‘Yellowstone’ Season 2 Episode 1 Recap & Review: ‘A Thundering’ Was a Phenomenal Kickoff

Yellowstone Season 2

Paramount

Yellowstone Season 2 Episode 1, A Thundering, was a phenomenal kickoff to the season, and I couldn’t have asked for more. This recap/review was written live as the show aired, so you’ll get my authentic reactions to every scene. This post will have spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of Yellowstone.

Season 1 of Yellowstone was a crazy ride. It ended with John Dutton sick and his family splitting apart. Beth and Kayce seem to be staying close to John, but Jaime and John are at serious odds. Meanwhile, Sheriff Donnie is putting too much trust in Jenkins.

There are a lot of moving parts, so there will be a lot to keep up with during the Season 2 premiere. And here we got with the recap and review.

The episode begins with deep breathing We see Rainwater looking across the landscape, his eyes appearing fearful. A bush is on fire, he sees someone running on fire and stumbling… Next we see him sitting with Jenkins. Jenkins tries to shoot him, Rainwater screams, and he’s awake. Everything’s OK. Rainwater is obviously a haunted man.

Next we see John Dutton and his crew hunting something. Apparently a herd of cattle worth $100,000 is stuck in a thicket. The boys are going to round them up, but it won’t be easy.

This is a great way to start the season, reminding us of the show’s roots and what’s most important to the families. “It’s only reckless if you can’t see it through,” John says. I really need a list of Dutton-isms. That was a good one.

And then the show’s intro credits roll. I love the opening. It’s beautiful. You can tell they spent a lot of time putting this together.

After the intro, it looks like we’re about to meet a new character. He’s got a pack with him and he’s heading into the Yellowstone Ranch.

We cut to Kayce and the group herding the cattle they just caught. We’re told it was 800 total. but someone messed up and the bulls got into the pen with the cows and things are a mess. The guys are up to the task though (well, everyone but Jimmy.)

The new guy is looking for day work. He tells John that he has references and is trying to make his way to Arizona. John tells him that he needs to make his case to Kayce. We can see that Kayce has moved up in John’s eyes and is really fitting in now.

There’s a subtle reminder that John still has health issues, as Kayce and Rip watch him with concern.

Now we’re seeing Jaime for the first time this season, and his assistant girlfriend. (Sorry, I can’t remember her name so I’ll have to fix this later.) There’s a moment when Jaime drinks boiling hot coffee, unaffected, and that’s a sure sign of the Dutton family blood in his veins.

Now we get to see Beth renting a place for six months in Bozeman. (She said she’d need to be poisoned if she was still there in a year.) Beth tells John that she found a lawyer who looks like her, so Jaime is going to hate her.

Next we see Rainwater discussing the casino plans with his people. It’s 90 miles off the reservation, but Rainwater promises it won’t be off-site. They’ll own the land and then annex it into the reservation. It won’t have any state oversight, he just needs the Council to approve a loan.

“Ambitious,” one says, reminding him that he was elected to bring change. Rainwater argues that they are beginning change by doing to others what was done to them. But one man on the Council is concerned that nothing in the proposal is promising to help their community at all.

“You don’t get my vote,” the man says. “Do I need it?” Rainwater asks the rest of the group. Apparently not.

Monica is back at the university, wanting the Native American Studies offer after all. She insists she can teach at the university and at the high school. (Remember, she and Kayce broke up. She didn’t like seeing that Kayce was turning into his father.) Monica is offered a chance to teach history, including Columbus, and she can teach it the way she feels is right.

“I look forward to teaching young minds about the man who introduced genocide to the Western hemisphere,” Monica says. I’m loving these Episode 1 quotes.

Next we’re back at the Dutton Ranch, and Beth is meeting up with the woman on the magazine cover that she told her dad about. Beth is always five steps ahead of everyone else. Ohhhhh, they’re looking for someone to support for attorney general who is NOT Jaime. And that’s why Cassidy, who looks like Beth, would make Jaime so mad. It makes more sense now!

The lawyer (Cassidy) says she’s from Eastern Montana and is worried she won’t get the votes. But John assures her that they’ve got that covered. There are so many chess moves in this show, it’s tough to keep up with everything.

Did I mention that I’m really enjoying this premiere? The setting is great, the acting is phenomenal, and the plot is complicated…

After the commercial, the new guy (named Cowboy) is eating with the rest of Rip’s wrangler group. Cowboy makes fun of Jimmy (which I’m all here for), but then he rips on other people. That’s when Rip puts Cowboy in his place and says that if he wants to beat on anyone, it’s going to be HIM.

