hand at command with mixed results. She’s back in her old role and maybe a little wiser for the experience.
Star Trek Picard Season 2:
“Space … the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Nearly 20 years after the original Star Trek left the network airwaves, Gene Roddenberry set out to discover whether he could catch lightning in a bottle once again. Some say he did an even better job with Star Trek: The Next Generation. There are times I tend to agree. The Star Trek sequel series had a lot more advantages from the moment it was conceived. Star Trek, a series that barely registered on the ratings during its three-year primetime voyage, became a huge sensation in syndication. By the time The Next Generation came on the scene, the original show had been syndicated in over 20 different languages all over the world. It had launched an animated series, and a fifth feature film was already in the early stages of consideration. So it isn’t quite fair to judge the success or quality of The Next Generation over the original series. One thing is inarguable. The second would never have existed if not for the first.
But the one thing Roddenberry did do right was to expand rather than remake his original show. It was still too early for fans to accept other actors in the roles of Kirk and Spock. Too often shows try to reinvent characters that appear to kiss off the original fans. ABC’s attempt to remake Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a good example. Imagine if their character had been a relative of the original Kolchak instead of trying to completely change the personality of the original. Roddenberry wasn’t remaking Star Trek. He brought us a new Enterprise with a new crew and a glimpse nearly 100 years into the future of the old show. It was a rather brilliant move, and it certainly resurrected Star Trek to new heights. We felt like we could fall in love with these guys without betraying the ones we already loved. A huge reason for any of this was the casting of Patrick Stewart as the ship’s Captain Picard. He was very different from Kirk. He had the dual ability to be unquestionably authoratative while displaying an uncanny amount of heart and understanding. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that when Star Trek returned to television, albeit as a series of streaming shows, that the best connection to the things that went before would be the return of Stewart in the iconic role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
The first season introduced us to the new characters who would surround a now-retired Admiral Picard. There was a decision not to make this merely a continuation of The Next Generation but to provide us a glimpse into the man’s life after he has left the Federation. It was a bit of an awkward start, as it hadn’t felt, to me at least, that the actor and character were on the same page. I didn’t feel he had developed any chemistry with the new characters until well toward the end of the 10-episode run. There were moments, but I don’t think the writers quite understood the character nearly as much as the man playing him, and there was an obvious struggle throughout.
The second season proves a marked improvement over the first. In fact much of the storyline of that first season is kept under the surface. This isn’t exactly a reboot, but many elements including the fact Picard has been turned into pretty much an android are merely hinted at. I think the writers understood where they had gone wrong, and without wiping it away wink to the audience that we’ll just not mention it again. And it kind of works.
As the new season begins, we are joined by two cast members from the first season. Rios (Cabrera) is now in command of the new incarnation of Picard’s first command, the USS Stargazer. Seven Of Nine (Ryan) is also in that same quadrant with friends Raffi (Hurd) and new Starfleet officer Elnor (Evagora). We learn he’s the first full-blood Romulan to graduate from Starfleet Academy. They all encounter an anomaly that has opened up a kind of crack in space. A message comes through asking to contact Picard. The result is the return of Picard’s greatest two nemeses. A Borg ship comes through, and there’s a new Queen aboard who knows Picard from his days as Locutis. She claims that the Borg want to actually join the Federation and wishes to negotiate that end directly with Picard, but before we can find out what’s really behind this event another of Picard’s “old friends” makes himself known. It’s the triumphant return of the best “villain” in Star Trek history. It’s Q, played wonderfully by John De Lancie. He claims that Picard’s trial is not over and once again snaps his fingers, and Picard finds himself in a very different place. Q gives him a bit of a hint when he mentions the phrase Into A Mirror Darkly. Trek fans know what that means, but it’s not quite what we expect. Picard does indeed find himself in a place where he himself is not such a good guy, and now the Federation is the Confederation, and it’s sole purpose is to subjugate the rest of the galaxy, making it a human galaxy. Here Picard finds out he’s the Confederation’s greatest general and has wiped out countless other races. Seven Of Nine finds she is now Anika once again and is the president of this Confederation. She’s married, and the both of them are expected to join in a celebration where they will kill the Borg Queen. Raffi is a member of security, and Elnor is a hated enemy. Together with Rios they capture the Borg Queen and board the Stargazer, where they learn from the Queen that they must travel to LA. in 2024 to find a Watcher and fix a moment in time that led to this new barbaric future. They are also joined by Dr. Agnes Jurati (Pill), who ends up bonding with the Borg Queen.
