Taylor Shepard Universe: A Shocking Death in the Season 5 Premiere of ‘Yellowstone,’ and Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Tulsa King’

Two new episodes of Yellowstone‘s fifth season premiered tonight, and Tulsa King premiered as well, marking the return to regular programming for the Taylor Sheridan Universe. Sly Stallone stars as an aging mobster in the latter comedy, which is directed by Terence Winter (of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire fame). This is a quick review of Yellowstone with some ideas for developing Tulsa King. Both Yellowstone and Tulsa King, both produced by 101 Studios, have found homes on the Paramount Network and the Paramount+ streaming service, respectively.

In the opening scene of Yellowstone, we learn that Governor Lynelle Perry (Wendy Moniz) has chosen Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), the black sheep of the Dutton family adopted,’s father and the patriarch of the Yellowstone ranch, John Dutton, to run for her vacated seat and become the next Governor of Montana, while she becomes a U.S. Senator.

For the first two episodes, we get to see John Dutton (Kevin Costner) brood, Rip (Cole Hauser) snarl, and Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) preen and cut down another man who has the audacity to approach her while she is drinking alone at a bar. It provides Jamie Dutton with ample opportunity for self-pity and reflection, while also providing Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) with yet another excuse to prioritize his father’s needs over those of his own family and further strain his relationship with Monica (Kelsey Asbille).

Unfortunately, that results in a tragic outcome. It’s obvious that John Dutton has no desire to be a state governor, but if the people of his state benefit from his fervent efforts to stop the construction of an airport and his efforts to stop the state from becoming “the rich man’s playground” by preventing wealthy West Coasters from building condos on his land, then so be it.

Shocking Death in the Season 5 Premiere of 'Yellowstone,' and Sylvester Stallone's 'Tulsa King'

Nonetheless, nothing has changed since we last saw Dutton riding with his dying father and having a heart-to-heart, during which the father vowed that his son would never give an inch. Over his dead body would those land grabby developers take the land near Yellowstone? All for the sake of keeping a promise that is cancerous to the children who blindly follow him. It’s clear that he’s not enthusiastic about taking the oath of office.

Dutton’s plan to rule by self-interest has the following flaws. The chief of the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock, Thomas Rainwater, has put aside his people’s quest for land restitution to aid John Dutton’s business interests instead. To that end, she assisted in identifying the perpetrators of the attacks on Dutton and his daughter’s workplace, as well as Kayce.

Another serious issue is Beth’s desire for vengeance against her brother Jamie, who, when they were young, took her to a free abortion clinic for Native American girls and didn’t bat an eye when they told her they would also perform a hysterectomy. As the father was a young Rip Wheeler, his sister’s current husband, and a stone killer when he has to be, this is an unforgivable act that haunts her every step.

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When Jamie’s family learned that his murderous biological father had planned the assassination attempt from the previous season, Beth quickly brought him to heel (Will Patton). Beth took a picture of her brother carrying the body of Jamie’s father after he killed him and brought him to the “train station” where bodies are dumped over the edge, intending to use it as blackmail if Jamie ever disobeys her again.

She treats him like a mouse and plays with him like a cat, which begs the question: if Jamie is willing to murder in cold blood the father he loved and a journalist a season or two ago, why wouldn’t he kill the sister who delights in humiliating him at every turn? After all, he was born to kill. Jamie’s glum attitude is brought to the attention of the rip-shit-pissed Caroline Warner, chairman of Market Equities, who realizes that he may be her only chance to save the airport, seize Dutton’s land, and ruin the people she calls “these hillbillies.”

Unfortunately, Beth isn’t doing a very good job of encouraging her brother not to go off the rails again. The police searching the “train station” for Jamie’s father’s body after receiving a tip from her sister could potentially implicate both her father and her husband, as well as anyone else on the ranch who may have used the station as a body-dumping ground.

Scenes from the tumultuous early years of Rip and Beth’s relationship are reenacted, and the Yellowstone hands have a great time in the bunkhouse. Sooner or later, there will be trouble, like when two of the ranch hands kill the wolves that have been preying on Dutton’s livestock. When they examine the bodies, they discover tags, indicating that the wolves left the state parkland where their every move was monitored. Evidently, there are online fans of each wolf who are passionate about environmental issues; this has far-reaching consequences.

