For three seasons, Yellowstone fans thought they had a solid enough handle on the Dutton family’s dynamics and history, but then along came Season 4 and the mood-setting prequel 1883 to throw those initial assumptions under the wagon wheels. In the streaming spinoff, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill play the family ancestors who set up the massive ranch that TV audiences know so well, and for the entire time 1883 was airing, it was believed that McGraw’s James was the great-grandfather of Kevin Costner’s John. However, the actor and country music superstar appears to have confirmed that’s not the case, and that there’s ANOTHER unidentified generation of Duttons somewhere in between.
The newly released Yellowstone: Season 4 Blu-ray set features an extra dubbed “Yellowstone: Origins” that takes a closer look at the two major flashback sequences that pop up in Episodes 401 and 408. After Taylor Sheridan offers some insights into why he started to peel back the historical onion on the family’s legacy, McGraw and Hill share their character breakdowns, and his goes a little something like this:
Kudos to anyone who read through that entire description and didn’t just keep repeating that first sentence back in an increasingly questioning tone. Great-GREAT-grandfather? GREAT-GREAT-GRANDFATHER?!?
Before now, it appeared as if James Dutton sired John Dutton Sr. (as well as his under-explored brother Spencer), who then presumably fathered Dabney Coleman’s John Jr., with Kevin Costner’s character being John Dutton III. But there’s apparently another generational line in there somewhere, probably around the 1932 point in the timeline that will be featured in another upcoming prequel. But that admission also likely sets up major repercussions on Yellowstone itself.
Why Tim McGraw’s Dutton Family Reveal Is So Important
Beyond just the intriguing curiosity factor, James Dutton being modern-day John’s great-great-grandfather makes foreshadowing set up in 1883’s finale that much more pressing for the Yellowstone characters. Costner’s Dances with Wolves co-star Graham Greene cameoed in the episode as the Crow leader Spotted Eagle, who showed Tim McGraw’s James where to find Paradise Valley, where the family’s ranch will eventually be expanded. But that wasn’t the only information he coughed up.
For all his helpfulness, Spotted Eagle capped his advice off with an ominous threat, saying that his people would rise up in seven generations to take the land back, to which the more short-sighted James replies that they can have it. Before, using our prior assumptions about the family tree, it seemed as if Tate Dutton’s hypothetical children would be of the generation in most need of worrying about the foreshadowed land grab.
But if Tim McGraw was speaking the genuine truth, then that means Tate’s generation would be the one most in danger of eventually facing off against Spotted Eagle’s descendants. But with Tate no longer living on the ranch, and with Kayce and Monica’s relationship quite a bit rattled when Season 4 ended, it doesn’t seem wholly likely that Breckin Merrill’s character himself will be directly involved.
Which makes it all the more understandable why Yellowstone appears to be setting up Finn Little’s Carter as a quasi-protégé to Kevin Costner’s John, as it was hinted at in the Season 4 finale. While Tate could certainly grow up to become someone who can conquer his traumas, he’s currently haunted by his experiences on the ranch, and John likely grasps that and knows that he wouldn’t be prime ranch-leading material even if Kayce and Monica moved back to the ranch and never had marital troubles again. But seeing Finn put up with the bullshit he does day in and day out, on top of his own adolescent traumas, probably makes him a stronger candidate in the minds of both John and Rip.
Of course, when it comes down to it, Tim McGraw may have just misspoke, and the great-great-grandfather line was just a hiccup that somehow didn’t get edited out. But do I think a detail-oriented creator like Taylor Sheridan would let that shit fly if it wasn’t legitimate? Not for a second.
While waiting to figure out what’s actually happening with the Dutton family, be sure to pick up the Yellowstone: Season 4 Blu-ray set, which features a ton of other extras beyond just the aforementioned “Origins” breakdown. Fans looking for behind-the-scenes info will be busy for hours with all of the “Behind the Story” segments and “Stories from the Bunkhouse” featurettes, as well as the more subject-specific extras. And for anyone who doesn’t own the first three seasons yet, Amazon has a banging DVD and Blu-ray sale happening right now that’ll fix that.
And when you’re done watching those, be sure to catch up on 1883, which recently aired its heartbreaking finale, on Paramount+, where all of Taylor Sheridan’s other non-Yellowstone series will be housed. And check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see all the new and upcoming shows that are still on the way.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn’t sound like that’s the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.