The modern collective's fascination with the West isn't hard to understand. It feels like one of the last wild places, a primal patch of earth that stretches from mountains to desert and back again. This moon-eyed obsession has, arguably, grown more in the last few years than it has at any other point in recent history — and we have the Duttons to thank for that. Since premiering in 2018, Yellowstone has become the most-watched cable TV show in the U.S., its finales pulling in millions. Here, on the cusp of Yellowstone Season 5, you have to wonder: What is it about this series? And while there are many ways to answer that question, they're all rooted in the same thing: the Dutton family dynamics.
Like glossier shows such as Secession, the steady thumping heart that keeps Yellowstone alive and well is the complexity of a powerful yet flawed family. In this case, a family hellbent on protecting their way of life at just about any cost… including each other. It's those tenuous threads between family that have universal appeal. Want to get validation in the notion that you probably aren't doing such a shit job of parenting after all? Or be reminded that loving and hating the people you're related to aren't mutually exclusive emotions? Tune in.
To explore Yellowstone's unique brand of family dysfunction, Scary Mommy spoke with star Wes Bentley — aka Jamie. Here's how the Dutton's prodigal son feels heading into Yellowstone Season 5.
Oh, the tangled webs Jamie weaves! After the very shocking ending to his relationship with his biological dad and having the governorship stolen from beneath him by his adopted dad, is it safe to say Jamie's father-complex-turmoil stands to get even more intense this season?
Yeah, I think that's fair. Also, I find what's happening is by John taking the governorship, it's kind of cracked a thing for Jamie in his view of John. Whereas once he saw him as somewhat heroic or somewhat above it, now he sees his dad, who says he hates politicians, being one. And he sees hypocrisy in that. I think that changes his perspective of John. I feel almost like he's fatherless now, without his biological father and no longer seeing this man as his hero.
There's a lot to unpack there, for sure. As a mother, I find Jamie much more sympathetic than most people give him credit for. There's a lot to be said about the bond between mother and son. Do you think if Jamie's mother had been around to champion him that his trajectory would have changed?
I love that insight. I think that's accurate, and it's a secret I play, actually, that I guess is not so secret too. (laughs) But my mom — Wes's mom — also was talking about this. I think his loss of his mother … we don't really refer to it much with Jamie, but I think that was massive in that she was his champion, and that gave him his confidence. If she had been there, he may not have had to take the same path John wanted him to take.
See, that gets me right in the heart.
He's an emotional guy, and he needed his mother ... after she was gone, there was no one there to accept that emotion or rebound that emotion. So, that leads to a distorted perspective in life.
He's definitely a little untethered emotionally. Speaking of which, we have to talk about his dynamic with Beth. Interestingly, she feels responsible for her mother's death, and now Jamie is clearly going to be dealing with his guilt over killing his father. Do you think there's ever a world in which she might see a little bit of herself in Jamie?
I think that would revolt her. (laughs) She has so much hatred for Jamie that I didn't realize before the end of that season. Myself — Wes or Jamie — did not know to what degree she really was done with or hated him until her forcing him into those decisions — basically forcing him to kill his own father. That's shaken him because I think he had more of a hope of them reconciling than she did, obviously. Somewhere in him, he felt, We could get past this. But that's something you can't get past now. So, it's more like Jamie can understand her perspective now of hatred than her understanding his pain.
A big Season 4 bombshell was finding out Jamie now has a son. The one soft spot John Dutton seems to have is his grandkids. Could this kid be Jamie's way back into the fold?
As far as that goes, what's great about this show is that we have a storyline like that or cliffhangers that I'd be real excited for the fans to get to see on the show. But, you know, that's an interesting question. (laughs)
OK, playing it coy! Well, there's certainly no shortage of complex family dynamics to go around the Dutton ranch. But Kayce seems to be the show's moral compass, and he's the only one who hasn't entirely given up on Jamie. Does that give you hope that you'll have a redeeming arc?
I always try to have that hope, but part of me feels like if I have that hope, maybe I haven't been paying attention. (laughs) But I do think Kayce is his only real emotional link to the family now. Not that it's a safe place to be, because Kayce might feel in the moment that something Jamie tells him would be something for John to know. So, it's hard for him to feel safe in turning to Kayce, although there is an emotional attachment they have to each other that maybe no one else has in the family.
There are some very intense scenes between all of you, and it's easy to imagine that could bleed over into real life. Does it take exceptional trust in each other to play those?
Yes. Mostly with Beth, we get physical so often — on top of the emotional violence — that the only way to do it is trust. And we do; we have immense trust for each other. We really give to each other; we comfort each other in between if we need it. We let each other go there. We remind each other, 'You can go there with me.' That's really special, and it's made our scenes more intense because of that. If I didn't trust her, if she didn't trust me, we'd have a hard time letting loose.
I bet. You have arguably the most challenging or devastating role to play — Jamie is so polarizing. Do you ever look around and think, Huh, I wonder what it’d be like to play that character instead?
I look with a bit of jealousy sometimes at the stoicism Rip gets to play, although I could never do it like Cole [Hauser] does it. But there's something intriguing that I want there while I'm over here screaming and crying and snot pouring. (laughs)
But honestly, the truth is that I love this character. Well, I mean, I don't love Jamie Dutton — I love playing this character because of that challenge. I used to tell people, 'I don't really cry just because you write it on the page… I can't do that.' But I found that, through this role, I can do that if it's asked of me and it's written well enough like Taylor [Sheridan] does. So, in the end, there isn't really anyone else I'd want to play, to be honest.