Season 4 of Paramount’s mega-hit Yellowstone lacked the same edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger Taylor Sheridan and the creative forces behind the show gave audiences in the previous season. Instead of wondering who was behind the massive attack on the Dutton family, we were granted some closure on a lot of storylines. Season 4 merely set up smaller mysteries on what might come rather than the larger stakes of who might live or die.
Yet Sheridan and team have always had a plan. In their own subtle way, there are several threads they’ve set up for season 5, and many threats within those threads. Perhaps they are more subtle antagonists to which Yellowstone audiences are accustomed, but make no mistake, there are many out there who look to get in the way of the Duttons’ dream. It may also be that season 5 reveals that one or more characters within the family happen to be the most disruptive and dangerous force. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time we saw in-fighting among the Montana moguls, and there is plenty of tension to go around regardless of what combination of family members sit at the dinner table.
It should make for a tension filled and dramatic season 5, but let’s theorize who could be the most dangerous character next season, and where some of the hints left by the creative team could lead us.
Summer Higgins (Piper Parabo)
Summer has already proven to be disruptive when it comes to the Dutton family ties. She’s been the only force so far to create a rift between the indelible father-daughter bond of John (Kevin Costner) and Beth (Kelly Reilly), but realistically, she’s predominantly been a nuisance; she’s only really served as a reminder to Beth that her father is in fact a red-blooded male more than anything. Beth seemingly got her revenge on the eco-activist by setting Summer up to be arrested, which is what set off John in the first place, and created that rift. Therein… lies the threat.
We’ve already seen that Summer is not one to back down from a fight. She stood toe-to-toe in the Dutton family kitchen when Beth was about to carve her up with a butcher knife. She flaunted the fact that she slept with John to Beth, and more importantly, until she was staring down a major prison sentence, she wasn’t afraid to stir things up by standing for what she believes in, even if that meant her being charged.
Yet her major danger factor doesn’t come from her unflinching resolve, it comes from the fact that we’ve seen how easily she and John got along. Their May-December romance may be more of a threat than most audience members are willing to admit. They were such an odd couple to begin with, yet there was something perhaps about that resolve that John admired in Summer. We saw how angry he was with Beth; Summer wasn’t just another inconvenience, she meant something to John. We saw how much he was willing to do to ensure she didn’t do serious jail time, and that fight is far from over.
Raising the stakes even further, what if Summer turns out to be pregnant? If that were the case, John will undoubtedly fight tooth-and-nail to ensure she isn’t incarcerated for very long. This may even mean sacrificing the one who put Summer in custody in the first place, creating a major rift between John and Beth. We’ve seen time and time again what John will ask of his children in order to serve what’s best for the Dutton family. If that means he may have to sacrifice Beth in a deal that sees Summer go free, that seems like a strong probability.
Bill Ramsey (Rob Kirkland)
Kirkland, in an interview with Den of Geek, admitted that some of these theories aren’t far off from what he knows is coming from season 5, and that included the role his newly appointed Sheriff is going to play in the Duttons’ world. Or perhaps… what used to be the Duttons’ world. Kirkland has quickly become one of Sheridan’s trusted members in his cabal of talented actors, which means that Ramsey is going to play a major role in the next season.
In the brief exchange between Ramsey and John at the end of season 4, some fairly testosterone-heavy story seeds were planted. Ramsey in no mixed terms told John that the Dutton patriarch’s working relationship with law enforcement in the area was very much at an end. Sheriff Ramsey does not seem to mince words or make empty threats, and that means that the myriad of ‘indiscretions’ that emanate from the Yellowstone ranch may no longer simply be buried in a handshake. That the full extent of the law may come down upon them, and perhaps even some of the past indiscretions of which the family is guilty could revisit them.
Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser)
This may be one threat many true fans of the show would have a tough time believing. Rip, a fan favorite in almost every regard, is the very definition of loyalty. He owes John his life, he’s married to the only Dutton daughter, he has served his entire existence on the Yellowstone with the strongest sense of duty, so why would he possibly serve as a threat to the Duttons?
As much as we have loved every minute of the sheer cowboy-barbarity that Rip has unleashed in his duties, fans must believe that the best brutality is yet to come. Rip has dealt out some truly memorable violence, but the most memorable was when he came to save Beth in episode 7 of the second season. In a strange sense, Rip’s anger is his gift to those he loves. That memorable scene showed how much Rip cares for Beth, and gave us perhaps a glimpse of what depths he can go to protect or avenge those he loves.
