Though Yellowstone has entered a period of indefinite hiatus, its staying power as the most-watched drama on cable television only grows. Clearly seeking to find even more of an audience during the SAG-AFTRA strike, Paramount plans to air Yellowstone—from the very beginning—weekly on CBS. When the journey begins all over again on Sunday, September 17, 2023 at 8:30 p.m. ET, returning fans will see every character (even those long gone from the series!) once again.
For the Duttons, the only thing more important that protecting the generational land they own is family. That's why it's important to make sure the audience knows who is who on screen. Still, Yellowstone doesn't make it easy. Sometimes we travel back in time for limited series set in 1883 and 1923. Other times, it can feel like Kevin Costner's John Dutton III isn't that far off from House of the Dragon's transparent number of Aegons. Need help piecing together just how this whole Yellowstone extended universe works out? We’ve got your covered with a little help from our friends over at the Paramount Network.
James and Margaret Dutton
Played by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in 1883, James and Margaret are the original patriarch and matriarch of Yellowstone's Dutton family. A Tennessee farmer, James fought for the Confederate Army in the Civil War before making his way out West with his family. Margaret, likewise, was an army nurse. The caravan was heading toward Oregon, but the Dutton family had to settle in Montana after the death of their daughter, Elsa (Isabel May). Elsa was the main narrator of 1883 and appeared via voiceover in the first episode of 1923 as well. James and Margaret also had two sons: John and Spencer.
Jacob and Cara Dutton
The starring couple of 1923, Jacob and Cara Dutton are portrayed by Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. Whatever the story, Jacob arrived in the 1890s to lead the family ranch after James and Margaret both passed. Jacob and Cara don’t have any children themselves, but Jacob is supposed to be James’s (Tim McGraw) brother. He’s also Commissioner of the Livestock Association—a position the Duttons have apparently held ever since. They now look after James and Margaret’s son, John, and his son, Jack.
Claire (Dawn Olivieri) is James and Jacob’s sister, who traveled in 1883 with James’s caravan headed West. After her daughter, Mary Abel, was killed outside Fort Worth, Texas, she decided to stay behind and later took her own life. Claire also tragically lost her husband and all her children. Olivieri was later recast as Market Equities’ Sarah Atwood in Yellowstone Season Five.
Well, after 1923's shocking third episode, we now know why we hadn't seen much of John (James Badge Dale) and Emma Dutton (Marley Shelton). The lead ranch manager before his death at the hands of sheep herder Banner Creighton, John was previously just a little kid in 1883. With his death, the connection from John Dutton Sr. to Kevin Costner's John Dutton III becomes muddied just a bit. Especially since John and Emma were not shown to have a second son yet in 1923.
Jack (Darren Mann) is the firstborn son of John and Emma Dutton. He works with his great-uncle, Jacob, on the Yellowstone ranch in 1923, as he prepares for his upcoming wedding with Elizabeth Stratford (Michelle Randolph). The family line seemed to end with Jack, but it's entirely possible that Jack—which is sometimes a nickname for John—is actually a young John Dutton Jr./II. This popular fan theory has not been confirmed in 1923 just yet, but the death of John Dutton Sr. in Episode Three of 1923 complicated the family line down to Costner's John Dutton III.
John Dutton II
Appearing as an old man in flashbacks of Yellowstone, John Dutton II is John III‘s (Kevin Costner) father, and presumably either John and Emma’s second son or an older Jack Dutton. According to Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, there may be some more room for John Dutton II stories in subsequent spinoffs in the 1940s and 1960s when he would have been the family patriarch.
Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) is John and Elsa’s brother in 1923, and the character who is currently hunting lions abroad. Spencer was apparently born sometime after James and Margaret settled in Montana and was not featured as a baby back in 1883. At some point, he left to fight in World War I before finding himself in Africa. As 1923 continues to get even more dire for the Dutton's back on the ranch, Spencer is now on a dangerous voyage across the ocean to get back home.
John Dutton III
Finally! Played by Kevin Costner, John Dutton III is the head of the family all throughout Yellowstone. He’s the eventual Governor of Montana and father of four: Lee, Beth, Kayce, and Jamie (although he’s technically adopted). His wife, Evelyn, died in a horseback riding accident. Now the patriarch of the Dutton ranch, John tries to keep hedge funds and powerful rivals from taking his generational land away from him and his children.
John Dutton III and Evelyn’s first child, Lee (Dave Annable) was killed in the first season of Yellowstone after he was shot during a confrontation with the neighboring Broken Rock Reservation.
Beth Dutton and Rip Wheeler
Beth (Kelly Reilly) is John Dutton III’s only daughter. She is a ruthless businesswoman and the wife of Rip Wheeler—John’s current Yellowstone ranch manager. Beth will do whatever it takes to protect her family and has made a sworn enemy out of her adopted brother, Jamie. Rip—though married into the family—was a wayward boy that John took under his wing. Beth and Rip have also pseudo-adopted a young teenager name Carter, who works in the horse stables.
Jamie (Wes Bentley) is the adopted son of John and Evelyn, who was later disinherited after several legal battles and double-crosses. Jamie’s adoption was originally kept hidden from him, until he meets his biological father, Garrett Randall. Randall allegedly killed Jamie’s birth mother when Jamie was just a baby. After a turn at the end of Season Four, however, Jamie is eventually forced to kill Randall and partially rejoin the Dutton clan. Now, he’s planning to impeach his adopted father, John, and take the governorship for himself. Jamie also has a secret son, named Jamie Jr., who he had with his old campaign manager, Christina.
Kayce and Monica Dutton
John’s youngest son, Kayce, originally had a difficult relationship with his father after he left the family to marry Monica Long-Dutton, a teacher on the Broken Rock Reservation. The two have reconciled and Kayce now lives with Monica in their own home with their son, Tate. Recently in Yellowstone, Kayce has taken after his father, becoming the new Montana Livestock Commissioner.
Tate is Kayce and Monica's teenage son, learning how to be a real cowboy. As it stands, Tate is the youngest member of the Dutton family set to inherit the ranch. While it remains unknown just how Yellowstone will end, the land both remaining with the Duttons and someone who is of mixed-race Native American heritage may just be a worthwhile end to the show's family legacy.
There's a good number of ways that the Yellowstone sequel can usher in Matthew McConaughey to the plot. Though Paramount has yet to announce an official series, the actor is in talk to take over from Costner. He could be a distant family member—some brother whom we never knew John Dutton had. He could be just an estranged cousin. Hell, he could even just take over the role of John Dutton! However it shakes out, just know we're ready for the man to ride horses, brand cattle, and end violent land wars with the Dutton family.
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