John Dutton’s only biological grandson, Tate, holds fascinating potential as a descendent of both Indigenous and settler bloodlines. This felt paramount in early seasons, as did his initial discovery of a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on his family’s land. Yet Tate’s discovery, and his own importance, has waned as Yellowstone continues. Will his discovery come back to help the Duttons in any way? Or has it been completely sidelined by Season 4’s discovery of indigenous burials on Yellowstone Ranch land?
The Story of Tate Dutton and ‘Yellowstone’s Dinosaur Fossils
Looking all the way back to the premiere episode of Yellowstone, “Daybreak”, audiences were led to believe the key to saving the Dutton empire has been right in front of them since the very beginning.
In the pilot, viewers meet a tiny Tate as he discovers a fossil formation. Not just any fossil, however, but actual dinosaur bones on his family’s land. A tyrannosaurus rex, to be specific. It’s a startling discovery, sure, and one John walks his grandson through fully. But this plotline becomes far more perplexing as cable’s #1 drama moves along. Tate’s discovery features prominently in the opener – then becomes sidelined for Seasons 2-4.
This becomes far more perplexing once the scene is revisited below, as it is given great significance.
John & Tate Discuss Dinosaurs in ‘A Grandpa’s Story’
“You know, there was a time when most of Montana was under the ocean,” John tells his grandson. “And I’m betting that right here… was the beach. ‘Cause you see this? I’m thinking these washed up on the shore, and your buddy here, the dinosaur, he was probably out walking looking for dinner right here.”
The fossil John shows Tate looks to be a small ammonite. While beautiful, these small, spiraling organisms are common. They wouldn’t stand to protect the land as a result. But Tate’s tyrannosaurus rex, or another like it, however, absolutely would.
But here we are with Season 4 wrapped up and we have yet to see Tate’s fossils again since Kayce’s homestead was hit by marauders. Why throw such an odd curveball into the very first episode if it’s not to become important? Paleontology has nothing to do with Yellowstone at large. There has to be a reason for this. Otherwise it remains the show’s most glaring unresolved plot hole.
Yet as the show moves on, viewers have seen creator/writer Taylor Sheridan’s love for foreshadowing firsthand. Sheridan has used this storytelling tactic to great effect – especially for John Dutton himself.
With all of this in mind, Tate’s discovery has to come back into play – and prominently. The fossils have been given their own storyline, so to speak. So when it all comes down to the final straw(s), these historic treasures should prove invaluable to the Duttons, right?
Viewers Think “Strange” Dinosaur Revelation will Save the Ranch
Speaking to this, Yellowstone fans have taken to Reddit in order to work through Tate’s discovery and any resulting “dinosaur theories.” Many viewers believe, too, that these fossils absence since Season 1 is beyond conspicuous.
Redditor phonebook29 phrases the prominent “dinosaur theory” best, saying “all hope to save the property seems to be going up in smoke with every passing episode. The thing that will ultimately save the ranch goes all the way back to the dinosaur bones found in the beginning of the show. Not sure how this will play out but I have always thought this was a strange thing to drop on us at the beginning of S1E1.”
Strange, indeed. Unless the show is gearing up for their return. As a result of Tate’s discovery, audiences now claim “getting the ranch listed as a protected site” is the only way to prevent Market Equities from getting their “greedy hands on the land.” This being a result of dinosaur fossils instead of indigenous burials, however, is now far less likely after Season 4’s revelations.
The fossils appear to have been dug up now, too. Could the bones be “planted” back on Yellowstone land? We know the Duttons aren’t above this. The ranch could become a protected site of paleontological significance as a result. Then Tate Dutton’s discovery – and previous obsession with dinosaurs – could save the Yellowstone for good.
History Could Save the Yellowstone After All
Even if the original dinosaur bones don’t turn back up, there’s bound to be more on the land. We see this firsthand when John Dutton shows his grandson other types of fossils present beneath their home. And on Yellowstone, any glimmer of hope for the Duttons shines like gold.
Every time things look remotely positive for the family, something – or someone – comes along to drown it away. While these threats prove immensely entertaining (thanks to performances like Will Patton as Garrett Randall and Jacki Weaver as Caroline Warner), there’s got to be a glimmer of hope left after that raucous Season 4 finale.