From here we have a very typical Star Trek time travel story with some rather cool Easter eggs. There are some callbacks to Edith Keeler from the original series episode The Guardian Of Forever, and the now-not-so-young punk from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is still riding buses with his boom box and a sequel to the I Hate You song called I Still Hate You. Of course it’s still Kirk Thatcher who was actually an Associate Producer on that film and has a few times reprised the character from the bus, also recently in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The character appears to have learned his lesson and turns of the box after Seven gives him a threatening warning. But we run into a new villain here. Q is not content with teasing Picard. He wants to put things in the way of him succeeding.
Enter Brent Spiner as Adam Soong. He has been doing illegal DNA experiments and is by now a disgraced scientist who still has friends in high places. His latest experiment is Kore (Briones). She has lived longer than all of his previous experiments and she doesn’t know what she really is. She thinks she’s Soong’s daughter but has no immune system so must live in an electronic bubble. Q offers Soong an answer to his problem if he helps Q with a little problem of his own.
It turns out that the change in time involves a member of the Picard family. It’s Renee Picard (Mitchell), and she’s going to be a member of a mission to the Jupiter moon Europa where she is destined to make an important discovery. Q and Soong work to make sure she doesn’t live long enough to make her flight. Picard and his team must navigate the authorities which include an FBI agent in the model of Fox Mulder, played by The Shield’s Jay Karnes. He catches a video of Picard beaming into an alley and has been searching for proof of alien life since an encounter he had as a kid with some exploring Vulcans. All the while Agnes is becoming more and more Borg Queen, and it ends up costing the team their ship. Obviously they succeed, but will they be able to get back to their own time?
No spoilers here. Of course they will. There’s a third and final season coming, and it will be minus a few cast members who don’t exactly make it out of this season.
I have to say the pacing here is incredibly awkward. Kurtzman and his crew still don’t understand how to use these characters or play in the Star Trek world. What keeps this season at all compelling is the trio of Picard, Soong, and Q. There is a great amount of chemistry here that even Kurtzman can’t screw up, try as he might. Stewart, Spiner and De Lancie know their parts and each other very well, and these characters and moments are worth all of the missteps and make this a wonderful experience for Star Trek and Next Generation fans in particular.
If you’re a Next Generation fan, you are pretty excited for the final season coming this spring. All of that cast is returning along with another of the show’s best bad guys. There’s going to be so many people who created these characters, I doubt even Kurtzman can screw this up. If you’re like me, you feel like you know these characters well. “My friends are in trouble.”
Halo: Season 1
by Jeremy Butler
Now here is a series that has seen its share of controversy. Then again, I can’t think of video game adaptation that hasn’t raised the ire of the fandom in one way or another. It’s essentially one of the risks you take when you try to take something beloved and change it in any capacity. When it comes to the Halo series, it would seem that the bulk of the controversy has to do with the representation of core characters. Take the Master Chief character. Without question, this character is central to the Halo universe and likely the most beloved character of the franchise. However, an important detail about the character is that he is rarely seen without his armor, most notably his helmet. So, his face is never fully revealed. This is used to tease game players through multiple incarnations of the game. Cut scenes reveal select details of his face at different times, such as at the end of Halo: Combat Evolved, when the Chief removes his helmet, but camera movement hides his head; also, at the conclusion of Halo 4 (when played at the highest difficulty), where Master Chief’s eyes are briefly shown. In contrast, the Master Chief’s face is revealed occurs in the pilot episode. To be fair, the way it was done was, at least in the pilot episode, was very good in my opinion. It was an epic moment and powerful way to debut the series.
