What is “Yellowstone”?
The new-Western drama series “Yellowstone” premiered on Paramount Network in June 2018, and was created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, with the main cast comprising Gil Birmingham, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Costner and Cole Hauser. Most of the storylines are built around the conflicts and heartbreak that occur within the shared borders of a cattle ranch, an Indian reservation, and with prospective land developers. Thanks to positive audience ratings, the season five premiere aired in November 2022.
In the “Yellowstone” universe, the Dutton family are the undoubted protagonists, and own the largest ranch in Montana, named Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. Each member of the clan has seen exceptional growth and character development in the few years since the series first aired, although their personal lives often take second place to more urgent matters.
In 2013, Taylor Sheridan began creating the series after stepping back from acting – having lived in Texas and Wyoming, he drew on personal experience to write one of his first screenplays. Initially, “Yellowstone” was pitched to HBO and a host of other networks, who turned down the idea. The concept was finally picked up by Paramount Network and would become its first scripted series. Taylor is the main writer, executive producer, and director of “Yellowstone”, whereas other executive producers included John and Art Linson, Harvey Weinstein and David Glasser, most of whom worked for Linson Entertainment or The Weinstein Company.
In October 2017, Paramount announced that Harvey Weinstein and the name of his company would be removed from the show’s credits, due to the #metoo controversy that saw the disgraced producer be accused of sexual abuse by Rose McGowan and other industry names. The Weinstein Company, despite being a crucial component of the show’s production, was unceremoniously scrubbed from the series as a result.
Filming commenced in August 2017, mostly taking place in Park City, Utah and the Chief Joseph Ranch in Montana. All three soundstages of Utah Film Studios were used in the production of “Yellowstone”, which wrapped up in December 2017 after filming in over two dozen locations. The production companies rented out a new location in Montana, to where filming operations moved in August 2020.
The Duttons: Part 1
John Dutton III, the family’s sixth-generation patriarch, runs the family ranch, and eventually becomes the Governor of Montana. After marrying Evelyn Dutton, the couple went on to have four children named Lee, Jamie, Beth and Kayce. John’s life changed forever when Evelyn died in March 1997, having suffered a spinal injury and internal bleeding after her horse fell during a ride.
In another tragic turn of events, John’s firstborn, Lee, died after being shot by a tribe member of the Broken Rock Indian Reservation while trying to protect the ranch. Kayce, who arrived too late to help, witnessed the death of his older brother, which impacted the whole family.
Months after Evelyn died, John took in a wily orphan child named Rip Wheeler, who was caught trespassing on nearby land; giving him a chance despite his bad reputation, John allowed Rip to work on the ranch. Later on, it was revealed that Rip had killed his father after witnessing him murder his mother and brother in cold blood. Rip and Beth became close with time, and although he was considered part of the Dutton family already, he officially became John’s son-in-law after tying the knot with the volatile daughter.
In a touching gesture, John’s daughter-in-law Monica named her second-born son after his grandfather. Sadly, on the way to the hospital, Monica was injured in a car accident before giving birth. The complications baby John suffered during the accident caused his death mere hours after being welcomed into the world.
Fans of the show were distraught when the detection of a tumor resulted in a colon cancer diagnosis for the Dutton patriarch. In a risky operation that saw surgeons remove two feet of John’s colon and the tumor successfully, John chose not to tell his family because he didn’t want to burden them. He was later outed when Governor Perry told one of his children.
— LD (@douceswild) July 14, 2020
After the operation, John visited the hospital for a CT scan. After seeing a strange mass on the scan, Dr. Fielding wished to book John an appointment for an endoscopy, but the latter opted out as he didn’t have any spare time. Shortly afterwards, John was brought to the hospital again after coughing up blood, and had to be operated on – after the major surgery, John finally began taking his doctor’s advice, doing physical therapy.
Years after Evelyn’s death, John tried to move on with Lynelle Perry, his childhood friend and the former Governor of Montana. The pair had plenty in common, as Lynelle was also grieving the loss of her husband, and remained on good terms despite the relationship not working out.
Before becoming Governor of Montana, John was a Livestock Commissioner of the Montana Livestock Association. Upon announcing her move to Washington, Lynelle expressed her wish to see Jamie run for the position of governor, but John announced his own candidacy instead. Although it almost cost him the relationship with his son, John won the election, and was appointed the new governor.
Next up is Kayce Dutton, who was born in April 1990, and witnessed his mother fall from her horse on the day she died. He was traumatized by the experience, as he had desperately tried to help Evelyn while his older sister Beth went to seek help. Years later, he married Monica Long, the Indian elder Felix Long’s granddaughter. The controversial union wasn’t helped by the fact that her brother, Robert, had shot and killed Kayce’s brother Lee.
For years, Kayce and Monica lived in the Broken Rock Indian Reservation. They had a son named Tate, who was a teenager when Monica became pregnant again. Kayce was struck by loss for a third time when his second son died hours after being born; his son, Tate, was travelling to the hospital with Monica when the car accident occurred, and the incident caused him considerable trauma.
