Before Yellowstone slowed down Season Five with cowboy cookouts and grand overtures of love for its fan-favorite couples, the Paramount drama was committing acts of violence that would even scare Tony Soprano. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his cowboys were branding ranch hands like cattle—and ruling Montana as a mafia of the West. Dutton’s closest subordinate, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), committed many of the craziest murders himself. Nowadays, Rip is the wisened veteran of the group and a character that fans refer to as the perfect husband.
Since we’re waiting on Season Five to return (either this summer or… never?), I figured I’d reminisce on the glory days and ask: What happened here? Well, Hauser has an answer himself. “I think it surprised [creator] Taylor [Sheridan] too,” Hauser revealed in an interview with Town & County, “It’s definitely not something that was ever on the table, that we ever discussed. In fact, I think it was quite the opposite. [Taylor] was like, Oh man, people are gonna think you’re fucking nuts. I wrote this scene, the way you kill this guy or burn this guy,you know what I mean? And for whatever reason it’s kind of worked the opposite.”
Yellowstone fans love Rip Wheeler—especially his relationship with John Dutton’s daughter, Beth (Kelly Reilly). In fact, a moment in Season Five, Episode Seven that had viewers bawling occurred when John Dutton finally called Wheeler his “son.” Though the sentiment clearly affected Wheeler, Hauser believes that it never really crossed his character’s mind to become a Dutton. “It’s more of the loyalty, the honor that he has for John,” he said. “But no, never a Dutton.”
Never a Dutton? Well, I would reconsider. There’s been turmoil over at Yellowstone ever since Season Five went on hiatus and rumors swirled of an ongoing feud behind the scenes between Costner and Sheridan. “Man, I don’t know about the end shit,” he stated with a laugh. “We’re doing alright right now. We shouldn’t be talking about the end. We should be talking about Season Five.”
You’re right, Rip. Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about “the end” as much as we should be talking about a potential Yellowstone: The Rip Wheeler Story spinoff series. If the fanbase wants anyone riding off into the sunset at the end of all this, it’s certainly Rip.