Granted, the novelty of that first reveal wears as every subsequent episode features his face. However, I believe this was necessary given that the series delves into the characters past, which includes dark truths, it would be impossible to convey emotion from behind a mask. Besides, what would be the point of casting someone like Pablo Schreiber if you weren’t going to show his face. Not saying that he couldn’t have been just as compelling behind the mask, and I supposed that could have been an interesting interpretation. If the intent was to keep the face covered, it could have been anyone underneath the mask. No need for someone of Schreiber’s caliber in that case.
The season is a bit disjointed in my opinion, as series attempts to tell two stories simultaneously. You have the storyline featuring the Master Chief and his connection to a discovered artifact of great significance. Then there is the storyline that address the civil war on the outer colony planet of Madrigal, which is told through the lens of an Insurrectionist teenager named Kwan Ha played by Yerin Ha. This Kwan storyline is the less interesting of the two, as it is less impactful as the storyline following Master Chief. Master Chief storyline is the one that has the avenues for driving the story forward, as it will take us to other planets and into conflict with the Covenant. Kwan’s story appears to have been wrapped up in a nice bow, so now the story, which has already been renewed for a second season, can focus on the Master Chief’s journey. Which if I’m being honest, is the story that everyone wants to see in my opinion.
Yellowstone: Season 4
“It’s called life.”
Kevin Costner plays John Dutton. The name itself recalls those years as a kid watching the myriad western shows that crossed our television screens throughout the 50’s and 60’s. He’s the owner of Yellowstone Ranch, which takes up hundreds of square miles and borders on the national park of the same name, which we never do get to see. What we do see are the other borders of the Yellowstone. It borders a large and mostly impoverished Native American reservation. All of this takes place in the open ranges of Montana, where the Yellowstone Ranch looks very much like the fabled Shiloh of The Virginian. There’s the big mansion where Dutton and some of his family live and the bunkhouse where the cowboys who work the cattle sleep, play cards, eat, and fight. Looking over the scenery, one can almost imagine you were back in the days of the untamed frontier. John Dutton might have some old-fashioned ideas of how to make a living, but he’s a rich man who uses modern technology when it serves him.
Dutton considers himself a kind of god here. He rules the ranch with a brutal and iron fist. Being fired from Yellowstone isn’t quite like leaving a job at the mall. There’s also a caste system much like that found in the early days of the mafia. Dutton believes that people who have reached the bottom of their lives will be loyal if he becomes their savior. He recruits these “lost” souls into his ranch and its inner circle. But there is a price to be paid to join this elite group. You are branded with the same iron that is used on the cattle. That brand means no one else can touch you, and you’re a part of the ranch family for life. It’s like being made in the mob. Rip, played by Cole Hauser, is one of those lost souls that Dutton “saved” as a child. Now he’s his right-hand man and has grown fiercely loyal to the ranch. He’s not above breaking the law to do what it takes for the ranch.
Like Ben Cartwright, Dutton is a widower who lost his wife to an accident when his kids were still very young. His children are now grown and have their own kind of lives, but they are never completely out of the family business. These are the characters that bring the real drama to Yellowstone, where it becomes more like Dallas than Bonanza. There’s a lot of stubbornness in his children, and it poses more of a challenge for Dutton than the local reservation trying to steal his cattle and provoke a war.
The first episode begins exactly where the third season ended. There was a coordinated attack on the Dutton family. Patriarch John (Costner) has been gunned down. Daughter Beth (Reilly) was in her office when it exploded, and Kaycee (Grimes) was in his office at the Cattlemen’s Association where he’s their law officer, when men armed with assault rifles attacked. The attack involved a ton of people, and they were all timed to happen simultaneously. The season ended with a big question mark. Did any of the Duttons survive? We’re about to find out. If you haven’t watched the previous season, you don’t want to read this review. I’m going to give out what would be considered spoilers for the third season in order to describe the fourth.
