If you ask any Yellowverse fan what the cornerstone of each series is, they’d answer you with one word: family. While the romances and drama in each storyline certainly keep viewers intrigued, it’s the camaraderie of a family that keeps us coming back for more; the relationships and bonds intrigued us in the first place and have held us close in the years since.
In fact, family is the most integral piece of Taylor Sheridan‘s realm as a whole, specifically the Yellowstone story, and with good reason. A promise between son and father is what keeps John Dutton motivated to fight against any threat that dares to cross his path, be it natural, man-made, or man himself. Family is why the train station exists and why no one comes back from that one-way ride; it’s why Beth seems willing to go to battle against anyone or anything that dares to so much as have a negative thought about her family, their namesake, or their farm.
Family is one of the most critical pieces of any story, whether in their presence or absence. As a dark cloud hangs over the Yellowstone, there’s no time like the present to look at this story that we’ve grown so familiar with and wonder what’s next, to seek to discover what other paths we’ll travel with the characters we love and even those we loathe.
Speaking of characters we love and loathe, none mean so much to the series as the children of patriarch John Dutton himself. So, just how many kids does he have, and who are they? Let’s take a look.
Played by Dave Annable, Lee Dutton, John and Evelyn’s oldest son, was an essential part of the Dutton family, the ranch, and a cowboy through and through. His life — while far too short, was measured by memorable moments he shared with his family, namely, his father.
Lee met an early demise, with fans seeing his death play out in the first episode of the series, but it was evident from the very beginning that he was powerful and influential, and there was an underlying layer of grace that most men at the Yellowstone don’t embrace.
Hear us out — you might not initially think of the word grace when considering cowboying and a ranch hand way of life, but it’s one of the most understated and graceful professions. They’ve got to be calculated in their moves, knowledgable about the land, animals, laws, boundaries, etc., and there’s a depth of strength and emotional grace, too — cowboys understand life and death more than anyone else; they’ve seen it first hand, they’ve delivered it in many cases, and there’s a level of respect that must be shown in those moments if they hope to stay grounded.
When Lee attempted to retrieve Dutton cattle from the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, a fight began, and Monica Long Dutton’s brother shot him. Monica is the wife of Kayce Dutton, Lee’s brother, who was also there during the altercation when he attempted to step in and stop Robert from shooting Lee again — and failed, he returned fire, striking Robert and killing him.
Two significant losses, among some minor ones, during the series premiere certainly set the tone for a series that shows the Duttons don’t pull their punches.
Jamie Dutton, played by Wes Bentley, is the second eldest son of John Dutton, but there’s a different tie to this familial connection, one Jamie wasn’t even aware of until he was deep into his adulthood, but it didn’t make him less than — at least, it shouldn’t have.
Anyone who has watched even one episode of Yellowstone knows that there’s a depth to the relationship between Jamie and John that can’t be written off as simple father and son highs and lows; maybe that’s because Jamie has always felt like an outsider in his own family, perhaps it’s because John has always tried to hide a secret from him. Regardless, the frays in their relationship were apparent well before Jamie found out he was adopted into the Dutton family.
Adoption doesn’t negate a familial bond but enhances it; there’s more to the Jamie and John story. Jamie is a son to John, despite the best-kept secret wishes they sometimes possess that he wasn’t, and after Lee’s death, he became the oldest of the Dutton children, which should have put a new responsibility on his shoulders. Instead, it changed everything in a way no one could have expected, one that still unfolds today.
Jamie chose the Duttons in a major way when he takes life or death into his own hands during the fourth season’s finale, but season five was all about his transgressions coming to the surface and his becoming hell-bent on ending life as the family knew it. Only time will tell what happens for Jamie next, but we’d sleep with one eye open if we were him.
Kelly Reily is Beth Dutton, John and Evelyn’s only daughter, one of the most powerful women on television, and a character you can’t help but love. She says things you only wish you could say and acts in a way that allows those in her presence to not just see her confidence — but feel it. She’s become more vulnerable in recent episodes, which has opened a new avenue of adoration for her character.
Beth is in your face, abrasive, and otherworldly; she’s also someone who has experienced the most painful of tragedies and life circumstances and come out the other side. Mental, physical, and emotional turmoil are no strangers to her story; in fact, they’ve become lifelong friends of Beth, and instead of finding a place to retreat within, she came out the other side swinging.
Beth has loved and lost, and while some could write her off as a hardened woman, someone unfeeling with a lack of compassion, we dare you to look closer. Beth feels everything, the good and the bad, and she does so with such intensity that it invades her senses. She is powerful because she feels so much, and she’s powerful in the way she handles it, too. There’s a vulnerability in her unabashed brilliance and fire, and we’re just lucky to watch it unfold.
The youngest Dutton and perhaps the most complex is Kayce Dutton, played by Luke Grimes, and he has a heart torn over his namesake and the love of his life. Married to Monica Long Dutton and bonded forever with the Indigenous peoples of the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, he sees two sides of a longstanding argument over land, namesake, and tradition, and choosing just one right or wrong is nearly impossible.
Kayce and John have seen some of the highest highs and lowest lows together, and while their bond has felt all but hopelessly broken, there’s something left for them. Kayce has opened his heart to both ways of life, and while he feels drawn to the land to raise his son with his wife and a dog in peace, he knows that the Dutton name means chaos will always follow. Someone will always be ready to battle, to push buttons and boundaries, and there will be a consistent and unyielding fight for blood by enemies and those who pretend to be friends.
Kayce exists within the “in-between,” and his place as a son, father, husband, brother, and friend is one of the most important in the series. While he may cause John to have more grey hairs than he’d like, he also brings a sense of healing to his heart, even if he rarely (see also: almost never) admits it.
While fans wait on bated breath to learn just what will happen in the future for Yellowstone, there’s always room to revisit the story that got us here in the first place, and that story begins and ends with a promise, a father, and a dream.