Kevin CostnerYellowstone

10 Ideas For How Yellowstone Can End If Kevin Costner Doesn’t Come Back In Season 5

Kevin Costner could leave Yellowstone before John Dutton’s story truly ends, leading to questions about how season 5 will wrap up the cowboy’s arc.


While many may argue that Kevin Costner’s John Dutton is the heart of Yellowstone, the leading man may not even return to film an end scene for his beloved characters, raising many concerns about how the patriarch’s story could end without his actor. Yellowstone is a drama surrounding the many players orbiting Dutton Ranch in Montana, the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, and the various political and social dramas attached to it. The series has a total of four and a half seasons, with the second half of season 5 set to return at late 2023.

Kevin Costner announced his exit from Yellowstone in early May 2023. The news was that Costner would leave the series after the end of season 5, which still has yet to be filmed. However, in July 2023, Costner made a statement in court documents from his divorce saying that he is “no longer under contract,” with Yellowstone. Furthermore, he noted that the only money he will be earning from the series in 2023 is “back-end contractual participation rights.” These statements clearly show a preexisting distance between Costner and the drama series, and hint that despite previous insinuations, Costner may not return for Yellowstone season 5, part 2 at all.

10, Yellowstone Kills Kevin Costner’s John Dutton Off-Screen

The most obvious solution to Yellowstone’s end and Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone exit is to kill John Dutton off-screen. Although it is a sad fate for the rancher, it would be the easiest way to wrap up his story without Kevin Costner. Yellowstone season 5, part 1 ends on uneven ground as Jamie prepares to take down John and Rip is set to leave for Texas. In this way, it’s reasonable for the show to return to this time of discord and shift everything with John’s death. His passing will not only solve the Kevin Costner issue, but could also set the show on a totally new course.

9, Yellowstone Season 5, Part 2 Uses A Time Skip

Another sly trick that Yellowstone could use is to start season 5, part 2 with a time skip. Rather than picking up right where the last episode left off, the series could return several months to a year later wherein things have changed. By doing this, John could be anywhere, and in particular, he could be off-screen without needing a thorough explanation for it. Most likely, the most sensible time to jump to would be when Rip has returned from Texas. Either way, a time skip leaves many possibilities open for John’s future that do not have to be death.

8, Yellowstone Uses CGI To Create A John Dutton Ending Scene

Like an off-screen death, CGI is another common fix to a missing cast member. If Kevin Costner does leave John Dutton’s story open-ended, the series could bring in a body double and use CGI to create a final scene for the character. Because of Costner’s major role in the series, casting his face onto the scene wouldn’t be too difficult, and could even be hyper realistic considering the way technology has improved at this point. Though it wouldn’t be the same as Costner in the flesh, it certainly would fix the problem.

7, Yellowstone Puts John Dutton In An Off-Screen Hospital

Along the same thread as killing John Dutton, Yellowstone could also put him in the hospital. Season 5, part 2 could easily begin with an off-screen health crisis that essentially kicks off the latest installment. This path would keep John from being on-screen, but would have him remain relevant throughout the season due to his health and how it affects his children and peers. In a perfect world, he wouldn’t have to reappear either, despite his ultimate fate, because it could be communicated through dialogue instead. In this way, John will be incapacitated but not dead.

6, Yellowstone Ends John Dutton’s Story Through Phone Calls

Yellowstone season 5 may not have John Dutton, but they could have his voice. In a world where John Dutton lives and is healthy, but is somewhere off-screen, the series could end his arc through a series of phone calls. These wouldn’t necessarily have to be done by Costner as the show could edit clips of him from previous work, use technology to modulate it, or cast a voice double. This is likely the closest Yellowstone 

could come to including Costner in the season without truly having him, and could be a somewhat heartwarming avenue to take.

5, Yellowstone Sends John Dutton On A Trip

If John Dutton doesn’t appear in Yellowstone season 5, part 2, and he’s not dead or sick, then where would he be? John Dutton could take an extended trip. This is far from unlikely considering John’s work, and it could even be an opportunity for the character to leave behind the stress of the family business and consider retirement. Though it may not be the toughest way to go out, it’s certainly an option, and one that gives John a reasonable ending without the help of his actor to lead the way. If John is busy handling something across the country, he wouldn’t need to appear on-screen.

4, Yellowstone Ends John Dutton’s Story In The Past With A Younger Actor

Yellowstone isn’t averse to flashbacks into the far past, and this tool could definitely be a helpful one when it comes to completing John Dutton’s story. Just as the series used peeks into the past to explain Rip’s past, season 5, part 2 could do the same for John and end his story there. A young actor could be cast to represent Costner and the new timeline would achieve two things. First, it would wrap up John Dutton’s arc without Kevin Costner, and second, it would give more depth to his character that hasn’t been seen before.

3, Yellowstone Uses Flashbacks To Keep John Dutton In Season 5

In a similar vein, Yellowstone could use flashbacks from previous Yellowstone seasons to end John Dutton’s story. Though it isn’t the same as having fresh takes from Costner, it could still provide context and keep the character intact throughout the rest of the season. These flashbacks could work both as John’s ending and also as pieces of reflection on other characters’ stories and arcs. In a way, it would bring John full circle and create a nostalgia for the beloved character he created.

2, Yellowstone Introduces Matthew McConaughey To Distract From John Dutton’s Absence

With the news of Matthew McConaughey’s Yellowstone spinoff, this could be the perfect time to transition from the old to the new. Costner’s exit may not be the happiest news, but it could certainly be overshadowed by McConaughey’s entrance, and Yellowstone season 5, part 2 could use that distraction. The new installment could bring in McConaughey to fill John’s absence, and while there would need to be some explanation for him being gone, building McConaughey’s new character would be a welcome diversion. It would help close out Yellowstone and start laying the foundations for the Yellowstone’s future spinoffs.

1, Yellowstone Season 5, Part 2 Focuses Heavily On Other Main Characters

Though arguably not the best solution, Yellowstone could simply take the focus away from the John and sink it into other main characters. Costner may be the patriarch of the show, but an impressive ensemble has been built over the past five seasons so that Yellowstone should survive Kevin Costner’s exit. In particular, Beth has a strong, likable presence that could easily take over John’s gruff archetype. Though Costner’s absence would inevitably raise questions, the series could keep moving forward with other plot lines and hope that the gap isn’t too noticeable.


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