The first episode delivers the rest of the attack with Kaycee going absolute commando as he chases down some of the bad guys and shoots them to such ribbons it makes what happened to Sonny Corleone look like a paper cut. It’s a frantic finish to the fight.
Then we jump ahead about two months. John has been in a coma and has finally wakened to the news of how bad the attack really was. Beth’s body is scarred by burns, and she has a gash on her face that leaves quite a large scar. Kaycee’s family had to fight off one of the bad guys, and his son ended up killing the assailant before he could kill Monica (Asbille). It appears the only one not hurt is adopted son Jamie (Bentley), and that makes Beth believe he was behind the attack.
Beth really gets the biggest chunk of screen time and attention this season. She and Rip end up moving into the mansion because Rip’s home was burned to the ground in the attack. She also befriends a young boy while visiting her father at the hospital. She ends up standing with him as his father dies of an overdose of heroin. She sees a bit of Rip in the troubled child and brings him home to the ranch. Rip isn’t happy at first, and the kid does his fair share of trying to screw up this opportunity, but even Rip sees something in the kid. Beth also is on the offensive with Market Equities, the company building an airport on nearby property. She finally meets a woman as strong and as ruthless as she is in Caroline Warner, played by Jacki Weaver. The two butt heads hard enough to shake buildings. Beth ends up accepting a deal to work for the company, but she takes it to get revenge on some of the employees she’s had trouble with and in the hope of sabotaging the project from the inside. Her lack of scruples in that fight pits her against her father and the one thing she cares most about in the world … his approval. She uses an environmentalist that John’s befriended rather intimately and puts her in the position of facing life in prison. So it’s a big season if you’re a Beth fan. This is absolutely her year.
For Kaycee it’s more about protecting his own family. They end up getting a place of their own so they can heal emotionally while his son recovers from his own nightmares of killing a man. He ends up embracing some Native American ways and seeks spiritual guidance.
Jamie is having a reconciliation with his own father, played by Will Paxton. He’s finally gotten a spread of his own. He’s reunited with his son and wife, and he’s going to be endorsed by the governor to replace her as she runs for the Senate. But Jamie isn’t fated to ever be happy, it appears. John steps in to deprive him of a shot at the governorship, and he discovers some dark secrets about his father that push him to cross a line he always thought separated him from the “real” Duttons. It doesn’t help that Beth is trying to make his life miserable and assures him she’s going to kill him. It’s another bad year for Jamie, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better in Season 5.
In the bunkhouse it’s Jimmy (White) who gets to shine. John is angry that Jimmy broke his word and went back to the rodeo where he was almost killed. Jimmy wears the brand, and we know where that usually leads a branded cowboy. You know that little cliff just over the state line? But Jimmy’s special, and so John sends him to a famous ranch in Texas to see if he can grow up and become a real cowboy. There he does a lot of growing up and falls in love with a vet named Emily (Kelly). Jefferson White does a great job of playing out these changes in Jimmy, but it’s possible that Jimmy’s growth might be the end of his character on the show. I hope it’s not.
The stand out is Lloyd, who is played by Forrie J. Smith, who himself was a rodeo man and cowboy for 50 years. He lends the greatest bit of authenticity here and is just becoming a compelling personality. Lloyd gets a great arc this season. He’s starting to feel like the ways of the job are passing him by. He’s unhappy Jimmy is being sent away, and Walker (Bingham) is getting under his skin. He starts to mess up and then gets into a couple of fights that pits him reluctantly against Rip, who loves him but has discipline to maintain. Smith gives this show a lot of its emotional center. He’s the link between the old ways and the modern days, and for a guy who wasn’t really an actor, he has been my favorite character to watch, more this season than ever before. He just comes across as the character on the show I’d most want to hang out with in real life. Come on over, Forrie. I make a mean meatball. Speaking of food, we learn that real chili doesn’t have beans, and so I hope my wife doesn’t happen to catch that episode.
