‘Yellowstone’: The best of John Dutton

Yellowstone
Image via Paramount

Paramount introduced fans to a cowboy named John Dutton in 2018 with the premiere of Yellowstone. Kevin Costner brings the character to life on the number one series, and as we prepare for the debut of season five, we’re looking back at some of the best moments in the show’s incredible history. 

Many of the most memorable scenes involve Costner’s John, and rightfully so. He’s the family’s patriarch, the man who made a promise many years ago, and the reason we’re all tuning in, waiting with bated breath to find out what each new episode will bring. Of course, when a series revolves around the fight for survival, land, and family, the characters are sure to be multifaceted.

John might be an easy character to loathe on any other series if he were played by any other actor. The down-to-Earth magic that Costner brings to the series and the way he feeds so much of himself into the storyline, you can’t help but root for his character. John is a family man, and sometimes protecting that family means doing things that will inevitably get him into hot water. He’s not always primed and ready to make the right choices, but he always has his family’s best interest at heart.

From the best and brightest to the most emotional, you can’t look at Yellowstone as a whole without admiring John. In the countdown to the new episodes, we’re giving you his best moments so far.

That moment with the disgruntled bikers

It felt wrong to kick off a list without mentioning this scene. When bikers invade the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch property, the ranch hands nicely ask them to leave. The conversation gets physical very quickly, and Rip just happens to be driving by when it does. When he sees what’s transpired, he crashes into the trespassers’ motorcycles, and tensions are sky high. The bikers are told to leave and never come back, but everyone at the ranch knows they’ll retaliate.

What does John do? He sits on the land, waiting for them in the dark of night. His presence shocks them, and before they can get their bearings in order, John tells them to start digging. Why does he want them to dig? He’s got bodies to bury. That’s right; the bikers are instructed to dig their own graves.

They dig all night, and when the sun starts to peak into the sky, he tells them to stop but not to get out of the holes. When they realize the depth of their trouble, John gives them one chance to leave and never to return again. He also promises to keep the holes ready in case they disobey him. (Did we mention we love John? Because we do, who else could pull off such a stunt?)

The “almost kidnapping” moment with Governor Perry

Don’t let the title of this one fool you. John isn’t up to anything wrong when he gets Governor Perry out to his ranch. In fact, he’s trying to treat them both to a very good time. The push and pull these two have is next level. It’s a slow burn at its most delicate and quite romantic.

Perry tells John she’s waiting for her ride back to the house, but it’s clear that it won’t be coming back anytime soon. Instead, a beautiful sunset is waiting for the two of them to enjoy, each with a drink in hand. Perry is trying to convince herself that she’s not staying, that she needs to get back home, but there’s not a thing in the world more important to her in that moment than John.

She tells him to stop looking at her “like that,” and he plays coy and acts like he’s not sure what she means. He does, of course. We love seeing his flirty side. He knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Everyone deserves a little bit of happily ever after, right?

When he shares a touching moment with his father

This conversation brought out tears in fans worldwide, and it’s one of the most vulnerable moments we’ve seen out of John. It’s incredibly touching, and just thinking of it can bring a tear to your eyes. He tells his father he will miss him, and his dad tries to convince John that he’ll miss the version of himself years ago. John lets him talk, but you can see that he will miss every version of his father, even those that weren’t as loveable as he would have hoped.

You can also tell that there’s a lot John wants to say, but he lets his dad have the floor instead. He’s frail, and his voice shakes as he talks, but he needs to say what he has in his heart. It’s equally crucial for John to hear it. It’s one of those less-is-more scenes, and it’s one of the most powerful in the entire series.

Any (and every) moment with Rip Wheeler

It’s hard to pick just one, so we had to find the video of the best of John and Rip. Something about these two brings audiences together. Rip wanted a family and a father that he could trust; John wanted a son who knew him and wouldn’t turn his back on him. They found what they needed in each other.

Of course, that’s no shame on Kayce, and John understands why his son did what he did. He also understands that his relationship with Jamie will never be what he has with Rip. While John doesn’t resent him for it, he holds Rip in a special regard.

We love all of the moments these two share. If we had to pick a favorite from last season, it would be the heartbreaking ride in Rip’s truck as he’s begging John to stay. If that didn’t pull on your heartstrings, we’re not sure if you’re quite human.

Choosing Wade’s fate and taking back what’s his

You don’t mess with the Dutton family and walk away unscathed. That is a theme that repeats itself often across Yellowstone. When Kayce and Rip talk to John about Wade, they all know it’s time to take action. 

John isn’t just looking to get rid of a problem; he’s looking to end it for good and get something back in the process. Just what does he hope to get from Wade? It might be the hooked Y that was branded into his chest. Yep. John wants his brand, and what John wants, he gets. 

