Seeing John in his prime could be a reminder of who the man once was, perhaps showing audiences why he continues to fight like a dinosaur staving off extinction. It is a reminder of the passion the now emotionally stoic John once showed. Yet, once again, so far, it has yet to be revealed why Sheridan has shoehorned so much of this era into this season of the show. This episode’s flashback filled in a little tidbit of Rip’s history, as we learn why he’s a branded man who will forever wear the “Y”, but sadly, once again, there was nothing really new about what was discovered about the character.
“The Dream is Not Me” is a perfect example of the fifth season’s shortcomings in the fact that it is slow, character-driven, and somewhat repetitive. So why is it that this episode was arguably the most entertaining of this early season? Simple. Sheridan remembered two things the show had really been missing – heart and joy.
Don’t misunderstand either, this reviewer very much recognizes there have been moments of joy or moments of heart in the fifth season, and has often spoken to how they have been the most memorable bits of their respective episodes. But “The Dream is Not Me” seems to have a lot more of it, and because of that, the stakes are finally heightened. The audience, it feels like for the first time, has become invested.
Those stakes come in a few fundamental subplots. Predominantly, we learn the cattle may have caught a blight from local bison and need to be moved far off the ranch, which leads to Yellowstone having to rent land down south. This means spending money John doesn’t have, and losing key members of the extended ranch family as they transport the herd, and ensure they can thrive in their new home. Rip, Teeter (Jen Landon), and Ryan (Ian Bohen) are likely to be gone for the better part of a year which throws a wrench into several romantic relationships on the ranch.
Beth and Rip may be apart. Teeter and Colby (Denim Richards) could have their first true test in their relationship. Sadly, this also means it could be the end of this season’s blossoming love between Ryan and Abby (Lainey Wilson). While the stakes have finally been raised, there is a cautious cynicism when viewing this episode, as again, some of it just feels all too familiar. Ryan and Abby’s short lived romance becoming possibly problematic mirrors what Jimmy (Jefferson White) and Mia (Eden Brolin) went through when Jimmy had to go to Texas. They too fought about him leaving, and even before that, as she told him to be the man he wanted to be, and not simply honor his debt to the Yellowstone. Ryan pleading with Abby, preaching about how this is his dream and his existence rings a little hollow simply because the show has done it before. Jimmy had to choose between duty and love, and now, so does Ryan.
One romance that seems to be thriving is that strangely provocative pairing of Summer (Piper Perabo) and John. Summer is making strides to understand how the other half lives, and it was a joyful experience witnessing her vaccinating calves and truly attempting to be a part of that way of life. The romance feels a little forced to be perfectly honest, but the dynamic of the characters’ core differences does in fact make their scenes together worthwhile.