Finally, more about the young new cast member. Finn Little plays young Carter, and he’s become a compelling part of the story. I kind of like the fish-out-of-water kind of stories, and he has become the audience representative on the show. Welcome aboard, Finn.
“Nothing had prepared me, no books, no teachers, not even my parents. I heard a thousand stories, but none could describe this place, it must be witnessed, to be understood, and yet I’ve seen it and understand it even less than before I first cast eyes on this place. Some call it the American dessert, others The Great Plains, but those phrases were invented by professors at universities surrounded by the illusion of order and the fantasy of right and wrong. To know it you must walk it, Bleed into its dirt, drown in its rivers, then its name becomes clear, it is hell, and there are demons everywhere. But if this is hell and I’m in it, then I must be a Demon too and I’m already dead..”
We’re a visual people, and so most of you will recognize Taylor Sheridan from his role as a chief of police in Sons of Anarchy when the controlled puppet regime had finally left the scene. It’s not a remarkable role, and it’s not a complete surprise that Sheridan found his calling more recently behind the camera. As a writer his first script hit it out of the park. Sicario is an awesome film populated with compelling and interesting characters who thrived on a broken system. That theme appears to have stuck with him, because Yellowstone appears to take us back in time to the days of open frontiers and cattle barons who struggled to keep their land amid lawless communities and raiding parties of American Indians who were portrayed as savage beasts who kill women and children in the middle of the night to become to shadows of nightmares and the stories told to keep children in line. These themes were all there, but it takes place in a modern setting that does indeed make for an interesting new twist on an old idea. This is the dawning of the modern western where lands still stretch for miles and are still owned by a single family. It’s Bonanza in the 21st century, and Kevin Costner thought enough of the idea to star in this television drama series for The Paramount Network.
Yellowstone became a huge hit and I’m looking forward to the next season Blu-ray release and you can be sure I’ll be back here to tell you all about it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have something new to talk about before that. Taylor Sheridan is perfectly aware of the compelling world he has created and like the land of the West it’s prime for being exploited. We’ve already caught a few brief glimpses of the history of the Dutton clan in some flashbacks on the show. It isn’t much but it turns out it was really a tease. Now Sheridan takes us back to the 1880’s so that we can see just how the famous family got to where they are. The series is called 1883 and it turns out it’s only going to sport 10 episodes but those 10 episodes are going to take us across the new frontier’s of the American West. And it’s going to be just as compelling, if not more so than its parent show. This time it’s not Bonanza we’re following here. It’s Wagon Train.
James Dutton, played by country music icon Tim McGraw has arrived in Fort Worth, Texas to meet his family who are coming by train. Along the way he’s already had to survive an ambush and a city pickpocket. By handle, of course I mean shooting a lot of bad guys. His actions come under the notice of Pinkerton employees Shea Brennan (Elliott) and Thomas (Garrett). It’s a nice coincidence because these two cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them. They have been hired by a group of German Immigrants to take their wagons and families across the infamous Oregon Trail so that they may take advantage of free land being offered to settler. Now if you’ve ever played that old educational 8-bit game The Oregon Trail you know all the nasty stuff that tends to happen to folks who dare make the journey. I guess that’s why they hired a couple of old Civil War vets like Shea and Thomas to give them a better chance of getting there alive. So it’s a good thing they ran into James who is obviously quite handy with that gun. It happens that James is awaiting his wife and two children by train. They will then pack up their own wagon and head north looking for the perfect place to settle. So Shea and Thomas naturally try to sign him up to the crew but it’s not quite what James had in mind. But after a night of once again having to survive bad guys, in this case a guy trying to rape his daughter, he decides to sign up. He won’t take money. He wants to be independent but will stick with the wagon train until he finds his own place.
