The Paramount Network’s powerhouse western Yellowstone wouldn’t be what it is today without its star studded cast. Kevin Costner was the perfect choice to lead the series as the Dutton family patriarch with Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes and Wes Bentley starring as his three adult children. John Dutton is many things (some good, some bad) and will do pretty much whatever it takes to maintain the legacy his great-grandfather established on Yellowstone Ranch. But one thing you can definitely say is that he loves his family above all else.
Creator Taylor Sheridan has done a masterful job at building a world we care about with the Dutton family at the heart of it. John has very unique relationships with each of his children but especially with his sons. Here are some of the most important — and emotional — moments he’s had with his boys on the show so far.
1. When John buries Lee
Yellowstone really kicked things off with a dramatic first episode when John’s oldest son Lee (Dave Annable) was killed in a disagreement between the Dutton ranch and Broken Rock Reservation. In a scene that mirrors the finale of 1883, John rests his beloved elder son against a tree in their beautiful valley to figure out where he should be buried. It’s really incredible how closely the scene is reflected in Elsa Dutton’s (Isabel May) death scene from 1883. While he’s looking out at the land, a goldfinch bird flies up and perches on the ground nearby. John takes this as his sign and chooses that as Lee’s final resting place.
Lee was the one set to take over the Yellowstone one day. He ran the place, and loved the land just as much as his father so it’s a really beautiful and tragic moment that John lets the land choose his burial plot. It’s unfortunate we haven’t had the chance to see Lee in more flashback episodes…maybe that will change in future seasons.
2. When John puts Kayce in charge of the ranch
Lee may have initially been the favorite, but Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) was the prodigal son. John probably didn’t react in the best way when he branded him with the Yellowstone ‘Y’ after Kayce told him that he was in love with a pregnant Monica Long (Kelsey Asbille), but time heals all wounds. After witnessing Lee’s death, so mething changes in Kayce and he realizes that he needs to do whatever it takes to support his family, even if that means going back home and working for his dad. John takes advantage of this reunion and longs to pass the ranch down to someone in their family, setting Kayce up in that position by putting him in charge of the ranch. As much as the reunion was a sweet one for John and his son, it was a bit tainted for many fans because it displaced his loyal ranch hand Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) who, we know, is a big time fan favorite.
3. When John tells Jamie he’s his son despite the adoption
It’s hard not to have conflicted feelings about Jamie Dutton. His past with his sister Beth Dutton is pretty hard to forgive and he’s not the most lovable character. But there’s something about the way Wes Bentley plays him that has me continuing to root for him despite everything he’s done wrong. In his own way, Jamie has followed his father’s instructions to his best ability. He got a law degree from an Ivy League school, and came back to defend the Yellowstone Ranch from anyone who poses a threat.
It was a huge reveal when Jamie discovered that he wasn’t a blood member of the Dutton family…he had been adopted as an infant after his birth father killed his mother. Jamie is filled with conflicting emotions after the reveal and he confronts John for the truth. John explains everything that happened when he was a baby and how his birth father Garrett Randall was thrown in prison. But he stands by the fact that he has always loved him as a father and will always consider him his son. This is a big moment for John and a reminder that it doesn’t matter what new storyline comes, he’s a family man at heart. Even though they didn’t really reconnect in Yellowstone season 4…we’re holding out hope.
4. When John tells Kayce he can’t risk losing him
Not only is Kayce John’s only hope for passing the reigns on the ranch one day, he was his late wife Evelyn’s favorite so there is always going to be something special about Kayce. Season 2 got shocking when the Beck Brothers, a couple of new villains introduced that season, hire a local Montana militia to kidnap Tate Dutton (Kayce’s son) to get back at John for not wanting to work with them. As a result, John gathers together Rip and a group of his ranch hands to go on a rescue mission for Tate. He tells Kayce that he doesn’t want him in the gunfire range though because he can’t risk losing him. John Dutton has his sons (and daughter) do some questionable things regularly so this was a nice moment to see him actually fear for his life in such a harrowing situation.
5. When John gives Rip a house on the ranch
Maybe the only person on the planet as loyal to John as Lee Dutton was, is Rip Wheeler. After John took him in as a teenager, Rip basically gave him his life and has always done what he’s told, no questions asked. Season 2 was heartwrenching for Rip; everything he’d worked for was taken away to make room for Kayce, but Rip’s gesture didn’t go unnoticed by John. In the finale episode, Beth welcomes Rip to a cabin on the property with a letter from her father. In the letter (that she reads out loud), John is essentially welcoming Rip into the family officially and telling him that he has really been a son to him after all. It’s a moment that actually brings Rip to tears since we all know he’s looked at John as a father figure. It’s also nice to see that John recognizes everything Rip has done for him because come on…if Jamie can be considered a Dutton, so can Rip.