5 Things That Must Happen If Kevin Costner’s John Dutton Returns In Yellowstone Season 5


If Kevin Costner’s John Dutton does return in Yellowstone season 5, part 2, several things need to happen (or be addressed) before the series finale.

If Kevin Costner’s John Dutton does return to Yellowstone season 5, part 2, several things need to happen — or at least be addressed — before the series finale airs. Over the last year, Costner and Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan have been at odds. Reportedly, Costner, who plays the show’s patriarch, wasn’t keen on the direction Sheridan’s scripts were leaning in regard to John Dutton’s ultimate fate. Of course, Costner has also been hard at work writing, directing, producing, and starring in his two-part epic, Horizon: An American Saga, which is set to release in theaters during the summer of 2024. A perfect Yellowstone replacement, Costner’s new Western also has something Yellowstone season 5, part 2 reportedly won’t feature: Costner himself — in spades. Naturally, viewers are wondering how John’s story will end.

…the massive political platform also puts an even bigger target on John Dutton’s back.

John Dutton isn’t just the patriarch of the family and the head of Yellowstone Ranch, but, in the first half of season 5, he’s elected governor of Montana. The shake-up has plenty of consequences for other major players in the series, but the massive political platform also puts an even bigger target on John Dutton’s back. One of his sons, Jamie (Wes Bentley), seems poised to land his father with an impeachment saga. Meanwhile, both developers and Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham), leader of the Broken Rock Reservation, are still vying for the land that Yellowstone Ranch occupies. Without a crystal-clear successor — though there are some viable options — John Dutton is an essential part of the final installment. Although Yellowstone’s cast of characters prove it’s an ensemble show, everything still seems to orbit around John Dutton.

The alleged creative differences that sprang up between Costner and Sheridan aren’t the only issues plaguing Yellowstone’s final outing. Production on the hugely popular, record-setting Paramount+ series was derailed by the dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which brought the Hollywood machine to a halt in the fall of 2023. Over a year after Yellowstone season 5, part 1 aired, there’s no clear indication of when the final episodes will debut or what shape the story will take in light of Costner’s Yellowstone exit. It’s hard to imagine a satisfying way for John Dutton’s story to end if Costner isn’t willing to appear on-screen. Of course, from body doubles to archival footage to off-screen deaths, there are many ways around shooting new scenes, though some viewers are holding out hope for Costner’s surprise Yellowstone return.

…it’s likely difficult for the ever-committed actor to leave John Dutton’s story unfinished.

While Kevin Costner has remained a big name in Hollywood for several decades, there’s no denying that Yellowstone breathed new life into the actor’s career. Clearly, the neo-Western’s success helped push the multi-talented creative to pursue his big dream project, Horizon, years and years after his career-defining and Oscar-winning success story, Dances With Wolves. Although Costner has every right to walk away from Yellowstone if he can’t see eye-to-eye with his colleagues, it’s likely difficult for the ever-committed actor to leave John Dutton’s story unfinished. Whether or not Costner returns as John Dutton in Yellowstone season 5, part 2, the series owes it to long-time viewers to wrap up its patriarch’s story. With several major threads all stemming from John’s exploits, it will certainly be challenging to execute the Yellowstone series finale successfully without Costner.

John Dutton’s Impeachment Storyline Must Be Addressed
Jamie Was Angling To Cause Political Problems For John In Yellowstone Season 5, Part 1

Perhaps most obviously, Governor John Dutton’s implied impeachment plotline hangs over Yellowstone season 5, part 2, in a way that’s reminiscent of the character’s conniving son, Jamie. For the entirety of the series, Jamie and his sister, Beth Dutton-Wheeler (Kelly Reilly), have been locked in an agonizing feud. Viewers eventually learn that the conflict stems from Beth’s youth: her brother had her sterilized — without her consent — while she was receiving abortion services. While John, the sibling’s father, knows what happened, Beth’s ever-loving husband, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), has yet to find out what Jamie did. Not only is Yellowstone primed to end Jamie and Beth’s rivalry, but the show’s fifth and final season seems like the most appropriate time for everyone’s secrets to spill out and for characters to be pushed to their absolute limits.

John has plenty of secrets and skeletons.

While who will die in Yellowstone season 5, part 2, is anyone’s guess, John Dutton’s demise became much more likely once Costner announced his departure from the show. Jamie certainly isn’t above sending hired guns after his family members in order to get what he wants. He also seems more-than-eager to reveal the true nature of Yellowstone’s Train Station — the Dutton family’s dumping ground — to the public. In typical Western fashion, John has plenty of secrets and skeletons. As the state’s newly minted mayor, his downfall or even an impeachment trial would make even bigger waves. While a whole impeachment scandal could’ve served as season 5, part 2’s core story, that may no longer be the case. Still, Yellowstone needs to address the looming plot point before the show finally comes to a definitive end.

