Billy Oduory on the potential fate of Kevin Costner’s John Dutton…
Kevin Costner’s portrayal of John Dutton in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone transformed 21st century TV, and the character is now one of the most famous screen cowboys in television history. That’s why the confirmation of Costner’s exit from the show has caused an internet meltdown as the franchise’s many fans struggle to come to terms with the show’s continuity crisis. Fortunately, Paramount confirmed that the second part of Yellowstone Season 5 will still be released in November 2024 despite Costner’s exit, and now, fans can’t stop wondering what happens to Costner’s character.
Many in the fan base have since accepted the fact that the show will continue without their favorite character, with most of them sharing their opinions on how the show will write out one of the most famous TV characters in history. An offscreen death dominates most conventional arguments on Reddit and other messaging platforms, but other fans also suggest that John Dutton could ride off into the sunset, or, in the worst-case scenario, be recast. However, the fate of the character lies with Taylor Sheridan, so let’s evaluate each fan theory and compare it with what Taylor Sheridan had to say about John Dutton’s fate.
Taylor Sheridan’s comments on Kevin Costner’s exit
“It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn’t alter it, but it truncates it,” Taylor Sheridan told THR back in June 2023 when explaining the impact of Costner’s exit from Yellowstone. His comments suggest that he already had a plan for John Dutton and Costner’s exit is not as catastrophic for the character as many fans thought because the creators always knew that he would leave at some point. Taylor Sheridan also made it clear that he wouldn’t resort to a “car-crash death” for Kevin Costner’s character, meaning the writer will give John Dutton a befitting end.
It is important to remember that Kevin Costner was always part of Taylor Sheridan’s original picture of John Dutton. He confirmed in the THR interview that even when he first pitched Yellowstone as a movie to HBO, called The Godfather in Montana at the time, he recommended Kevin Costner to play the role. Costner’s high-profile exit from the show is therefore a huge disappointment for both Taylor Sheridan and the fans.
The exit has since resulted in a finger-pointing contest as both Sheridan and Costner accuse each other behind the scenes of causing Costner’s exit. According to Sheridan, Costner kept asking to spend less time on the Yellowstone set to focus on his upcoming western trilogy, Horizon. Costner’s camp, on the other hand, accused Taylor Sheridan of keeping Costner waiting as he was too occupied with his many other projects to complete Costner’s scripts on time.
Will Kevin Costner be in the final episodes of Yellowstone?
There are still rumors that Kevin Costner is in discussion with Paramount to shoot a few scenes that will give a befitting conclusion to his character, which would be a welcome outcome for the show. According to Screenrant, one of Costner’s representatives recently approached Taylor Sheridan with the request, although there is no confirmation of a greenlight from Taylor or the network.
With November 2024 first approaching, the filming for the second installment of the fifth season of Yellowstone is set to wrap before the end of the summer which means most of the scripts are already developed. With Sheridan insisting that the show can be completed without Kevin Costner, we believe the window for a Costner cameo appearance in the final episodes of Yellowstone could be shut quickly.
Taylor Sheridan said in his interview with THR that no disagreement between him and Costner couldn’t be solved, so all options are still on the table. The bottom line, however, is that whether Costner appears again in the show or not, John Dutton will still be at the center of the Yellowstone saga so all that matters is how the show explains the patriarch’s fate, especially when he doesn’t appear on the screen anymore.
Popular theories on John Dutton’s fate explained
1. John Dutton dies of cancer
In the first season, John Dutton collapsed on the ranch in a scare that Beth and Jaime at first believed to be the resurgence of his colon cancer. However, the scare was quickly resolved when the doctor revealed that the Dutton family patriarch was only suffering from a ruptured ulcer. Four seasons later, some fans believe that the cancer plot will be the perfect way to kill off John Dutton. However, cancer doesn’t kill overnight, so it would be difficult for the writers to kill off Costner’s character offscreen with cancer unless they come up with a creative way to explain it.
Using colon cancer as the cause of his death would have to involve clues on John Dutton’s ill health that have been floated throughout the show. John Dutton is a stubborn man and would never allow himself to be bedridden, let alone tell his children that he is sick. It is therefore possible that the cancer resurgence happened shortly after he received the clean bill of health in season 1 and he has been hiding it from everyone.
