Kevin Costner’s Exit Means Yellowstone Can Finally Admit Who Its REAL Main Character Is

Kevin Costner not returning for the end of Yellowstone finally opens the door for the series to focus on a character who has driven the narrative.

  •  Rip Wheeler is the true main character of Yellowstone, having played a key role in major storylines throughout the series.
  •  Rip’s complex nature and relationship with Beth make them the best focus for the show’s final episodes.
  •  Rip’s deep connection to John Dutton and the Yellowstone Ranch makes him the natural choice to seek vengeance and protect the ranch after John’s inevitable death.

Kevin Costner won’t be returning for the conclusion of the hit western drama Yellowstone, and that provides an opportunity for the show to place the focus on a character who has driven the narrative from the very beginning. While Costner’s absence will hurt Yellowstone‘s ending, it doesn’t prevent the show from having a satisfying conclusion if the focus is properly shifted. With Netflix’s Yellowstone wannabe set for a release in the near future and a number of spinoffs in development, it’s crucial that the original Paramount hit ends on a strong note.

It’s all but certain that the character of John Dutton will be killed off-screen with Costner not returning to film any more scenes, but even that sets up one particular character to carry the show to what is sure to be an explosive conclusion. John still has three remaining children in Beth, Jamie and Kayce, but surprisingly, none of the three has ever actually been the show’s main character, despite their heavy involvement. Matthew McConaughey’s Yellowstone spinoff may move the narrative in an entirely different direction, but before it happens, the show’s true main character has some business to take care of.

Rip Was Always Yellowstone’s True Main Character, Not Kevin Costner’s John Dutton

Rip has played a key role in almost every major story line.

There is a strong argument to be made that the real main character of Yellowstone has been Rip Wheeler from the very beginning. While it’s true that John Dutton was always calling the shots to protect the ranch, oftentimes it was Rip who actually executed John’s will. ​​​​​​There’s a parallel between John and Rip and Vito and Michael Corleone from The Godfather: Vito Corleone may be the main character, but the journey is centered around Michael. So it is with John Dutton and Rip Wheeler.

Rip’s harrowing path to the Yellowstone Ranch almost makes his place there feel more “earned”, and therefore more significant. While John Dutton is responsible for taking him in after he murdered his father in self-defense, it was the purpose he found on the Yellowstone Ranch that truly saved Rip’s life. As one of John Dutton’s branded men, Rip has dedicated his life to protecting the ranch and the Dutton family’s legacy, which is the same role that John Dutton himself plays. With Kevin Costner absent from the action in the back half of season 5 of Yellowstone, the timing is perfect to round the series out focused on Rip.

Kevin Costner’s Exit Means Yellowstone’s Ending Can Focus On Rip & Beth

Rip and Beth’s fully fleshed-out characters and relationship is the best focus for the final episodes.

Part of what has made Rip Wheeler one of, if not the most popular characters on Yellowstone

 is his complex nature. He is a cold and violent man, hardened by his past and his life’s work protecting the ranch and the Dutton family legacy at all costs. However, he is, at the same time, a tender and gentle man who truly cares about the well-being of his ranch hands, and the love of his life, Beth Dutton. Their relationship has blossomed ever since they were teenagers, and now that they are married, the timing is right to make their relationship the most important dynamic on the show.

With John Dutton out of the picture, the show can at first focus on how Rip and Beth keep their love burning, with Rip minding John’s cattle in Texas while Beth is at home in Montana. Chances are good that their separation will be short-lived, as John’s death (which will almost certainly be violent) should bring Rip back to the Yellowstone Ranch in short order. Beth and Jamie’s rivalry also needs to end before the show wraps, and given the bitterness and violence at play there, Rip will absolutely be involved, whether it be by protecting Beth or enacting revenge on her behalf.

Making Rip The Main Character Is Yellowstone’s Best Option After Costner’s Exit

Rip is the only character who cares about the Yellowstone Ranch as much as John Dutton.

The key to making Rip the main character for the end of Yellowstone is actually his relationship with the show’s perceived main character, John Dutton. In episode 10 of season 2, John writes Beth a letter proclaiming Rip as one of his own sons and gifting him one of the houses on the ranch, and it brings Rip to tears. It highlights exactly how important John is as a father figure to Rip, and further underscores how much the ranch itself means to Rip.

John’s three children were never the ones destined to carry out their father’s will to keep the ranch with their family. Beth doesn’t want it, Jamie is struggling with his own inner demons about his place in the Dutton family, and Kayce is hesitant to involve his family further in the violence that surrounds the ranch. With John Dutton all but certain to meet a grisly end at the hands of someone seeking to take the ranch for themselves, it could–and should–be his adoptive son Rip who seeks vengeance for John and for the ranch at the end of Yellowstone.


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