Redefining Sniveling

Kish and I finished watching season 4 of Yellowstone earlier this week. It was an interesting season, full of curious twists and turns. And once again we got to see that Wyoming, just across the border from Montana, is a convenient dumping ground for the human debris created by the outsized antics of the Dutton clan.

I won’t discuss the plot developments, so as not to spoil surprises for those who haven’t yet caught up on the season, but I do want to comment on the development of the characters. Beth Dutton continues to push the envelope of unbelievably risky and outrageous behavior far beyond the breaking point. Rip Wheeler showed more hints of an actual human being underneath his hardest of the hard asses veneer. Kayce seems adrift, and John Dutton is always full of surprises.

But the character whose development has been the most striking is Jamie Dutton. At the start of the first season, Jamie was the tough, high-powered lawyer who could use the law to crush the family’s opponents. By the end of season four, Jamie has become one of the most sniveling, craven, and contemptible characters in the history of television, easily manipulated by everyone he talks to and bereft of any personal courage or integrity. He’s kind of like Frank Burns from M*A*S*H transplanted to the mountains of Montana, with a constant pathetic and frequently befuddled expression on his face, his chin quivering and looking as if he is ready to burst into tears at any moment. Just as Beth Dutton is plowing new ground in outrageousness, Jamie is marking out new territory in abject spinelessness.

As a lawyer myself, I hate to see a fictional lawyer reduced to a trembling tower of jello–but as a viewer I have to admit I find Jamie’s pusillanimous descent makes for interesting TV. Kudos to the writers and actor Wes Bentley for presenting this fascinating cowardly lion in full flower.

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