Much has been written about the dichotomy between patriarch John Dutton, his “prodigal son” Kayce, and outlier Rip Wheeler. Despite John taking on a teenage Rip as his own, he never treats his lead ranch hand the same as his biological children. Rip doesn’t even get the same treatment as John’s officially adopted son, Jamie, either.
Perhaps one of the strongest examples of this comes as JD finally decides “enough is enough” from his old ally turned staunch enemy, Wade Morrow. After the rogue dirtbag decides to trample Teeter and Colby on Yellowstone Ranch land, John’s finally had enough. While both Kayce and Rip immediately call for justice from their father/father figure, John is only willing to put one of them in harm’s way to make it so.
A plan is needed to dispose of Morrow, and JD turns to his right-hand man and executioner, Rip, to do what he does best. Kayce, however, is never given the chance to act on his father’s behalf.
And “Spoiler alert: They figured out a plan that worked,” ‘Yellowstone’ captions their official clip. Watch below as the switch flips for John Dutton, and he asks Rip to “take that trash to the f***ing train station.”
‘Yellowstone’s Patriarchal Dichotomy: Who Does John Truly Consider a Son?
While moments like this make this question feel easier to answer, the question still lingers. Could John Dutton truly think of Rip as a son? He has, after all, penned an incredibly moving letter to his ranch hand and gifted him land on Yellowstone.
This question really leaves viewers scratching their heads throughout the seasons. The true significance of John’s Season 2 finale gift to ever-loyal Rip Wheeler is a moving case for him considering Rip a son. At first glance, that is. The letter – read aloud to Rip by Beth – seems to confirm everything Rip Wheeler has ever wanted out of life on the Yellowstone Ranch, as does the cabin and land that comes with it. But is there far more at play here?
Nothing is ever simple on ‘Yellowstone‘. Could John’s gift simply come to keep his executioner’s loyalty in check? There’s no doubt in this Outsider’s mind that John loves Rip on some level. But it cannot, however, be the same love he holds for his blood kin, i.e. Kayce. If it were, he would never send Rip to his death on a near-weekly basis as he does.
John confirms this to us, too, on multiple occasions with his own words. “I can’t risk you, son,” he says to Kayce – his only remaining biological son. Has John ever pulled back on risking Rip’s life? Not once. In fact, it is exactly what he expects of Rip. And this is exactly what we see when reliving this triangular interaction over Wade Morrow’s fate.
Yet we’ve also got to keep in mind that if Rip and Beth actually do get married, then Rip will become a true member of the family. Could this lead to John being more protective of Rip’s fate? Only time, and ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4, will tell.