Yellowstone started as a family-focused drama about the Duttons trying to find a way to make it in the ranching business. In its five-season run, it has veered wildly off-course — making the ups and downs of securing a family legacy the problem of literally an entire nation. With the recent news that prolific co-creator Taylor Sheridan and Paramount Network are considering closing the book on Yellowstone due to issues with Kevin Costner’s schedule, it’s hard to avoid thinking that perhaps this Western outlived its welcome.
Following the Season 5 midseason finale, Yellowstone fans have been eagerly anticipating the final six episodes slated to air in Summer 2023. Costner’s character John Dutton will have to contend with the impeachment his son Jamie called for so that he can keep the political power necessary to protect his ranch. Though there are still questions that want answers, the political plot of Season 5 has stretched the narrative limits of Yellowstone beyond repair.
Given the inflated stakes of Season 5, the impending end of Yellowstone feels like it offers the series an escape hatch. As the Duttons continue on their mission, most have become less and less sympathetic. John’s more of a villain than ever, his loyal right-hand man Rip Wheeler has little in the way of a character arc and even the once-strong Monica Long Dutton has been reduced to a grieving mother. Beth Dutton, always the wild card of the family, lashes out in increasingly unpredictable ways. Audiences were once invested in ensuring a continued Dutton legacy on the Yellowstone ranch, but now the best thing the family could do in Season 5 is to cut their losses.
Of course, the end of Yellowstone doesn’t mean the end of the Duttons. The prequel series 1923 has been renewed for a second season, and additional properties on the horizon will expand the Yellowstone universe to other states and decades. The difficulties with scheduling Costner gives the series a chance to raze the field and start afresh with new actors, different characters and a renewed sense of what fans want.
The second half of Yellowstone Season 5 arrives in Summer 2023 on Paramount Network.