So if the theory of Beth being imprisoned doesn’t sound too far fetched, then neither is the theory that we could see an unhinged Rip lose it on John if he ever found out why Beth is in jail in the first place. Beth has always been a strange calming influence on the king of the ranch hands, but without his Queen, Rip’s savagery would be unparalleled. We’ve already seen him turn on father figures in the past in order to restore order and teach a valuable lesson. When he had to beat some sense into Lloyd (Forrie J Smith) it was a tragic moment for Rip. So could we see Rip finally take a swing at John? Could this be the story arc that truly breaks Rip, a man who has survived so much?
Sheridan and his writing team have often given audiences what they need rather than what they want, and you have to admit, this would be a much talked about development. The show has never created any real tension between John and Rip in the first four seasons, and to see the two clash would be an unexpected and extremely interesting storyline.
Caroline Warner (Jackie Weaver)
Perhaps it isn’t John who will be the end of Beth. Perhaps it will be the small but equally savage CEO of Market Equities? Audiences have seen a clown-car full of corporate stooges come and go as villains to the Dutton’s existence, but eventually one of them has to get the better of the family.
Sheridan is a writer that often pushes the edge of tragedy (if not completely leaping off the ledge sometimes) which means that eventually one of the antagonists has to at least somewhat get the better of the family. Unlike those other ‘clowns’, Caroline seems like a real threat. For years Yellowstone has also introduced some of the smartest, strongest female characters who are almost always the equals of their male counterparts, and Warner fits this welcomed archetype to a tee. In one of the more memorable moments from the season 4 finale, she was one of the only characters who has been able to silence Beth’s razor sharp tongue, even for a moment. That tells you Beth even sees Warner as a real threat, both to her own immediate freedom, and to the future of the Yellowstone ranch.
Will Weaver be the reason Beth is put in prison? Will John have to make a deal with her in order to keep as much of his kingdom as he can? Will this be yet another reason that Rip will be unleashed, and become a danger to everyone around him? These are all certainly strong possibilities, and at the very least, we know that Warner needs to be taken seriously, and dealt with perhaps even more seriously.
Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley)
Jamie’s character has been one that has had so much heaped upon him. Granted, he is not innocent of his own transgression, and many of his actions have led to even more being heaped upon him, but it has seemed for a long time that his character is meant to play a massive role in the final Yellowstone chapters.
In the first four seasons, we see the tense relationship Jamie has with Beth grow into venomous vitriol-spitting hatred. We’ve seen John use Jamie time and time again. We’ve seen Jamie’s plans and aspirations in life go horribly wrong, or be brushed aside by John. We discovered John wasn’t even Jamie’s biological father in the first place, and when Jamie finally got a little stability and support from his real father (Will Patton), Jamie is forced to kill him in order to once again serve the family that has shown him nothing but indifference.
Is this not enough to make anyone snap?
Many audience members are thinking there’s no way this predominantly spineless character could stand up to Beth or John. The manner in which season 4 concluded, Beth had Jamie’s manhood once again firmly in her designer purse after getting the man to beg on his hands and knees, but this is where a hint of the Sheridan formula seems to be leaking. We’ve seen Jamie lose control before when he unleashed his terrified fight or flight response on the investigative journalist, Sarah (Michaela Conlin), committing his first murder. Now, after four seasons of abuse at the hands of Beth and John, and having recently murdered his biological father, losing that support system which seemed to ground him, we may be witnessing the beginning of Jamie’s breaking point. If Jamie were to finally become the man John always wanted from his adoptive son, it may ironically manifest in an explosive and catastrophic form.
This could go two ways. Jamie, being very good at his job when properly motivated, could merely create a Montana-sized mountainous pile of legal troubles for his adoptive family. As Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) once told Waters (Atticus Todd) about Jamie; you should be afraid of lawyers, as “no one knows how to break the law better”. While it may garner some respect from John and perhaps even win over skeptical audience members, this form of revenge is not the most cinematic.
It would be an absolutely delicious and tragic twist if Jamie finally stands up for himself, and in typical fashion, does so in entirely the wrong way. The entire Yellowstone saga has been almost Shakespearean, and having Jamie cause real physical harm to Beth or John would not only be fitting, but could set the story down so many unexpected and thrilling roads. Perhaps it is Jamie who finally, irreparably damages the very fabric of the Dutton family. Whether you sympathize with Jamie or think everything he gets is deserved, you must admit, a shocking act of violence from this man… wouldn’t actually be all that shocking.