It’s easy to forget that a lot of people have died during the five-and-a-half seasons of “Yellowstone.” Most character deaths are reserved for the villains who dare to go toe-to-toe with the Dutton family. Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) made the mistake of trying to build a casino near the ranch only to get dispatched by the Beck brothers, and Roarke Morris (Josh Holloway) dies horribly after Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) hurls a rattlesnake in his face. That’s not exactly the ideal cowboy death that Emmet Walsh (Buck Taylor) receives leading up to the mid-series finale of season five.
It’s no wonder, then, that the performers playing the lead characters were wondering how long they would last on Paramount Network’s smash hit series. Granted, the actors on “Yellowstone” had a little more job security than every single cast member of “The Walking Dead,” but not much. (If “Yellowstone” co-creator and writer Taylor Sheridan ever helms a zombie series, no one is safe.)
Arguably, the ungovernable Beth Dutton played by Kelly Reilly has become the driving engine of the seedy drama at the heart of the series. So, if there’s anyone who shouldn’t be worried about being voted off the ranch, it should be her. Then, a local militia descends on Beth’s office and blows it up at the end of season three, most likely at the behest of Roarke and Willa Hayes. Understandably, Reilly figured that Beth was a goner.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance aka Beth Dutton
Normally, when writers find themselves in need of a shocking conclusion, it’s best to just blow everything up. That’s exactly what Sheridan did at the end of season three. For someone who simply rebrands a flagship show like “Yellowstone” with spinoffs like “2024” and just keeps rolling, killing off most of the Dutton clan with one fell swoop could have been on the table at one point. As it turned out, Beth survived the attack even though Reilly wasn’t sure if Sheridan had ever truly considered writing her off the show. Reilly spoke about the confusion in an interview with Elle, saying:
“When I got the script for the explosion, of course, I asked [Sheridan] the question: ‘Is she going to make it? Are you trying to tell me something?’ I think every actor thinks they’re going to get fired. Everybody always thinks it’s their last shot at it, and they’ll never work again. But, no, everyone was very honest from the get-go, saying, ‘No, no, no. Taylor just wanted everyone to think that they all died. He wanted that cliffhanger moment.'”
That “cliffhanger moment” came at a cost once season four came around. Audiences who had waited months to find out who lived and who died were sorely disappointed after quickly realizing that every member of the Dutton family had made it out of season three alive. Beth survives with severe burns and visible scarring and immediately starts planning to avenge the family and her father John Dutton (Kevin Costner) after he was almost fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting.
Out of the ashes of season three, Beth essentially becomes vengeance incarnate, stopping at nothing to ensure her family’s survival. Luckily, “Yellowstone” fans were spared Beth’s demise, a decision that would have likely haunted Sheridan if he had actually gone through with it.