For a long while, Yellowstone was sliding under the radar as a TV drama, but over time, it’s built an audience and this year? Well, it’s evolved into an absolute monster.
The Paramount Network original just aired a two-part season 4 premiere, returning after a shocking season 3 cliffhanger, and the numbers it has done are nothing short of miraculous in this day and age of non-streaming television.
Via Variety, Paramount reports that 14 million viewers have watched the Yellowstone season 4 premiere since it aired. In context, that makes it the #1 show on all of television in 2021, higher than anything on regular networks, cable or premium networks like HBO. This premiere is the most-watched cable premiere since The Walking Dead four years ago in 2017, and represents a 58% jump since the season 3 premiere.
Yellowstone clearly has struck a chord nationwide, a crime drama that has echoes of classic westerns, and great performances from its cast, including Kevin Costner as the lead. Yellowstone has grown on critics over time. Season 1 has a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. Season 2 had an 88%. And season 3 had a perfect 100%, albeit that was only among six critics. In general, this seems like a series that “prestige” Hollywood is kind of ignoring, perhaps due to its topic and where it airs, while audiences themselves are absolutely devouring it.
In terms of why the season 4 premiere was so appealing, we have to venture into spoiler territory for the end of season 3.
It stands to reason that the premiere did so well for exactly the same reason the The Walking Dead premiere back in 2017 did, people wanted to see who lived and who died.
Yellowstone had a less annoying cliffhanger than The Walking Dead’s Negan bat scene, but it had pretty much all members of the Dutton family under attack, either actually shot or about to be, or in Beth’s case, possibly blown up. Someone, and it remains a mystery exactly who, orchestrated a coordinated hit on the Dutton family, but the answer to the question “who died” was…no one. Everyone lived, even minor characters, though John Dutton got the worst of it, being shot with an assault rifle multiple times, but Rip got him to the hospital in time. The actual most injured person might be Jimmy, though ironically he just fell off a horse before the shooting even started.
As for where Yellowstone goes from here in season 4, questions remain about Jamie’s loyalty, including some thinking it could have been him who ordered the hit in the first place. Right now the family is in recovery mode, but we’ll see the full scope of this season soon enough, it seems, and it’s probably going to be heavily tied to the airport/city development on the land last season.
What will the numbers do from here? Not sure, but I expect them to remain large, and for Yellowstone to retain its massive audience.