The final character is Kayce, who completed a vision quest at the end of last season in an effort to alleviate his agonizing existential crisis. His takeaway was that he had witnessed “the end of us,” though he did not specify whether or not “us” referred to the Duttons or Kayce and Monica. In this case, the livestock agent is on the trail of a gang of horse thieves as they try to enter Canada.

And yet, there’s Monica at home, looking as pregnant as can be and suffering through contractions three weeks too soon. Kayce is far away, so she takes her son Tate on an unsafe trip to the emergency room. The combination of a reckless truck driver coming from the opposite direction and a giant cow that decides to block the road leads to one of the most shocking depictions of death in Yellowstone.

Tate tells his grandfather that the boy, who only lived for an hour, was named John. To say that Kayce should have been at home with his pregnant wife in the three weeks prior to her due date is an oversimplification. But now, more than ever, she has every reason to take her son and run as far away from the Duttons and their precious ranch as she can. Tate was kidnapped by vicious members of a militia once before, and Monica had to shoot dead one of the assassins sent to Yellowstone to kill her and Tate last season.

When telling local businessmen that he is considering putting the ranch into a trust so that it can remain unspoiled even if it is no longer in his hands, John Dutton drops a bit of a bomb himself. Could that be his way of fulfilling a pact with his late dad?

Tulsa King

Although this week’s trade reviews of the Taylor Sheridan comedy were mixed, I think there’s a lot more potential here than just seeing Sly Stallone in character as Dwight “The General” Manfredi. After keeping his mouth shut for 25 years in prison, he is exiled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and given free reign to set up a criminal enterprise there as a “fish out of water.”

In the pilot, Manfredi does what he does best—earn—by clocking a made man (who wants revenge), sleeping with an ATF agent who may be on his tail, hiring a driver, and so on. Traditional mob movie and TV show conventions, such as brandishing a wad of $100 bills thick enough to choke a horse, are now archaic. To transfer funds to the headquarters, Manfredi needs a debit card because they refuse to accept cash. Manfredi changes even though Goodfellas’ Jimmy the Gent wouldn’t approve.

Almost immediately, he begins to socialize with the locals (Garrett Hedlund is particularly endearing as the owner of what becomes Manfredi’s favorite cowboy watering hole) and convinces the owner of a legal weed dispensary (Martin Starr’s Bodhi) to split his money with him in exchange for protection. It’s unclear who, exactly, since the dispensary sells legal marijuana. Tulsa King, however, begins to develop some intriguing layers by the second episode.

Stories about flawed dads and their kids, time lost, and evil are all promising themes (Max Casella spots Manfredi in a mall and is soon frantically making calls and it is unclear if he is in witness protection, or working up his own criminal plans). There’s also the allure of crime and the prospect of watching a reluctant Sylvester Stallone beat the snot out of bad guys.

Given Winter’s background, you could be forgiven for assuming that The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire will serve as touchstones. There are humorous aspects to both of those series as well as his script for The Wolf of Wall Street, but this piece of work reminds me more of Get Shorty, the Barry Sonnenfeld adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel.

Compares Stallone’s Manfredi to John Travolta’s Chili Palmer, the slick loan shark who uses charisma, self-assurance, and the occasional right cross to rise to the top of the Hollywood food chain. After Episode 2 concludes, Manfredi has developed close ties to the marijuana farm owned by the dispensary’s proprietor, allowing him to negotiate a more favorable long-term deal. Additionally, he has additional plans for growth.

As if that weren’t enough to convince you to give Tulsa King a chance, think about the last three or so episodes of Mayor of Kingstown, where Jeremy Renner was thrust into the middle of one of the most electrifying and shocking prison riots seen on a series in a good long while. Sheridan typically has a valuable ace up his sleeve.

Last Lines

The Taylor Sheridan Universe is back to its regularly scheduled programming with the premiere of Tulsa King and two new episodes of Yellowstone from its fifth season. In the latter comedy, directed by Terence Winter, Sly Stallone plays a crotchety old mobster. Here is a short recap of Yellowstone along with some suggestions for enhancing Tulsa King. The 101 Studios productions Yellowstone and Tulsa King can now be seen on the Paramount Network and the Paramount+ streaming service.

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