When he decided to introduce race horses on the Yellowstone ranch, he told Travis that he would pay top dollar for the best horses because he didn’t have three years to build a legacy. His statement, coupled with his eagerness to get rid of the developers before the end of his term as governor would suggest that John Dutton has been preparing for his death all along. He even told the former governor, Lynelle Perry, that he had no plans of running for a second term in office.
2. John Dutton sacrifices himself to save Beth
The alliance between Jaime and Sarah Atwood in the first part of Season 5 proved the most destructive to the Dutton family since the beginning of Yellowstone. Sarah is Jacki Weaver and Market Equities’ best weapon against the Duttons so far, but for some reason, Jaime has fallen for her trick. Jaime confided in Sarah that he had hired a hitman to kill Beth, putting him on the same journey as his father. John Dutton narrowly survived Garrett Randall’s assassins, and Jaime must have learned from that so his attack will be a lot more lethal.
According to one Reddit user, Jaime’s assassin will end up killing John Dutton instead of Beth, setting up an all-out war between Beth and Jaime to finish off the show. This is clearly one of the best thought-out theories about John Dutton’s end. Although John Dutton has always desired to die peacefully in the field like the true cowboy he is, he will choose a heroic death any day and Beth is the one person that he would gladly die for.
3. John, Beth, and Jaime are killed by a bomb
“John, Beth, and Jamie get on the plane with the forgotten bomb and the first episode ends with a bang,” LintRemover suggested in another Reddit thread. Their theory seems to be related to an insider rumor from April 2023 in which a Kevin Costner insider said that John Dutton would die like Succession’s Logan Roy. In Succession, Logan Roy collapses on the plane in what appears to be a heart attack and succumbs. However, exploding in a Yellowstone-branded helicopter would be a more Sheridan-like version of that.
Now, a lot has changed since the rumor was published, but that doesn’t mean their theory is impossible. However, killing off the three main characters of the show in one scene would be catastrophic for the show. It is also important to remember that John Dutton is a high-profile figure in Montana, and making national news in a terror-related incident doesn’t sound like a plot the show is willing to explore.
Other fans in the Reddit thread also suggest other forms of sudden death for John Dutton including an aneurysm or a heart attack. Now, if the sudden death is related to a complication from the cancer, then it would fit into our explanation above. Otherwise, it would be wise to rule out an unhinged plot of sudden death for John Dutton because Taylor Sheridan ruled out the possibility of a summary killing for the character. Kevin Costner is also one of Hollywood’s best actors and he would be disappointed if one of the best characters he has ever played is killed off in such a mediocre fashion.
4. John Dutton rides into the sunset
Another interesting theory is that John Dutton will simply find a ranch in Texas and retire there with his cattle, leaving Jamie and Beth to fight over the Yellowstone and all the problems that come with it in Montana. “Everyone assumes John Dutton dies. It’s too obvious at this point, so I think Sheridan will twist the plot,” one Redditor says in the thread leading to the theories of John Dutton riding into the sunset. We actually believe this is a strong possibility because all John Dutton has ever cared about is preserving his family’s way of life.
If saving the Yellowstone proves impossible in Montana, nothing stops John from rebuilding his own version of Yellowstone somewhere else, and Texas would be a great place to start. Summer Higgins would have a big role to play in such a plot twist because her experience on the ranch taught her how true environmentalists protect the land, something we believe she would be glad to be a part of. A chance to retire on a quiet ranch with Summer would be the dream end for John Dutton, although some clever writing would have to be involved to pull this off perfectly.
5. John Dutton is recast
Recasting John Dutton would help Taylor Sheridan continue with his original storyline for Kevin Costner’s character, but that would come at the expense of one of the most awkward character shocks in TV history. One Redditor suggested that the creators should use make up and the smartest editing technology available to turn Josh Lucas, who played a younger version of John Dutton, into a Kevin-Costner look-alike.
“Just put old man makeup on Josh Lucas!!,” another user suggested. Their suggestion is one of the wildest theories on how to deal with Kevin Costner’s exit but it is highly unlikely to happen. The only way Josh Lucas returns in Season 5 Part 2 of Yellowstone as Kevin Costner is in flashbacks.