Kelsey Asbille as Monica Long and Luke Grimes as Kayce Dutton
However, Kayce is no stranger to death, as he used to be a US Navy SEAL. During a memorable mission in Pakistan, he was forced to kill a family of three, with the male member being a highly valuable target. Kayce, who shot the man in self-defense, left military services when the mission was completed.
After returning home, Kayce worked as a horseman on the Broken Rock Reservation. John later hashed things out with his son, and let him return to the ranch and work on it. After gaining the trust of his father, Kayce took over Lee and Rip’s former position, and became the new foreman of the ranch. He would also work as a Livestock Agent for the Montana Livestock Association.
“Yellowstone” fans consider Kayce’s character to be the toughest, as he has escaped near-death situations several times, such as witnessing the explosion of a drug laboratory and having to kill two men who had abducted a young girl. On the latter occasion, the girl’s father helped Kayce cover up the murders, but was arrested by the Tribal Police when the remains were found. After explaining what had happened, he was let go.
The Duttons: Part 2
Beth Dutton, John and Evelyn’s only daughter, was born in July 1984. The flightiest of his offspring, she has also suffered a lot of personal heartbreak despite her young age. On one occasion, she turned to her adopted brother Jamie after becoming pregnant, and wanted him to help her get an abortion. To keep it a secret, Jamie took Beth to the Broken Rock Reservation’s free clinic but didn’t tell her that she would be sterile after the operation. After Beth learned the shocking news, her relationship with Jamie was never the same again.
After years of close friendship, Beth began a relationship with Rip. When John said that Rip would probably never ask her to marry him, Beth decided to propose to him herself, when he arrived from work one day. Later, she found a Father of the Catholic Church and forced him to officiate the marriage, which was celebrated at the ranch.
Beth is bisexual and has cheated on Rip with a woman at least once. She is also attracted to some of the show’s minor female characters such as Cassidy Reid and Victoria Jenkins. For a time, she worked at Schwartz & Meyer, and was in charge of the Mergers and Acquisitions department. When Lee died, John asked Beth to handle the ranch’s business activities and legal matters, and she agreed. Later, she was offered a job by one of John’s enemies – the CEO of Market Equities, Caroline Warner – and said yes, climbing up the ranks to become the president of the company’s Montana division.
During a distressing depressive episode, Beth almost killed herself with a gunshot to the head, as she felt guilty for not saving her mother from death; however, she decided not to pull the trigger. In another incident, two masked men who had a vendetta against the Duttons brutally attacked Beth and almost raped and murdered her. Before the attack, Beth got in touch with Rip and asked him for help; thankfully, he arrived before the masked men could seriously hurt her.
Rip Wheeler grew up on a pig farm near Miles City, Montana. His parents divorced at a young age, and when Rip was a teenager, his father returned to the farm to kill off the whole family. After being knocked unconscious, Rip slowly came to and saw his mother being stabbed to death by his father. He killed his father after cracking his skull with a frying pan, but was too late to save his brother or mother.
The mutual attraction against Rip and Beth was always evident, despite the occasional rough patch in their relationship. Rip almost came to blows with a ranch hand named Walker when the latter took a liking to Beth; Walker eventually left the ranch, leaving Rip free to pursue John’s daughter. Despite Beth’s volatility and bad temper, Rip can almost always balance her out with his tranquil nature and common sense, making them an excellent team.
After being adopted by John and marked with the ranch brand, a young Rip worked his way up and became the foreman. In a touching moment near the end of the show’s second season, John wrote Rip a letter in which he said that he considers him a son. Being the foreman of the ranch is hardly a glamorous job, as Rip has had to commit many murders and help John carry out criminal activities. It’s possible that John trusted Rip to do so in the first place, because he knew he was capable of killing.
For example, when Kayce killed Robert Long, John sent Rip to handle the medical examiner and intimidate him, so he would change the findings of his report and allow Kayce to walk away a free man. Rip learned that the examiner was a drug addict, and decided to murder him and make the death appear accidental.
Another time, Rip helped his adoptive brother-in-law Jamie cover up the murder of a nosy journalist, who had published information that Jamie didn’t want revealed. The deadly duo made it appear as if she’d died in a kayaking accident, and as the murder took place in season two, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever now be discovered.
When Beth was attacked by two masked men who were terrorizing the Duttons, Rip arrived at the scene and didn’t hesitate to brutally murder them. Last but not least, Rip helped his fellow ranch hand Jimmy avenge the death of his grandfather Dirk. The latter passed away of a ruptured blood vessel in his brain after being assaulted, and Rip and other ranch hands helped Jimmy kill the guilty parties, and cover the incident up afterwards.
So far, Rip has stayed out of trouble in season five of “Yellowstone”; only time will tell how he’ll react if he discovers Beth’s affair with a lawyer’s girlfriend, or if he and Jamie will be arrested for any number of murders.