Can Yellowstone Have a Satisfying Ending Without John Dutton?


The second half of Yellowstone Season 5 is due to premiere in November, and we’re itching to see how it all goes down.

This is a show with no shortage of edge-of-your-seat drama, from some of the craziest family dynamics on television to a host of gruesome murders and coverups.

Since its premiere in 2018, Yellowstone has certainly delivered plenty of on-screen drama to keep us wanting more.

And as we’ve learned, the drama behind the scenes may be even more scandalous.

Last year, star Kevin Costner, who plays John Dutton, the owner of Yellowstone Ranch, revealed his hesitance to return for the final half of Season 5.

He stated he was owed a hefty sum of money for the season and said the decision to split the season into two parts spurred his desire to walk away from the franchise.

But now we’re learning he may have just said that in the heat of the moment.

Recently, Costner walked back his earlier statements, saying he’d be interested in coming back to give his character a proper sendoff — if he felt “really comfortable” with it.

We’re not sure what that means, and we’re left wondering how series creator Taylor Sheridan will handle the situation.

Obviously, Sheridan would want the show to end how he originally planned, but can he forgive Costner for his earlier statements about leaving the show?

And with a tentative premiere of November, writing may have already started — is there even time to write John back in if he’s already been written out?

Regardless, all this drama got us thinking about where the final chapter of Yellowstone goes from here.

John Dutton is the centerpiece of the Dutton family, around which all the drama revolves. Love him or hate him, he’s kept the family and their ranch going in the face of countless attempts to tear them apart.

He’s the beating heart of Yellowstone Ranch.

So, how would the show go on without him? And how would his absence be explained?

Nothing but death could pull John Dutton away from his beloved ranch. We’ve seen him survive car accidents, gunshots, and cancer to continue running the ranch like a dictator.

We’ve also seen him prioritize the ranch over his own children. This is his legacy more so than any of his kids are.

The only thing that’ll keep John from Yellowstone is if he’s killed off. But how can the show achieve this without Costner on board?

Someone like John Dutton, who is larger than life, deserves more than an off-screen death.

We can make some guesses about how his death might go down, but none of them feel right.

The most obvious method is death by a vengeful son.

Things haven’t been good between John and his son Jamie for a long time, especially after Jamie learned John wasn’t his birth father.

And Jamie has already killed his biological father, so we know patricide isn’t off the table.

We can see a final showdown between Jamie and John since the first half of Yellowstone Season 5 showed Jamie trying to remove his father from the governor’s office.

Jamie is bitter, both about his place in the Dutton hierarchy and about his strained relationship with John.

He’s poised to be the one to take down the Dutton patriarch.

But how disappointing would it be for Jamie’s final confrontation with John to happen off-screen?

We’ve watched this disturbing dynamic play out for years, and we wouldn’t get to see it all go down?

Not interested.

Another option is a quieter death for John. Maybe his cancer returns, and he dies before the new episodes start.

That doesn’t seem in character, either. John’s cancer didn’t slow him down before, and he won’t go down without a fight.

Coming back to the second half of Season 5 to find that cancer got him would feel just as satisfying as an off-screen murder.

John has many more enemies than just Jamie, so there’s no telling who could be the one to bring him down for good.

But any off-screen death is going to feel like a cop-out to viewers who have followed this family for so long.

Yellowstone fans don’t play.

Of course, John’s storyline isn’t all that matters in the series’ final episodes.

Beth and Jamie are bound to have a showdown of their own. They’ve been at each other’s throats since day one, so we’re expecting a brawl of epic proportions.

And with Rip on her side, we’re guessing Beth Dutton will come out on top like she always does.

If an explosion couldn’t bring her down, we don’t think Jamie stands a chance.

Speaking of Rip and Jamie, it’s only a matter of time before Rip finds out that Jamie had Beth sterilized when they were teenagers, aborting Rip’s child in the process.

We’ve seen what happens to those who end up on Rip’s bad side. Things aren’t looking too good for Jamie.

But Jamie isn’t completely powerless. He knows all the Duttons’ dirty little (and big) secrets and has the means to expose them publicly.

Before Beth and Rip come for him, he could turn their worlds upside down just by leading authorities to the ravine filled with the bodies of Yellowstone’s enemies.

Jamie could take down not only John Dutton but also the whole Dutton family.

Let’s not discount Kayce and Monica’s story either. Though much less violent, it’s equally as dramatic as the rest of the family’s.

Kayce has been reluctant to step into the role John wants for him at Yellowstone, and Monica has made her feelings about the ranch and the Duttons well known.

This has led to friction in their marriage. They were finally in a good place when we last saw them, but how would John’s possible death shake things up?

With John potentially out of the picture, will Kayce finally step up and take the reins at the ranch, or will he sell it and move on with his life?

We can guess what Monica would prefer, even if she were finally warming up to John earlier in Season 5.

With so many stories to wrap up and such an investment in this family, it’s wild to think we might not get to see John’s ending play out on screen.

Ultimately, though the series could wrap up the other characters’ stories nicely, Yellowstone can’t have a truly satisfying ending without John Dutton.

While it makes sense to end the show with John’s death, that ending will leave fans wanting if we don’t get to see how it all goes down.

When the final half of Season 5 drops, you can watch it live on Paramount Network.

In the meantime, the first four and a half seasons are available to stream on Peacock.

How do you think the Duttons’ story should end, and do you think an ending could work without John Dutton?

Let us know in the comments below.

Shela Ward is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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