Trouble is headed the Duttons’ way again on Yellowstone. In the premiere, John Dutton resigned as livestock commissioner and appointed his son Jamie. This week, in Sunday's episode “Freight Trains and Monsters,” Jamie stepped into his father’s shoes and then promptly into a mess sure to haunt himself and the family. As the new commissioner, he has control of livestock agents, who are sort of like police but only for crimes connected to livestock.
The Sweet Grass County attorney calls Jamie to see about sending a livestock agent to deal with two men who beat up two female barrel racers and stole their horses, trucks, and trailers and locked them in a horse stall. Since horses were stolen, Jamie can get involved.
“You can make a lot of friends if we handle this the right way,” the attorney tells Jamie.
“Umm... What's the right way?” he asks. “The right way sends a message. You know what I mean?”
Jamie sends Agent Hendon to deal with the two men and send the message. However, Hendon’s “message" will likely leave the agent on the receiving end of a manslaughter charge (or worse) in a future episode.
Fictional as it may be, the use of violence and the very notion of a law enforcement officer of any kind "sending a message," instead of arresting criminals and letting the judicial system do its job is disturbing. It's also sure to fuel current real-world narratives that all law enforcers are bad and willing to use excessive force.
Hendon arrives at the rodeo, sees one of the beaten women and then the sheriff takes him to the culprits who are being held in a stall. The sheriff tells him, “These fuckers need to learn a lesson. Something they’ll tell every criminal in county jail who’ll listen. You got any ideas?”
Agent Hendon says yes and asks the sheriff to put them in the back of a horse trailer with their hands still zip tied. He then drives the trailer wildly, repeatedly gunning it before hitting the brakes, and swerving from side to side before driving back to the rodeo. Although it should have been obvious, Hendon didn’t realize that causing the mens’ bodies to slam into the sides of the trailer again and again would be deadly.
It isn’t until he returns to the sheriff and they open the back of trailer that he knows he’s killed them both. The episode closes with Hendon making a collect call from jail to Jamie to tell him the trouble “we’re in.”