John Dutton’s Surprising Relationship With Summer Higgins
Summer Might Meet Her End At Yellowstone Ranch

Although Yellowstone’s Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo) isn’t one of the series’ original characters, the environmental activist became a more prevalent part of season 5. Originally from Portland, Summer leads a group called Free Earth, and is quite the opposite of the ranch-owning John Dutton. A devout vegan, Summer Higgins and the rest of Free Earth protest the butchering of animals in Montana. After she’s arrested the first time, John Dutton pays her bail. The second time, Summer winds up in prison, but Governor Dutton comes to her rescue again. Currently, Summer Higgins is hanging around Yellowstone Dutton Ranch — much to Beth’s dismay — as part of her house arrest. Given her on-again, off-again flings with John, it seems only natural for Yellowstone season 5, part 2 to provide some closure to their compelling (and unlikely) relationship.


John Dutton’s Cancer Scare
The Dropped Yellowstone Season 1 Plot Point Could Return

One leading Yellowstone theory about John Dutton’s death links the way he’ll be written off the show with a dropped season 1 plot point. In the show’s first outing, John struggles to find an appropriate heir for the ranch. His kids — Kayce (Luke Grimes), Beth, and Jamie — all have various strikes against them. For starters, the most obvious heir apparent, Kayce, has beef with his father because John wasn’t accepting of Kayce’s marriage to Monica Long-Dutton, a life-long resident of the Broken Rock Reservation. Given everything, John keeps his season-one health problems to himself: he was diagnosed with colon cancer, though it seems to be in remission. John’s secret does get out when he mistakes an ulcer for the return of his cancer. After a dramatic season 2 moment, the plot point is entirely dropped.

The twist wouldn’t feel totally out of left field because a seed had been planted…

That said, the return of John Dutton’s colon cancer seems like the perfect way to write Kevin Costner’s character out of the show. Since the plot point was established in the very first episode of Yellowstone, it’s kind of like a Chekov’s gun waiting to go off. While it would be a little surprising, the twist wouldn’t feel totally out of left field because a seed had been planted for John Dutton’s health issues. In fact, it would be strange if John’s bout with colon cancer never came up again. It’s hard to know if the plot point would’ve cropped up in a Costner-inclusive season 5, but it certainly provides the kind of “out” Sheridan and the whole Yellowstone team need in order to keep John Dutton’s ending from feeling too cheesy, plotted or contrived.

John’s Relationships With The Dutton Kids
John May Not Have The Chance To Make Amends

While Yellowstone isn’t quite HBO’s Succession, an underlying issue has been John’s passing of the reins to a suitable heir. Over the course of the show’s five seasons, Kayce and Beth have mended their relationships with John. Beth’s husband Rip, who John kind of adopted into their family years ago, seems like the perfect partner for Kayce to continue the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch’s legacy with. Meanwhile, Jamie and John are more at odds than ever. Clearly, Jamie has no qualms about disowning and harming his family in order to get what he wants. It’s hard to imagine John ever forgiving Jamie, but it would’ve been nice to see one more character-driven moment between the estranged father-son duo. Yellowstone season 5 likely won’t have the chance to show that conversation, but it needs to offer resolution.

The Future Of The Dutton Ranch Is Still At Stake
John Dutton’s Feud With Broken Rock & Thomas Rainwater Needs An Ending

Above all else, Yellowstone season 5, part 2 needs to set up a compelling conclusion to the saga of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. Costner’s John Dutton should be part of that resolution — and would be in a perfect world. With land developers vying for the area, both Thomas Rainwater and John Dutton have a common enemy — one that disrupts their years-long feud a bit. After all, Yellowstone’s first prequel series, 1883, was all about the Dutton family’s ancestors trekking west and, eventually, settling on the soon-to-be ranch land. The second prequel, 1923, shows how the Duttons clung to their land and transformed their ranch into a Montana staple. John inherits this hard-won legacy, which ties his fate to that of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. A satisfying sendoff would tie John and the ranch’s stories together.

Whether or not Kevin Costner returns for Yellowstone’s final outing or not, the series needs to find a way to not only satisfyingly tie up the ranch’s fate, but the ongoing feud between John and Thomas. A Western-style shootout between the warring groups probably would have been the most appealing way to round out their stories, all while raising the stakes of the final season. While that could still play out — especially if Yellowstone isn’t afraid to use a body double for Costner — John Dutton’s reported absence means the character won’t have any final conversations with his enemies or family. That definitely takes away from the emotional resonance of many of the show’s proposed plot points. Without a doubt, ending Yellowstone season 5, part 2 without Kevin Costner’s John Dutton is not an enviable position.