Look, we all love the Duttons – John, Beth, Kayce & Monica, Lee, Tate, and Jami-okay, we all love most of the Duttons. One of the Yellowstone Dutton clan, however, shines above the rest as the most important character on the show.
And while it may be tempting to think this is fierce, brilliant Beth, prodigal son Kayce, or Papa John himself – the truth of the matter is much smaller, and far more adorable.
When it comes to family, it’s natural to protect and cherish the children above all else. In the case of Yellowstone Ranch, though, this mentality may literally end up saving the entire bloodline’s legacy. Not only is Tate John’s only grandson and the clear third generational inheritor of… well, everything… but he’s also literally been born & bred to lead this family into the world to come.
As a result, Tate Dutton rises as the most important character on the show by far. And we’re not just spitting tar here, either.
Tate Brings Kayce Back Home to Yellowstone Ranch
Firstly, it’s a near sure-bet that Kayce never would have returned home to the ranch if not for his son. His strained, distant relationship with his own father, John, had him staying as far away as possible. Not just physically, either, but emotionally, as well.
While this struggle between the three generations is far from over, it is integral to the show – and has come such a long way. One of the best aspects of Yellowstone has been watching trust build from one generation down. John fought hard to earn this trust with both his son and grandson, and still is. It’s a tug-of-war that tugs at our heartstrings in return, but solidifies this family as the best television has seen in years.
“That’s the thing about being a grandfather,” John Dutton famously says of his relationship with Tate. “I get to do all the things I wish I’d done with my children. And the things I regret, I get to do different.”
After many years of hard feelings between father and son, John Dutton has finally begun developing a relationship with his grandson, Tate. It has been an incredibly rocky process involving several near-death experiences. The outcome, however, is a newly-formed bond three generations strong.
Moreover, Tate has become a fixture – if not the fixture – of John’s life. The two have an incredible bond now, and it is still growing. Through this, John & Kayce have been able to form a bond they’ve never had before. Because of this, Yellowstone Ranch may have secured its own future for another two generations over.
This alone solidifies Tate as the family’s best hope, but it’s only the beginning.
Tate Dutton: Child of Two Worlds
Yellowstone Ranch, however, will never survive as it is outside of the Dutton family. John knows this, Beth & Rip know this, and Kayce is starting to see it, too. But what does the future of Yellowstone look like? Settler… or Native American?
Tate Dutton is both.
Thomas Rainwater has been out for the Duttons since the early throws of the first season. The patriarch of Broken Rock Indian Reservation, Rainwater (played perfectly by Gil Birmingham) is keen on reclaiming the Dutton Ranch in the name of his Native American ancestors. The land would have, after all, been occupied by his people first and foremost.
Moreover, Rainwater has a secret weapon: Angela. Angela Blue Thunder (Q’orianka Kilcher) is notoriously secretive and may be willing to help betray the Duttons after revealing her true feelings in regards to her ancestors. Rainwater’s assistant, Mo (Mo Brings Plenty), is, too. And with everyone looking to Roarke Morris and the financial war during S3 – Rainwater may have the perfect time to strike Yellowstone in S4.
And this is where Tate comes in to save us all. Again.
His mother, Monica, is Native American: born within the lands of the Dutton Ranch. After marrying one of the Dutton settlers, Kayce, the two had Tate.
A key part of Monica’s role in the show has been centered around her Native American heritage, and as a result – the same is said for Tate. As such, the duality of their family has been incredibly interesting to watch over the first three seasons. As Monica becomes increasingly torn between her Native American upbringing on the reservation and her love of the Duttons – where will her loyalties land?
More importantly, where will Tate’s?
While the youngest Dutton spent most of his early years on the reservation, his deep bond with John has him rethinking everything. “I want to be a cowboy,” he even tells his grandfather late in S3 – much to John’s joy.
Tate & Yellowstone Fossils: Protected Land?
In turn, on Yellowstone, any glimmer of hope for the Duttons shines like gold. Every time an avenue opens toward prosperity for the family, something – or someone – comes along to kill it. While these threats prove immensely entertaining (thanks to aforementioned Rainwater & Josh Holloway’s work as Roarke Morris), there’s got to be a glimmer of hope left after that devastating Season 3 finale.
Thankfully, Tate Dutton is here to save us on this front, as well. And fans have a super-strong theory to back it up.
Looking way back to the pilot/premiere episode of Yellowstone, ‘Daybreak‘, fans now believe the key to saving the ranch has been right in front of us since the very beginning.
In this episode, we meet a tiny Tate as he discovers a fossil formation. Not just any fossil, however, but actual dinosaur bones on his family’s land.
While we have yet to see these fossils again since Kayce’s homestead was hit by marauders, they’ve got to come back into play, the fans argue. The fossils have been given their own storyline, so to speak – and their prominence in the very first episode is key, as well. At their very core, these historic treasures should prove invaluable to the Duttons.
Could the existence of fossils on Yellowstone Ranch – found by none other than Tate Dutton, secure the family’s hold on their land once and for all? The rest of the theory says absolutely – which you can read here.
Watch the Best of Tate Dutton on Yellowstone
The best part of all this? Tate’s phenomenal young actor, Brecken Merrill, loves every second of it. And he confirms that Tate loves his family as much as we do, as well.
Speaking on his relationship with Kayce, Merrill says that Tate “thinks his dad is like – a superhero. He thinks he is the strongest person on Earth and he really loves his dad.”
This admiration is far form one-sided, however. Kayce Dutton’s Luke Grimes has a ton of praise to heap on Merrill.
“I’ve worked with kids in the past that are – tough. It’s hard, you know, to keep them on track or keep them focused. And he’s actually really good.”
“Actually my favorite scene is with him. I throw fish in Dave’s face,” he smiles. “I actually feel bad for Dave.”
Monica actress Kelsey Asbille, too, is in love with Merrill and his portrayal of Tate. “He’s amazing,” she says getting teary-eyed. “What a cool job for him, as well. My scenes with him are probably my favorite.”
“Riding horses, fighting a snake,” Merrill says, “it has been a great experience.”
Between these loving words are all of Tate’s hand-chosen favorite scenes from Yellowstone. It’s a must-watch, and a perfect way to drive how just how integral this young man is to his entire family’s future:
For more of Tate’s best, and most important moments for the Yellowstone family, we’ve got you covered with ‘Yellowstone’ TV: Best Tate Dutton Moments Throughout the Seasons.