Oh, Rip. Three characters would leave an irreplaceable void in Yellowstone: John (Kevin Costner), Beth (Kelly Reilly), and Rip (Cole Hauser). And it could be argued that it’s the former that will anger fans most if he bites the bullet. Rip has become the heart of television’s #1 show, which makes it all the more nerve-wracking that his days feel numbered.
Will Rip flip off the Grim Reaper as his boss, John Dutton, continues to? Or is he destined to die simply through the fierce love of Beth Dutton? Let’s break down the evidence below and see how Rip Wheeler’s fate looks ahead of Yellowstone Season 5.
Death Note #1: Everything Beth Dutton Loves Dies
“It’s only the things I love that die, Rip, never me… Come to think of it, I’m surprised you’re still standing,” Beth tells Rip early into their rekindled romance, and years before they finally tied the knot in Season 4.
For both Beth and Rip, their wedding feels more like a bad omen than a cause for continued celebration. Whenever something good is given to these tortured love birds, it gets taken away. The most pertinent example for Rip is the cabin that John gifted him going up in flames. But for Beth, it’s the continued deaths of her loved ones throughout her life.
Her mother, Evelyn (Gretchen Mol) and her older brother, Lee (Dave Annable) are the two most pertinent examples for Beth herself. She knows her father won’t live forever, so it’s the love of her life, Rip, that is next on her slate of loves to lose. And we think she knows this, too. So does Rip.
Death Note #2: Damned by the Brand
“These other guys, they just work here, Jimmy. You’ll see a thousand of them come and go. But not us. We die here. This is your family. We’re your family. Alright?”
This is not only one of Rip’s best lines, but it also explains his fate directly. Rip is destined to die for the Dutton Yellowstone Ranch, period. He wears the brand, yes, but in truth, Rip is more the living embodiment of the brand itself.
But will this fate come to pass in Yellowstone Season 5?
Our honest answer? No. Here’s why.
Saving Grace: Rip Wheeler is a Survivor
Ever since John Dutton discovered the teenage orphan in a local barn, he’s known him to be a survivor. Rip had just murdered his father, a nasty drunk who’d beaten his little brother and mother to death, in order to both avenge them and save himself from the same fate. This is also what led to Rip taking on the Yellowstone brand.
Above all, it led to a unbreakable bond between John and Rip. Through four seasons, Rip lives up to the tainted legacy of the brand like no one else. As John tells him in Season 4, Rip is the only one who never questions him when asked to do something.
“I never will,” Rip responds. But there’s a duality to this, too, as there is with Rip in general. His unwavering loyalty is both a blessing and a crux, as Rip is capable of both immense good and immensely bad things. Regardless, Rip has proven himself to be one thing: a survivor And in Yellowstone Season 5, we’re set to see such unwavering loyalty put to the ultimate test. Enemies are closing in from all sides, and John will undoubtedly have Rip at the center of it all.
Chances are, however, that Rip’s ultimate saving grace will actually be hefty plot armor. Cole Hauser has simply made his character too appealing, iconic, and beloved by fans. And we’re absolutely okay with him sticking around for the long haul for all of those reasons. Rip’s absence would leave a huge hole in Yellowstone; one the series isn’t quite ready for yet. But hey, stranger things have happened in Taylor Sheridan‘s Neo-Montana.
Rip Wheeler return this November 13 for Yellowstone Season 5, exclusively on Paramount Network. In the meantime, relive all of his best moments from Seasons 1-4 below:
A look at some of Rip’s most memorable Yellowstone moments, from his first day on the ranch to his bond with Beth.