‘Yellowstone’ TV: The Clue You Missed Pointing to Rip Wheeler Taking Over Ranch From John Dutton

by Thad Mitchell

The third and most recent season of the hit western drama Yellowstone left fans of the show with a plethora of questions. Among those questions is who will eventually inherit the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. A theory believes it’s fan-favorite Rip Wheeler.

There could be as many as four main Yellowstone characters either dead or alive as we eagerly await the new season. The fourth season of the Paramount Network series is set to premiere this summer, likely in the month of June.

The ending of the third season was quite explosive — literally. The Dutton family, an influential clan of ranchers in Montana, came under attack as the final seconds of season three tick away. John Dutton, the family patriarch, was shot several times in the chest as he helped a family change a flat tire. Kayce Dutton came under siege from unknown attackers but was able to take cover. Beth Dutton was the recipient of a package bomb that explodes in her office. Ranch hand Jimmy was last seen falling off a bucking horse and lying face down in the dirt with his eyes closed.

There is certainly a lot to unpack heading into the fourth season. There are far more questions than there are answers. Yellowstone fans have taken to online forums to discuss the show and reveal their theories on how the new season will play out. Many fans have gone back and watched previous seasons of the show in hopes of discovering clues. A Yellowstone fan on Reddit believes they may found a piece of foreshadowing that links the show’s very first episode with the season three finale.

‘Yellowstone’ Pilot Connects to Season Three Finale

The fan theory suggests it will be Yellowstone Ranch Foreman Rip Wheeler who will take over once John has passed. The theory states the show’s very first scene links directly with a scene in the third season finale.

In Yellowstone’s pilot episode, John Dutton is involved in a vehicular incident and must mercy kill an injured horse. In the third season finale, Rip must do the same as vultures above circle their soon-to-be meal. The fan theorizes the vultures symbolize a major death on the show. The theory also states the mercy killing of a hurt horse foreshadows Rip taking the reigns of the ranch from John once he passes.

“Anyone remember how season one started?” the Yellowstone fan writes on Reddit. “John putting down an injured horse? At the end of season three Rip puts down an injured horse. Then the vultures flying overhead in the distance. What omens are the vultures? Unusual that both scenes were about injured horses.”

John Dutton and Rip Wheeler Are Similar

Other fans chime in to say the poster could be on to something. There is a great deal of similarity between the two scenes and in the two characters. Neither Rip nor John wants to put down a horse but they do what they have to do to end its suffering. This draws a direct parallel between the two men, suggesting they have similar values. Rip is a natural selection to take over Yellowstone Ranch once John departs this world.

What makes this theory so plausible is the relationship between Rip and John. Rip is incredibly loyal to the Dutton family and John treats him like his own son. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say John trusts Rip more than anyone else on the ranch.

It’s entirely possible that John survives his ordeal thanks to a cell phone in his shirt pocket protecting his heart. It is also entirely possible that he does indeed perish from the attack. If it is the latter and John succumbs to his injuries, Rip could emerge as the favorite to inherit Yellowstone Ranch.

With the fourth season of Yellowstone now in full view, fans won’t have to wait much longer for answers.