As fans wait for the return of Season 5, the Yellowstone universe continues to generate rumors and controversy offscreen, with news of spin-offs and cast members leaving the franchise. As we gear up to see what the Duttons will get themselves into this summer, it might be time for a refresher on which characters are still alive and kicking. Over the years, the Duttons have faced their fair share of violence and death, both on the giving and receiving end. With a huge ensemble cast, there have been so many deaths it can be hard to keep track. So, which important characters have died so far, and what could their deaths mean for the future series?
By now, you may have forgotten all about poor Lee Dutton (Dave Annable). In the first episode, Lee was introduced as one of the Dutton children, brother to Jamie, Kayce, and Beth (Wes Bentley, Luke Grimes, and Kelly Reilly). He worked as head of security on the ranch, and as the eldest son, was primed to succeed his father John (Kevin Costner) as the next patriarch of the Yellowstone. However, Lee met his end in the very first episode of the series after chasing stolen cattle onto the Broken Rock reservation. He was shot, starting the battle of succession that rages on throughout the series. His death is a shock to his family and a turning point for this generation of Duttons.
The first major villain in the series, Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) was a land developer who had come to Paradise Valley with big plans. While the Duttons are committed to preserving the land, Jenkins sees an opportunity to monetize it by building a casino and subsequent housing developments that would turn the Yellowstone into a tourist destination. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with the Dutton family, and a feud quickly begins between the two parties. Jenkins aligns himself with Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), the leader of the Broken Rock tribes, and the two men conspire against the Duttons with hopes of reclaiming the Yellowstone and profiting from it. After much conflict, Jenkins is eventually assassinated by a hitman hired by rival businessmen.
One of the most tragic deaths of the series, Sarah Nguyen (Michaela Conlin) was a journalist who got in over her head when it came to her investigation of the Dutton family. She was posing as a campaign aid working in Jamie’s office while uncovering corruption on the Yellowstone. At first, Jamie agrees to work with her to take down his father, but later tries to undo a scathing interview. When Nguyen refuses to bury his statement, Jaime strangles her and enlists Rip (Cole Hauser) to stage her death as a kayaking accident. Her death marks a dark turn for Jamie, who until this point considered himself above the immoral dealings of his family. This murder starts him down the dark path we find him on today, and could potentially prove his undoing if his actions ever come to light.
Wade and Clint Morrow
The Morrow family were neighboring ranchers of the Duttons, and Wade (Boots Southerland) was even a former ranch hand on the Yellowstone. Along with his son, Clint (Brent Walker), he betrayed the Duttons by attempting to antagonize them into committing crimes that could take them to court. When the Morrows take things too far, the Yellowstone ranchers retaliate, chasing Clint until he falls off of his horse and dies, and tying Wade to a tree before cutting off his Yellowstone brand and hanging him. This death was by far the most gruesome in the series and shows just how dark things can get on the ranch, even with old allies.
Along with the shocking reveal that Jamie is adopted, his biological father, Garret Randall (Will Patton) was an abusive husband to Jamie’s birth mother, eventually killing her in cold blood and going to prison. After discovering Randall has been released from prison, Jamie confronts him, only for Randall to claim that Jamie’s mother was an addict who was putting her baby’s life at risk, and the only way to save Jamie from that life too was to kill her.
When Beth discovers that it was Randall who had ordered a near-fatal attack on every member of the Dutton family, she blackmails Jamie by threatening to have him stripped of his governorship and thrown in prison for trying to cover up his father’s actions. Bent on revenge, she orders Jamie to kill his father to avoid his own death or imprisonment, which Jamie does. While Beth and Jamie have always had a bad relationship, this marked the point of no return for the pair, who may be set for an ultimate showdown this summer.
In one of his first appearances, Sheriff Haskell (Hugh Dillon) seemed he might become an enemy of the ranch after he attempted to hide evidence proving that Rip shot a bear in self-defense, which could have become a big legal issue for the Yellowstone. He soon proved himself to be an ally to the Duttons, sometimes working with the family and the livestock association after formerly being in the pocket of their enemies. However, he dies tragically in a random shootout at a diner, with his death serving as one of the saddest moments in the season, as John comforts him and helps him call his daughter to say a final goodbye.
To end on a lighter note, let’s look at the peaceful death of rancher Emmet Walsh (Buck Taylor). While he was not a major player in the conflict of the series, his death has great meaning. On a typical cattle run with John, Walsh dies in his sleep while looking up at the stars. John breaks the news to his grief-stricken widow but comforts her with the knowledge that he had a true cowboy’s death, the best way a rancher can die.
This tender storyline is a rare moment in the series which alludes to the values and traditions that the Duttons are trying to preserve. It is reminiscent of a lost way of life, where death can be peaceful and fulfilling instead of violent. It may have an impact on John, as he has become accustomed to murder and brutality, and may even serve as a foreshadowing of how his own death will come about, which could even happen this season, as Costner will not be returning to the series again after Season 5.
New episodes of Yellowstone‘s fifth season are set to air on Paramount Network on a date yet to be announced.