There’s no shortage of incredible, pivotal moments in the life of Rip Wheeler. But which form the absolute top three of this phenomenal character’s journey so far?
It may feel years away (as has everything in 2020), but Yellowstone Season 4 is just around the corner. While we wait for an official premiere date announcement from Paramount, revisiting the first three brilliant seasons is about the only thing that can tide us over. And who better to explore than the most fascinating character of any modern Western: Rip Wheeler.
Raised on a pig farm in Miles City, MT, Rip Wheeler (played to perfection by Cole Hauser), is the product of a messy divorce when he and his brother were young.
Rip Wheeler grew up near Miles City, MT, on a pig farm, and his parents divorced when he and his brother were young. Things take a horrific turn for the worse when Rip’s step-father comes back to their farm to kill his entire family. The aftermath of this, however, sets Rip on a path that would define his entire life – and it all takes place through John Dutton.
Through the first three seasons of Yellowstone, much of Rip’s life – past and present – unfolds before our eyes. While it’s difficult to pinpoint just a handful of pivotal moments in the eventful life of Rip Wheeler, we’ve done our best to mark the top 3 moments that define this incredible character before his return in Season 4.
John Dutton Takes Rip Wheeler Under His Wing
We all know the story of how Rip Wheeler came to Yellowstone Ranch. In Cole Hauser’s own words, “it’s pretty horrific.” While it may seem less prudent to travel into flashbacks, there is no storyline or string of events more pivotal for Rip as a character.
Young Rip’s avenging of his mother and brother, by subsequently murdering his -step-father, sets him on the path that would define his entire life. Whether fate, luck, or both sent John Dutton to find this “wild boy” in a barn and take him under his wing is irrelevant, because Rip knows this man can save his life. In letting him, Rip gains a father, and John gains another son.
Their dynamic is, in essence, who Rip becomes. His entire life, creed, everything – is shaped by who he is for John Dutton and the Yellowstone Ranch. The murder he commits as a young teen binds his hands to this life, but it also frees him to be the sort of man John Dutton needs – one willing to take care of the dirty deeds no one else can – or is willing to do.
From this, a dozen other pivotal moments spring forth in the life of Rip Wheeler. And they are all, in one way or another, in service to John Dutton.
Rip Takes on Jimmy Hurdstram
Most of those moments, however, serve as pivotal for the Duttons themselves as Rip does their dirty work. As for Rip himself, the second most pivotal moment in his life comes when he decides to do for another what John Dutton did for him.
Think for a moment if you would even consider doing for a serial thief like Jimmy what Rip Wheeler does for him. When confronted with the option of hauling the young man’s sorry a** off to jail with all his stolen goods, or outright murdering the idiot, or giving him the exact same second-chance at life he himself received from John, Rip chooses the latter: for himself and for Jimmy.
While Jimmy doesn’t have much of a choice, neither did Rip when John came for him. In turn, Rip does have a choice in “saving” Jimmy, just like John did with him. He chooses to take on the life of this lost young man, and mold him into something – and someone – useful for Yellowstone.
This pay-it-forward, from John Dutton – to Rip Wheeler – to Jimmy Hurdstram – brings so much of Rip’s entire life’s journey full circle. As such, it is undeniably pivotal for Rip in that it shows he has become the sort of man his father figure is: the man they both wanted him to become.
Peacock’s fantastic Rip montage below begins with the entire sequence between Rip & Jimmy, and it makes for a brilliant re-watch:
Rip & Beth: “He’s Saying It’s Yours”
For this author’s part, however, the most pivotal moment for Rip and Beth’s relationship also serves as the final most pivotal moment for Rip Wheeler in this Top 3. While it may seem obvious to highlight Rip saving Beth’s life from her assailants, it’s their Season 2, Episode 10 interaction – courtesy of Rip’s early inheritance – that shows audiences exactly who these two are to each other – and what is most important to Rip in life.
After saving Beth’s life and literally taking bullets for her, John Dutton steps up and rewards Rip in the most fitting way possible. Once Beth’s father shows her this reward – which comes from the heart – she cannot wait to share this with the man she loves. And it all happens through a brilliantly perfect letter John writes for Rip.
Through all this, we learn – alongside Rip – that John Dutton does fully consider him a part of the family. This is all Rip’s ever wanted. And considering Beth worships the ground her father walks on, the fact that she’s so willing to share his love with Rip just goes to show that these two were absolutely meant for one another.
The beauty of this sequence unfolds as the final part of Peacock’s “Beth & Rip Relationship Timeline” below. Give it a play and watch Rip’s face as he realize he’s been rewarded for all his years of service to the Duttons – and you’ll see immediately why this pivotal event ends our list for one Rip Wheeler.
Yellowstone is streaming now on Peacock.Peacock
Rip Wheeler’s Journey Continues…
For more from Rip Wheeler & Beth Dutton’s relationship, our Yellowstone TV: Beth Dutton and Rip Wheeler’s Best Moments Ahead of Season 4 should be your next stop.