The show is a year removed from the firing of actor/producer Danny Masterson, who was accused of sexual assault by multiple women. While the comedy's fifth part (the first half of Season 3) was released in June, Part 6 is the true test. Part 5 was already produced before Masterson's exit, so this 10-episode batch is the first time The Ranch has existed without Masterson, who played core character Rooster Bennett.
The absence is a tough hurdle for the show to jump over. The Ranch's fanbase has been very vocal about their distaste with him being fired due to accusations, which have all been denied by Masterson. Rooster is also a huge part of the series, often delivering some of the show's biggest punchlines.
However, whatever comedic relief The Ranch may have lost with Masterson, the show makes it up with heart and emotion.
While The Ranch could have easily fast-forwarded ahead of Rooster's exit (he was run out of town by a romantic rival at the end of Part 5), the minds behind the scenes made the wise creative decision to have the Bennett family discover Rooster's absence mere hours after it begins. This leads to heartbreaking scenes of Colt Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) frantically hunting down his brother's whereabouts.
While he searches for answers, the other major players fear the worse and assume Rooster is dead. Sam Elliott has always brought a sense of gravitas to this silly blue collar comedy, and this multi-episode arc allows him space to flex the emotional range he also showcased in this year's A Star is Born. His character's devastation at losing a son makes the show more gripping than it ever has been before or likely ever will again.
While these episodes, the first three of Part 6, show the series breaking new ground, things quickly get back to normal, for better or worse. No one wants 10 episodes of characters mourning, so the show gets back into its usual groove in Episode 4. That is when the show cranks back up to its typical blend of middle-of-the-road jokes and small-town hijinks.
However, there is just not too much going around for the characters plot-wise. Beau (Elliott) is just trying to take things easy for once. Dax Shepard is introduced as a Bennett family relative, but, aside from some moments about his PTSD, is stuck hooking up with the more-unlikable-than-ever Mary (Megyn Price).
Colt and his wife Abby (Elisha Cuthbert) should have a lot going on, being as they have their first child. However, screen time is mostly dedicated to Colt blundering business dealing after business dealing while Abby is sidelined. Where their relationship goes at the end of the season is somewhat promising narratively for Part 7 onward but does not help Part 6.
Overall, The Ranch Part 6 is more of the same show that fans have enjoyed the past few years. Even if Rooster was your favorite character on the show, there are plenty of laughs left to go around. While the back half does leave something to be desired narratively, the first few episodes show some impressive growth for the characters. Even if you have always passed over The Ranch while scrolling through Netflix, the first arc may be worth watching just to see how the creators were able to write themselves out of a corner and how the actors were able to push themselves further than you would expect.
The Ranch Part 6 is now available to stream on Netflix.
Photo Credit: Saeed Adyani / Netflix