For all its subplots, the enduring struggle of Netflix’s “The Ranch” has always been the Bennetts themselves. The tumultuous relationship between Colt’s (Ashton Kutcher, “That 70s Show”) narcissism and the intensity of his father, Beau (Sam Elliot, “The Mule”), has been at the center of it all. As the Bennetts continue to suffer from fighting one another, so does their beloved ranch. Nothing grows where there is no nurturing. Thus, the fourth season of this often dark western comedy has arrived and with it, the end of “The Ranch.”
The second half of the season comes after the first half was left on a cliffhanger: Who shot Nick (Josh Burrow, “The Crimson Mask”)? While both Colt and his cousin Luke (Dax Shepard, “Bless This Mess”) are arrested, it was actually Colt’s ex-girlfriend Heather (Kelli Goss, “Grey’s Anatomy”) behind the trigger.
Season four allows the Bennets to leave on a high note, after three seasons of misfortunes. Colt and Abby (Elisha Cuthbert, “24”) come to the decision that they’d like to have a second child. Luke comes to terms with the death of a close friend and to the conclusion about where he wants to be — at the ranch with the Bennetts. At the same time, Colt manages to do some sleuthing — proving the foul play of a large agricultural corporation. In the process, Colt not only saves his father’s ranch, but also acquires a new ranch next door for his new family.
Despite its large and talented cast, “The Ranch” has gone relatively overlooked for each of its four seasons. Yet, the show has been notable for a number of reasons, including the crassness with which the characters speak. The series never shied away from f-bombs, nor introspection. Even more notable is its subject matter. “The Ranch” has maintained an idle, almost offhand preoccupation with the rural. Here the Bennetts were, in the same town they grew up in, in the same bar they’ve always been drinking in, doing the same things they’ve always done. Perhaps it’s because of this that the Bennetts have struggled to survive in the onslaught of change and misfortune. Beau’s insistence on not moving his herd during a wildfire, only to lose track of his family, is one such notable example.
But I think “The Ranch” is more than that. There are few televised offerings that portray country living in a way that doesn’t pander or talk down to people with rural lifestyles. Yet, “The Ranch” has always been firm in portraying ruralites with a heavy dash of humility. Yes, Colt and Rooster are ranchers whose names are literal farm animals, and yes, they do get up to some yee-haw shenanigans. But the show also punishes its characters for this. The narrative punishes characters for being set in their ways too deeply. “The Ranch” does not praise the mischief that arises from the itchiness that comes with living in the middle of nowhere. But it also doesn’t condemn it, because that’s unreasonable and a tad discriminatory.
Instead, “The Ranch” closes as it opens: as a love letter to the passion of family and the range. The show rewards those who listen, those who communicate. But it also rewards those who stick to their guns and risk it all to save the things they love. It rewards being connected to a place, to paying tribute to our roots, even when we don’t fit in anymore. I have never seen the conservatism that people often attribute to the show, when it only ever went out of its way to crack an already fragile sense of masculinity. To roots, to “The Ranch” and to family, I raise my glass: “Cheers to the fucking Bennetts.”