Yellowstone explores the conflicts between the several factions vying for control over the hundreds of thousands of acres of land that comprise the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, the largest contiguous private cattle ranch in the U.S.. The acclaimed antihero, family, and crime drama from Paramount+ is the brainchild of former Sons of Anarchy actor Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote the screenplay for Sicario and directed the murder mystery film Wind River. Although much of Sheridan’s work is character-driven, he makes clever use of factions in order to explore character motivations and drive the narrative forward – elements which can be heavily observed in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone season 1 explores the straightforward conflicts between the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, and real estate developers Paradise Valley. In Yellowstone seasons 2 to 4, new factions are introduced to the game and old rivalries are upended for new alliances. Through these fictional factions, Yellowstone explores the evolving dynamics that occur between real-life land barons, Native American communities, and billionaire real estate and business developers.
Yellowstone‘s pertinent themes range from family loyalty and crime to the socio-political conflicts between white businesses and Native American nations. These same themes are explored in the Yellowstone spinoff prequel series 1883, which was released after the end of Yellowstone season 4. As Yellowstone season 5 dawns on the horizon, here’s everything viewers need to know about the different factions that fight among each other in Taylor Sheridan’s neo-Western universe.
Yellowstone Dutton Ranch: America’s Largest Contiguous Cattle Ranch
Seven generations of the Duttons have owned and operated the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch since the late 1800s. The entire property comprises over 700,000 acres of land, which the Duttons maintain mainly through raising cattle. Apart from the Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch shares borders with the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, other private ranches, and swathes of unspoiled Montana plains, forests, and mountains, drawing the interest of billionaire business developers from different parts of the country.
In order to protect the ranch from outside influence, its current patriarch, Yellowstone protagonist John Dutton (Kevin Costner), also controls the Montana Livestock Commission, which is headed by military veteran Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes), John’s son. John is also aided by his daughter Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly), a financier and master manipulator, and his ranch foreman Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), the Duttons’ primary enforcer. Most of the cowboys working and living at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch bear the iconic “Y” symbol, which is burned into their chests with a glowing hot branding iron during a secret ceremony, sealing their loyalty to the family. In Yellowstone season 5, John Dutton will be vying for the governorship of Montana and running against his adopted son Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), Montana’s attorney general.
Broken Rock Indian Reservation: Native Americans Laying Claim To The Duttons’ Lands
As the high chief of the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, casino mogul Thomas Rainwater seeks to reclaim the lands that comprise the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, which first belonged to Native American tribes – echoing the true story of how America was founded. Aided by his driver and bodyguard Mo (Moses Brings Plenty), Rainwater struggles to strike the balance between being honorable and doing whatever it takes to gain the upper hand in a war that has disenfranchised his people for the last couple centuries. In Yellowstone season 3, despite Mo’s objections, Rainwater hires corporate lawyer Angela Blue Thunder (Q’orianka Kilcher), who reminds Rainwater that their people’s ancient laws not only demand the protection of the land, but were also created before the ice age, predating the laws of modern governments.
John Dutton and Rainwater have temporarily put their problems aside in order to work together against Market Equities, a firm that wants to build an airport and resort city in the valley. This leads to the unlikely teaming up between fellow corporate assassins Angela Blue Thunder and Beth Dutton, whose cunning will be put to the test against a new enemy. As Beth and Jamie’s hateful rivalry reaches an uneasy ceasefire, it will also be interesting to see the two working for the interests of the Broken Rock Indian Reservation. Moreover, as Kayce has been initiated into the tribe of his wife Monica Long Dutton (Kelsey Asbille) as well, it would seem that the Duttons and the Broken Rock Indian Reservation will be taking on Market Equities together in Yellowstone season 5.
Market Equities: Billionaire Land Developers Seeking To Build A City
Market Equities is an investment firm that is planning to build an airport, ski resort, and city that threatens to devour the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch whole and further disenfranchise the Broken Rock Indian Reservation and its surrounding Native American communities. At the head of this leviathan is Market Equities CEO Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver), who took on the reins after Beth outsmarted the first team that the firm sent to Montana. While the Duttons represent the landlord descendants of white pioneers who invaded and claimed Native American territories during the Westward Expansion of America in the late 19th century, Market Equities represent the richest and most influential private companies on the Fortune 500 list today. Impressed by Beth’s ability to bend people and corporations to her will, Warner attempts to get the Duttons to cooperate with their plans by making Beth an executive at Market Equities. After Beth betrays Market Equities and derails their strategy for buying out the ranch, Warner promises not only to ruin Beth’s life, but also to aggressively erase any memory of the Dutton family in the process of building a city.
Major Yellowstone Factions That Didn’t Survive
Paradise Valley: Owned by Dan Jenkins, who is played by Wonder Woman‘s Danny Huston, Paradise Valley was the first real-estate firm that threatened to buy out the Duttons’ lands. Jenkins even partnered with Chief Thomas Rainwater in order to take on John Dutton in Yellowstone season 1. However, when the Beck Brothers entered the picture, Jenkins and Rainwater found themselves teaming up with the Duttons in order to fight a larger threat. After Jenkins manages to kill several assassins that were sent by the Beck Brothers, the encounter ends with Jenkins’ death, leaving Paradise Valley’s assets to be acquired by Market Equities.
The Beck Brothers: Malcolm (Neal McDonough) and Teal Beck (Terry Serpico) were influential casino owners that tried to work with but later waged war against the Duttons, the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, and Paradise Valley. While the Duttons function similarly to a feudal kingdom, the Beck Brothers are more like classic mafia movie villains, introducing underhanded tactics and questionable fashion choices to the fight for the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. When the Beck Brothers make the mistake of kidnapping Kayce’s son, they are eliminated via the full armed force of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch and the Montana Livestock Association. Although it’s unlikely for the Beck Brothers to return in Yellowstone season 5, they were long-established Montana businessmen, which means that a new player could seek revenge on their behalf somewhere down the line.