‘Yellowstone’ TV: The Chain of Command on the Dutton Ranch, From John Dutton to the Bunkhouse

by Jon D. B.
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When it comes down to it, who wields the most power on Yellowstone Ranch after patriarch John Dutton? Beth? Jamie? Or someone less expected?

Here on Outsider, we speculate a lot about our favorite show. Yellowstone is prime entertainment, there’s no doubt about that. This is in no small part due to the brilliant cast of characters and their constantly evolving, shifting, and turbulent relationships. But when it comes to wielding power, John Dutton keeps a firm (and purposeful) grasp on any/all aspects of the ranch – yet constantly concerns himself with the prospect of a fitting heir.

For viewers, and John himself, any sense of his second in command is constantly in a state of grey flux. While this is no doubt purposeful on his part, the question remains: who currently wields the most power beneath him? And as a result, who will be the one to take control of his empire once he’s gone?

We all have our opinions on who’s the best fit – but will the best fit be the one to actually take his place? Will it all come down to bureaucracy? Or will the power of an individual rise above all else, as so often is the case with Yellowstone?

To shed a bit of light, we’re taking a look at the family – and the ranch’s – chain of command as it stands now. Much is up in the air after that gutting Season 3 finale, too, so let’s assume for now that the main players will be alive and well for at least Season 4. As such – this means massive spoilers ahead for those who haven’t finished S3 of Yellowstone, so be warned.

Ready to dive in? Let’s take a look at who’s wielding the most power outside of John Dutton to take Yellowstone Ranch into the decades ahead.

Yellowstone: The Heavy Hitters

Immediately, one scene comes to mind in answering the big question. In Season 3, this pivotal scene pulled “all the heavy hitters in one room,” as Yellowstone puts it. “What could go wrong?” they ask. Well… everything, is the answer.

So much rides on the powerplays of John Dutton’s successors. But we can be grateful for much in this scene, especially when it comes to seeing who truly wields said power.

This scene, which you can watch below, is pivotal for one reason beyond all others: No pawns are present. Instead, it’s all the rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens – in one room. Or so we’re led to believe. Let’s watch:

Within one scene, we see John come to the realization that his adopted son, Jamie, is no longer a pawn. He may never have been one in the first place. This meeting of the “heavy hitters” displays the full jurisdiction he holds over Yellowstone from all legal standpoints.

While Beth is a fan favorite, and perhaps her father’s on occasion, to take over in his stead, we see here that she can’t. Not unless Jamie is removed from the equation. But will he ever be?

Jamie is as power-hungry by the end of Season 3 as anyone else. It remains to be seen what he’s willing to do to ensure his future with his family’s ranch. But thanks to this scene alone, we know that Jamie is officially the second most powerful Dutton in the room at any given time.

Judging by the legalities here, Beth holds no more power to stop the forces at play than John himself. She’s officially a rook: steamrolling, ruthless, and powerful, yes. But she’s not a Queen. Not yet.

The Players Not Present

At any given time, John Dutton may decide to amend his will and name an heir to his empire. Again, Beth seems a likely choice here, but it’s a destiny she’s stated over and over that she’s not entirely keen on inheriting. To this end, many fans have labeled Kayce Dutton as the prodigal son.

Kayce’s deep love of and marriage to Monica, alongside their son Tate, all places this trio as a “best case scenario” for Yellowstone Ranch. Together, this facet of the Dutton family could unite the Broken Rock Reservation with the settlers of Yellowstone to create a sort of unified future that hasn’t been possible before.

But for our part, we simply don’t see the figureheads of Broken Rock – like Thomas Rainwater – wanting to “share” a land that was theirs to begin with. So will this ever be a truly realistic outcome? Probably not.

Nevertheless, it seems more likely by the episode that Kayce and his immediate family will be named heirs to the Yellowstone.

That is, of course, unless the true “best case scenario” has been hiding in plain sight all along.

Will Rip Wheeler Rise Above Blood to Run Yellowstone Ranch?

Much attention is placed on Kayce, Monica, and Tate as a hopeful future for the ranch. Yet for all its majesty, Yellowstone proves time and time again to be no Camelot. The more peril the Duttons find, the less likely it looks that Kayce and Monica will be willing to continue risking Tate’s life on the ranch. Who would?

For this reason alone, it looks as if Yellowstone’s true future has been in front of us the entire time, we’ve just been unwilling to admit it. And that future is Rip Wheeler.

No other character possesses the true grit, drive, and most importantly – the want – to run Yellowstone as it is. John Dutton’s empire is dirty. Filthy. Rip Wheeler embodies the worst of all of this. But he also embodies the best, too. And that’s exactly what Yellowstone needs.

Moreover, Rip is now engaged to the Dutton daughter herself, too. Beth may not be a Queen by Season 3’s end, but together? Rip and Beth are absolutely the “royalty” John’s future needs.

Through all their trials and tribulations, it’s easy to see Rip & Beth’s engagement as just an emotional triumph. But it is far more than that: it makes Rip legal family. Beth needs no man to be a Queen, this much is absolutely true. Yet John knows it will take more than a single person to ensure his empire’s future. This is exactly why he’s groomed each of his children from birth to play their parts in the family’s legacy. It is overshadowed by much of the family drama, but John has been grooming Rip just as much – if not far more – since he rescued him as a teen.

For all these reasons and more, we don’t see any other couple inheriting it all over Rip & Beth.

Rip & Beth: The ‘Royalty’ Yellowstone Needs

Together, the skills – and power – these two possess comes not only from themselves, but also from the deep fondness John holds for them both. John has already gifted Rip his own property and housings on Yellowstone Ranch – a feat no other key player has managed. And it means the world to Rip. He’s not going anywhere, not while he’s alive. It now seems, finally, that Beth feels the exact same way. Wherever Rip is, she will be, too. Even if that means staying on Yellowstone for the rest of her life.

As a result, we see the eventual legal union of these two placing them as the most powerful individuals on Yellowstone. Here’s to hoping they both make it alive for the long haul.

Ready for some concrete answers? Us, too. Yellowstone Season 4 is expected to hit Summer of 2021. Until then, stick with your fellow fans at Outsider.com for all the latest from our favorite show. Up next:

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