“Yellowstone” Season 4 is filled with shocking moments and twists, but arguably one of the most memorable scenes of the entire season is the death of Josh Holloway’s Roarke Morris. After causing the Dutton clan no small amount of grief in Season 3, Roarke briefly returns in the Season 4 premiere and faces some fatal retribution served up by Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser). In the climactic sequence, Rip pretends to be a passerby and approaches Roarke while he’s fly fishing with a cooler, which secretly contains a rattlesnake. The snake bites Roarke’s face, injecting him with venom and killing him in mere seconds.
Roarke’s demise may be a well-executed scene from an entertainment standpoint, but there’s actually a pretty hefty mistake contained within it. While rattlesnakes can be quite dangerous, a bite from one usually doesn’t end up being fatal. Once the snake has bitten and injected its victim with venom, it’s nowhere near as fast of a process as “Yellowstone” makes it seem. According to Healthline, rattlesnake venom generally takes anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to reach its full impact on the human body. By most accounts, Roarke should have had at least several hours to seek treatment, rather than dying of the venom within a minute of getting bitten.
Roarke’s death is technically possible (but very unlikely)
While the rapid nature of Roarke’s death on “Yellowstone” seems to be an inaccurate portrayal of how rattlesnake bites work, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility — at least, according to one person in the know. Outsider spoke to Nicholas Hanna of the Nashville Zoo about the episode, and the snake expert surprisingly concluded that a situation like what happened to Roarke is possible, though it’s incredibly unlikely and would require that “all the stars align.”
As Hanna explained, while rattlesnakes typically have hemotoxic venom, which attacks the body’s tissue, deaths that look like Roarke’s are typically a result of snakes with neurotoxic venom, which attacks the nervous system. Nonetheless, Hanna noted that different people are likely to have different reactions in terms of magnitude and rapidness of symptoms from a hemotoxic bite. What’s more, the fact that Roarke is bitten in the face could significantly quicken the time it takes for the venom to kick in, especially if the snake opted to inject a massive dose.
Ultimately, it seems that Roarke’s death is possible, though Hanna noted that it would have to be a perfect case scenario — far from the sort of thing Rip could realistically rely on for a speedy murder. “It’d be kind of hard to get bit with a snake being thrown on your face,” the expert added. “While they are highly coordinated, they’re probably more freaked out than you are. Especially being thrown through the air. But hey, it could happen. It could definitely happen.”