And I love the touch where the music I was hearing was from someone actually playing the guitar and not from the soundtrack. Cowboy is talking with Walker (I think it’s Walker), and he advises him to keep the past in the past. Cowboy says he found the place, it didn’t find him. But Walker tells him he might want to make a u-turn because this isn’t like any place he’s been before.

“Reminds of the place down by the border… drug runners, militia, all that…”

Cowboy says there aren’t any borders here, but he’s told there definitely are borders here, you just can’t see them. SO TRUE.

Walker basically makes Cowboy promise to take him with him when he leaves. Interesting…

Kayce arrives back at Monica’s grandparents in a FORD F-150 (great product placement.) In case you don’t remember, they broke up because she didn’t like how he was turning into his dad, and she had suffered a serious head injury after a student beat her up. “I want to shield him from what you’ve done,” she says… That’s because she found out he killed her brother. Even though it was in self-defense, he lied to her about it last season. I think that was the breaking point between those two.

Beth is speaking with a rich older man about her plan to buy land that’s put into a conservation easement to lower property tax. Then the government will pay them not to farm it to control the supply through a CRP. They’ll pay every year, depending on the land, up to $400 an acre. Ultimately the government will pay off their land for them.

Beth suggests they start with $100 million investment and will funnel the CRP payments into more land payments. They’ll be profitable by the end of Year 2 with a net revenue of $46 million per year, funded by the government’s CRP. She explains that Jenkins didn’t do this because he doesn’t have enough of an investment.

Bob wants to know what’s in it for Beth. She says it’s about protecting her dad’s ranch and buying up land around it through this scheme. This plan of Beth’s just might work. Like I said before she’s five – no 10 – steps ahead of everybody else.

And we’re back after another commercial break.

It looks like Cowboy is quite the instigator, getting the rest of the group to take risks and be up to no good in general. Avery is definitely the bravest in the group, and she’s fitting right in after the awkwardness from when she joined last season.

Rip is not happy about these shenanigans, though. But even he noticed how gutsy Avery was when that bull approached.

Annnd there’s a bar fight. But Cowboy warns them that they shouldn’t have gone to that particular bar. Even he knows that wasn’t a good idea

Ohhhh, Kayce isn’t happy. And then Rip and Walker have a really intense moment.

And Rip is really mad at the bar owner. He threatens to mess things up if he’s not told if someone from his group is hurt. But Kayce takes things one step farther and threatens to burn the entire bar down next time. That was dark and even Rip was uncomfortable with that.

I don’t know about you, but I can picture Kayce going really dark this season.

Dan Jenkins and John Dutton meet up in a tense scene. (I thought Kayce and Rip had killed Jenkins in the finale last season… Did I get him messed up with someone else?) NO. Dutton references what Kayce and Rip did to Dan. I guess Dan just didn’t die. Dan references John’s son who died, and that was a step too far for John.

Oh no!!!!! At the ranch, John collapses. They bring him inside for emergency medical treatment. This is NOT good. He’s spitting up blood. John tells the doctor not to take an X-Ray because he has cancer, but she tells him that if it was colon cancer he wouldn’t be spitting up blood. Turns out that John has a ruptured ulcer and it needs to be cauterized right now or he’s going to die. (Did she just confirm he didn’t have colon cancer? I don’t think so, he just has another issue too.)

They’re going to have to do major surgery without anesthesia. She has to cauterize the wound, while he’s awake, and he can’t move. John is a badass and he’s handling the intense pain. Everyone is holding it together and no one is freaking out. That is impressive. John looks up and watches while she’s cauterizing his ulcer and then passes out while Rip is holding him in place. That was probably the best thing for him, to pass out.

A helicopter arrives and John is rushed away. Cowboy watches as the helicopter takes off, whisking John away for treatment with Kayce by his side. John sits up, obviously doing OK at this point.

“On the bright side, you don’t have cancer,” Kayce says. So WOW, he really doesn’t! How does a doctor mix up an ulcer with colon cancer? Geez! Seems like it was a little quick to make that diagnosis, but I love that Kevin Costner will be around a long time.

“I have so much to undo,” John says as he realizes that he’s not dying any time soon.

Overall, that was an amazing episode. It was the perfect way to start the new season.