All of this is just set-up. The band hits the road and all of those things that got you in the game start happening and then some. The settlers are dropping like flies. As the series goes on they get killed by drowning, rattlesnakes, bandits, tornadoes, Indians, disease, tainted water and just downright carelessness. Because James isn’t an employee he pretty much does what he wants which calls Shea’s authority into question. Of course, James is always right and they end up doing what he wants to do. James is willing to help but he really just cares for his own family and getting them safely to a new home.
The story isn’t really told from the perspective of James, however. The episodes are narrated by his daughter Elsa (May). She starts the journey with a wide sense of wonder and amusement but learns many of the harsh lessons that we learned from that silly game. The show is not totally from her viewpoint. Stuff happens outside of her experience but she provides the insight and a bit of philosophy about it all. It’s kind of a coming of age story with a tragic twist and these narrations go from hopeful to more realistic as her sheltered life witnesses the worst that can happen to people in the wide frontier.
Elsa is played by Isabel May and she’s pretty solid in the part. At first I found her annoying until I realized that’s just what she was supposed to be at first. She was naive and ignorant of the world and therefore a bit … well… annoying. But May does a really good job of showing the evolution of the character and she does this not just in the words of the script but by her entire body language. Her worldview changes more than once and May convinces us that it’s true.
James’ wife is played by Tim McGraw’s real world wife and also country music star Faith Hill. You can imagine how convincing they are as a couple. My only complaint is that I think Faith’s character Margaret doesn’t get as much good stuff to play. She has some moments and the scenes where she’s realizing that Elsa is growing into a woman are wonderful moments. I just don’t think you get to see her strength outside of these two relationships like we do most other characters. I thought she was underused and with those glimpses of character strength were mostly left as unfulfilled promises.
I love Same Elliott. After Clint Eastwood he is my favorite western actor. There’s an authenticity in everything he does from the way he carries himself to his speech and expressions. He’s no disappointment here. He lost his wife and daughter to smallpox and he’s run out of reasons to live. That pain and weariness dominates every moment of this character’s arc. He also has wonderful chemistry with LaMonica Garrett who plays Thomas. Garrett is also a powerful performer and that relationship left me wanting so much more. They share a bond that goes back to the war and you truly buy that these guys are brothers.
The series is a visual treat. The locations and production design truly take you to this time and place. Here’s the real secret about Taylor Sheridan. He’s not a very good writer. If you look at the entire story of these 10 episodes it doesn’t really take us anywhere. It’s not clever, unique or compelling. But here’s how he gets away with it and delivers such great television. I’m about to out Sheridan so pay attention. He’s not a good writer and I think to a certain extent he knows that. So what does he do? He has an uncanny ability to match an actor with their character. It’s not just finding a good actor. There are plenty of those who have been in bad parts. He somehow knows just who has everything they need to not play but inhabit a part. That makes his characters so compelling that you’re really not paying so much attention to plot. You just can’t get enough of these characters and their interactions. The next key to his success is the fact that he knows this world. He knows the animals the places and their place in the food chain. He prepares his cast to the point where they start to feel natural about what they’re doing. Sheridan knows the world well. His production design is about as flawless as it can be. He also knows how to put it all together. The plot might be weak but just try and pull yourself away from it all. It’s actually a perfect metaphor for the series itself. Forget where they’re going and if they’ll even get there. It doesn’t matter because the journey is what it’s all about.
There are two notable cameos in the series. James has a flashback to his defeat at Antietam during the war and Tom Hanks appears as General George Meade. Billy Bob Thornton also shows up as the Fort Worth Marshall who helps the team deliver some frontier justice to a gang of thieves.
There was originally talk of a second season but that was soon replaced with a different approach. I suspect we might revisit these characters in more flashbacks on the mother ship but it won’t be returning as a series. Instead another origin story series will take its place. 1932 will feature Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. That sounds exciting and I’m eager to see it but I will miss these characters. The story does kind of come to an emotional end but that never stopped Taylor Sheridan before. I’ll have to be content with Yellowstone‘s future and 1932. But before you move on to see more from this franchise take a moment to take in 1883. “It’s beautiful.”