‘Yellowstone’s Intense Rivalry Between Rip and Walker Has Shaped the Entire Show: Here’s How

by Lauren Boisvert

Rip and Walker’s relationship on “Yellowstone” has been a tense, rocky one. They start out with a very different idea of what trust is; for Rip, it’s doing what you’re told. For Walker, he thinks he’s just going to be doing ranch work. Right off the bat, there’s a misunderstanding of what Walker’s role on the ranch is going to be. That misunderstanding is a key part of the series; trust, and what it really means. The ranch’s trust in Walker evolves over time, and Walker’s trust in his fellow ranch hands ebbs and flows throughout the series.

Trust is a big part of “Yellowstone” as a whole. The ranch hands have to earn their trust from John and Rip, yet they’re expected to give their trust freely to the ranch. In Walker’s case, he doesn’t do that, and he becomes a liability. He and Rip constantly butt heads, because Rip is used to getting that unconditional trust. When Walker doesn’t give him that, he knows that’s a problem. He zeroes in on keeping Walker under his thumb, in his back pocket; Rip feels like he constantly has to watch Walker for any sign of dissent.

Walker, for his part, doesn’t give his trust freely and is constantly looking for ways to get off the ranch. He’s trying to turn his life around after being in prison, and doesn’t want to go back. But, Rip doesn’t understand that; he just sees Walker as someone to exploit, someone who will work under threat of going back to prison. Potentially, someone who can get his hands dirty. Instead, Rip gets a singing cowboy who wants nothing to do with their illegal goings-on. This puts them at odds with each other at the very beginning of “Yellowstone.”

How Rip and Walker’s Tense Relationship Has Shaped ‘Yellowstone’

There’s also the thing with Beth to think about. Walker already doesn’t want to be on the ranch, putting him on Rip’s hit list. He feels like he can’t trust Walker, and plans to put Walker in his place. Then, Walker goes and has a little fling with Beth; before Beth and Rip are officially together, but Rip will already do anything for Beth. That puts Walker even more in hot water.

Again, it’s trust; Walker can’t be trusted in Rip’s eyes, but essentially, in general, he can be. He gives Kayce his word that he’ll never tell anyone what goes on at the ranch, and I believe he’s really trustworthy. He’s just trying to get his life straightened out. But he’s fallen in with a crowd who won’t let him do that. He’s taken the brand, which means he’s owned, essentially. That’s Yellowstone trust, but it’s not Walker’s trust.

What Trust Means on the Series

Rip and Walker’s intense, hateful relationship is a heavy-handed metaphor for trust. Walker is constantly trying to leave the ranch, and Rip is constantly dragging him back by the hair. Their animosity towards each other, while everyone else around is starting to like Walker, goes to show how trust can be tainted so easily; Walker refused to get his hands dirty right at the beginning, and Rip wouldn’t stand for it. They both had different ideas of what life on the ranch would be, and Walker didn’t reciprocate Rip’s trust right from the start. So, Rip lost all trust in Walker.

“Yellowstone” is good at creating these complicated relationships that hint at something bigger, something beyond face value characteristics. Rip and Walker represent trust, which shapes the entire series. Yellowstone trust is black and white; if you can’t be trusted, it’s time to go to the train station. In contrast, Walker’s trust comes in shades of gray. He’s not one thing or another, because he’s human; flawed, and imperfect. But, he’s trustworthy, in the end. He keeps his word. He just doesn’t want to do anything illegal. And, really, can you blame him?