In this scene, we see that it doesn’t matter if you once pledged loyalty to the Dutton family. When you betray them, you have to pay the ultimate price.  

John uses his own blood to catch the bad guys

The final episode of season three was intense, to say the very least. We saw John pull over to assist a woman and child standing outside of their vehicle. He jumped into action, the cowboy in him wanting to help, and he didn’t think twice about anything else.

When a van pulls up and asks him if he’s John Dutton, he seems almost annoyed to have to stop being a good Samaritan and answer the question. Before he can lament on that idea for too long, he is shot repeatedly. That moment caught viewers by surprise, leaving us waiting with bated breath for the return of season four.

When we see John again, he’s lying next to blood on the ground, but it’s not in a pool. It’s blood he used to write a description of the vehicle with the assailants in it. That’s right, in what could have been his dying moments, he used his own blood to try to help someone capture his would-be killers. It’s okay to be insanely impressed. We all are.

John walks Beth down the aisle

While it might not have been the walk he was anticipating, taking Beth down the aisle to wed Rip has to be one of our favorite moments of the entire series. The moment starts off with a healthy dose of snark between the two. It wouldn’t be a father/daughter moment without it, but it soon gets deeply emotional.

John is proud to give his daughter’s hand to Rip, but he wishes they were planning the wedding she deserves. She’s happy with the way things are going, and there’s a reason for the brief ceremony, but she stops for a moment and promises her dad he can do this all again for her one day—and that he can do it however he wants.

You can see it written across his face that he wants to give Beth the wedding of her dreams. He loves Beth, and he also sees the ways in which he fell short with her. Doing this monumental thing for her is essential to him.

We’re crossing our fingers that, as an audience, we’re made privy to that in the near future.

Lining up donuts with Tate

John’s relationship with Kayce has been full of ups and downs since before audiences looked into their lives. When Kayce told his revealed he would be a father, John’s reaction didn’t sit right with his son. Kayce going against his father’s wishes obviously didn’t sit right with him, and he was branded. That’s right, John’s own flesh and blood wears the brand. It’s a complicated topic of conversation, but they’ve both grown and looked at one another with more understanding as the years go by.

John is proud to be a grandfather, but he didn’t always have a close relationship with his grandson, Tate. There was a heartbreaking episode when he reminded Kayce that Tate didn’t know him, not really, and that he desperately wanted to remedy that. Kayce softened to his father after that moment and started allowing the two to spend more time together.

In one instance, John tells Tate to get the biggest donut in the kitchen to keep his belly full. When he goes to find out what’s taking so long, Tate tells him he can’t really decide which one is the biggest. In true grandpa fashion, John tells him that he can line them up and decide, allowing the young boy to touch all the donuts and turn the experience into a game. John commented that being a grandfather meant getting to do everything he wished he’d done with his children, and there was a longing in his voice.

Costner brings an authenticity to the role of John in a way that embraces his character wholly. He’s got more layers than you’d initially think, and grandfather John is one of our favorites.

When John helped Sheriff Haskell call his daughter during that scene

In an absolutely heartbreaking shootout in Yellowstone‘s fourth season, we see a longtime friend and confidant of the Dutton family meet an untimely death. Sheriff Haskell passes away during a violent struggle at a diner. As he is losing blood due to a gunshot wound, he attempts to call his daughter to tell her goodbye. 

John sees what’s happening, and he sits beside him to take the phone from Haskell’s shaking hands and help him speak to his daughter for the final time. At first, she tries to shrug off the conversation, saying her kids are crawling all over her, but an almost breathless Haskell tells her there’s no time.

Then it hits her. The tone of her voice shifts as she grasps the gravity of the situation. As John holds the phone, Haskell mutters a few words, and then he takes his last breath. John keeps his composure and speaks to Haskell’s daughter, filling her in on what has transpired.

At that moment, we see a side of John that we don’t often find ourselves privy to. We see him deeply affected by personal loss. When lives end in Yellowstone, it’s usually a Dutton enemy at death’s door. Seeing John upset over the loss of not just a good friend but a good man brought his human side to the forefront of our minds.

“If there’s a Heaven…”

John’s daughter, Beth, is known for iconic one-liners, epic comebacks, and seasoning any conversation she’s in with vulgarity and snark. She’s not the only one who knows how to provide an epic comeback, though. John has been known to provide sass in his conversations in an almost poetic way, and this scene, in particular, showcases his brilliance.

“If there’s a Heaven, and I sure hope so, this is your last chance to do something that just might get you in it.”

Speaking to Malcolm Beck, John knows the man’s time on Earth is drawing to a close. While he could spit vitriol and venom, he offers Malcolm a chance to do one thing right. He gives him a chance to admit who’s holding Tate hostage before he slips out of this life and into the next one. Malcolm does give John a name, but he spits a bit of snark back to our beloved patriarch, telling him he wishes they’d never met.