Yellowstone returned to the airwaves for its much-anticipated Season 4 on Sunday night (Nov. 7) on the Paramount Network, and fans who had been eagerly waiting were not disappointed. The action-packed two-episode premiere event provided many of the key answers that fans have been speculating about since the stunning end of Season 3.

Season 3 ended on multiple cliffhangers as John Dutton (Kevin Costner), Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) and Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) came under concerted attack from unknown assailants. All of their lives hang in the balance as Season 4 resumes right where Season 3 left off, and it doesn't take long for us to find out that all three have survived, though two of them have suffered very serious injuries

John Dutton has suffered particularly grievous injuries that directly threaten his life, and he is transported by helicopter to a hospital in the opening minutes of Season 4 after ever-faithful Rip (Cole Hauser) finds him on the roadside, while Kayce fights his way out of his office, killing multiple gunmen who were attacking him. Beth Dutton emerges, dazed and clearly hurt, from the office building where a package bomb has exploded, but fans don't comprehend the horrifying extent of her injuries until later in the opener.

Kayce's wife and son, Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and Tate (Brecken Merrill), also come under attack at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch in the opening sequences of Season 4, and though Monica has tried and tried to shield Tate from the dark side of the family's legacy, he's forced to make a choice that will alter his life forever, shooting one of the attackers in the kitchen with a rifle to save his mom's life.

Kayce and a number of law enforcement officers end up in a firefight at the crossroads of a country road with the surviving attackers, who are attempting to flee in a van, and while they all appear to die in the fight, Kayce — who has miraculously escaped injury to this point — falls to the road after taking a bullet in the chest.

The ranch hands who now wear the brand all rise to the occasion, defending the Dutton ranch by shooting and even hanging several of the gang of attackers, who are wearing clown masks. As Rip returns to the ranch to take stock of the devastating situation, he's confronted with one more emotional blow as the dream cabin John Dutton gave him in Season 3 is up in flames.

And that's just in the opening minutes before the credits roll, in a 13-minute story arc that will surely go down as one of the most stunningly action-packed, tightly-written and tightly-paced sequences in the history of episodic television.

So ...if you're keeping score, so far the three Duttons whose lives were most directly threatened are alive, though two of them could still very readily not make it. Jimmy's (Jefferson White) fate is still unclear after being thrown from a horse he should not have been riding, while those who have died so far include Kayce's secretary, Beth's assistant (presumably, though we don't see her dead), several attackers at the ranch and the attackers on the road.

The first episode of Season 4 provides various forms of closure for each character, revealing that John Dutton lives, though he's hospitalized for an extended period and returns home tremendously diminished and with a painful recovery ahead of him. Kayce has also survived, as has Beth, and the three principal Duttons reunite at the ranch for the closest thing they could hope for to a happy reunion under the circumstances.

Jimmy has also survived, though he has aggravated his previous neurological injuries and is barely functional, facing a long period of physical rehabilitation before he's capable of even basic self-care. Though he has much to be thankful for, Jimmy has broken his word to John Dutton that he would not rodeo anymore, and he faces the consequences of that.

The relationship between Beth and Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) has never been worse, as she fixates on him as the culprit behind the attacks. In a tense scene in his office, she warns him, "I'm going to kill you."

Fans can also add real estate developer Roarke (Josh Holloway) to the list of dead, as Rip takes care of him in a most surprising way that brings the first episode to a close.

The first two episodes of Season 4 of Yellowstone are an interesting example of the show's inherent dichotomy between darkness and light. While much of the first episode deals with the dark side of the Dutton legacy and the violence it engenders, there are also glimpses of the loyalty and friendship that are also a constant presence, with John Dutton joining the ranch hands who have served him so loyally for a card game despite his previous observations that he can't both lead them and be their friend.

And though Rip and Beth's relatively idyllic Season 3 has been interrupted, it has not been destroyed. The first two episodes of Season 4 introduce a young character named Carter (Finn Little), who Beth meets in the hospital while she's visiting her father. His father is dying from drugs, and to say that he's troubled is a massive understatement. Given the opportunity to say goodbye to his dying father, he leans over him and says, "F--k you for leaving me in this place with nothing and nobody. If there's a Hell, you're in it. I'll see you when I get there, you son of a bitch."

Beth sees through his tough demeanor, and when he subsequently lands in trouble, she decides to bring him to the ranch, where she hopes she and Rip will be able to take him in. It's yet another understatement to say that Rip is a reluctant father figure at first, but by the end of Episode 2, they are settling into a sweet, if remarkably unconventional family unit of a sort, with even John Dutton taking a shine to the boy.

The central question at the end of Season 3 is left unresolved as the two-episode arc that launches Season 4 comes to a close without viewers knowing who was responsible for the attacks. That's likely to change soon, as Chairman Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) directs Mo (Mo Brings Plenty) to extract information from a drunken loudmouth who talks a bit too much at the casino and claims to have helped arrange the attacks. And while Beth blames Jamie, Kayce and John Dutton are more interested in Market Equities, which they believe hired the militia that previously kidnapped Tate to carry out the attacks on the Duttons over their ongoing land dispute.

The opening episodes introduce the character of Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver), the CEO of Market Equities, who comes to town to try a different strategy to convince Rainwater to get on board with their plans for the valley. Yellowstone series creator Taylor Sheridan's role as Travis Wheatley is expanding, too, as John Dutton takes him on as part of a new strategy to grow the ranch's holdings into show horses and breeding to expand their hold on their land.

The premiere also served to introduce the two upcoming Yellowstone spinoffs. A flashback in Episode 1 introduced Tim McGraw in the character of James Dutton, John's great-grandfather, who is one of the main characters in the upcoming prequel 1883. That shows tells the backstory of the Dutton family and their bond with their land, while it's revealed that Jimmy, having disappointed John, will leave Yellowstone and travel to another ranch, where he will have one last shot at becoming a cowboy. That's presumably going to be the setting for Yellowstone: 666, for which very few details are yet available.

So, who was behind the attacks? And who will be the next to die? Stay tuned to Taste of Country as we provide comprehensive week-to-week coverage of Yellowstone and the first season of 1883, including episode analysis, news on the shows, cast interviews and more.

As part of our comprehensive coverage, check out the new Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, beginning Nov. 9.

1883 is set to premiere on Dec. 19 and will air exclusively on Paramount+, while Yellowstone Season 4 will air on the Paramount Network and Paramount+. Subscribe to the streaming service to make sure you don't miss out.

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