If viewers are looking for a rose-tinted look at what life is like in the American countryside, they won’t find it on “Yellowstone.” Taking cues from TV classics such as “Dallas,” the show follows the Dutton family as they try to safeguard their ranch from anyone who dares to cross their path. Audiences quickly learn that this list extends to a lot of people, with Beth, John, Casey, and Rip routinely getting into emotional and physical altercations with those around them. From cold-blooded murders to psychological mind games, “Yellowstone” has it all — and plenty of it hasn’t aged well.
With a stacked cast and more upcoming spin-offs than viewers know what to do with, it’s safe to say that the expansion of the “Yellowstone” universe won’t be slowing down any time soon. Shows such as “1883” and “1923” have so far followed in the same violent vein as the original, with possible future installations and plans yet to be decided. Though “Yellowstone” is known for its gritty and explicit temperament, some scenes cross a boundary and take things too far. Grab your cowboy hat and get ready, because we’re taking a look at the “Yellowstone” scenes that didn’t age well at all.
Rip recruits Avery at the strip club
First introduced in the Season 1 finale, Avery wends her way into the Dutton’s lives as a horse groomer on their ranch. Though she ultimately leaves the “Yellowstone” universe, she quickly makes her mark on the series thanks to her Season 5 relationship with Kayce, an infamous love triangle, and a nasty case of horse thievery. Though Avery is a fan favorite — or at least a source of reliable drama — the way she’s brought into the show has been deemed questionable by many viewers. Prior to her work with the Duttons, Avery knows Rip from her days as a dancer. Rip eventually recruits her during a visit to her strip club.
Though “Yellowstone” doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being family friendly, the way in which Avery’s backstory collides with the Duttons doesn’t sit comfortably. Over the course of the show’s run, fans have picked up on a consistently degrading attitude towards women. Some viewers specifically criticize the objectification of female characters, which is most apparent in scenes of a sexual nature that seem geared towards men, and don’t always feature consensual acts. Avery is at the heart of this issue from the very beginning: Her first moments set her up as a target for future predatory behavior in a pretty creepy way. We get that the ranch is a man’s world, but come on — it’s the 21st century.
The attack at Beth’s office
In the Season 2 episode “Resurrection Day,” the level of violence we’ve become accustomed to on “Yellowstone” is undoubtedly taken to a new level. As the only daughter of the Duttons, Beth is known for her bold personality, which usually takes the form of fiery comebacks and an abrasive attitude. It’s almost a surprise, then, when she’s attacked at her office. As Rip desperately tries to reach Beth before it’s too late, two masked men violently enter the premises. She’s failed to listen to Malcolm Beck’s threats, and they’re hoping to scare her.
What’s most notable about this scene is just how violent it is. A fearful Beth is left bloodied and vulnerable in the grip of both men. That’s not to say she doesn’t fight back, though — she tries to gouge their eyes out and smashes them through glass walls. The fight is a testament to the fact that “Yellowstone” is willing to “go there” — but also that it can take its grittiness too far. What’s more, it doesn’t set a great precedent for violence against women. Although it’s commendable to show what can actually happen so explicitly, it’s also a straight-up brutal watch. The most heartbreaking moment comes when Beth lets herself cry, breaking down the confidence she’s spent a lifetime building up.
Rip is forced to beat up Lloyd
While the violence in “Yellowstone” is often directed toward women, that doesn’t mean that men are off the hook. There are few people who inspire more fear on the ranch than Lloyd Pierce. He might even outstrip the infamously brutal Rip Wheeler in this department. In the Season 4 episode “Winning or Learning,” the stage is set for an incredibly questionable brawl, with Rip setting Lloyd against Walker. While Lloyd maintains the upper hand, the pair go for round two a few episodes later, resulting in Lloyd beating Walker to a pulp in the middle of the ranch. To try and teach Lloyd a lesson, Rip decides to get his own back, smashing his hand with a boot.
Though it’s unsurprising to see a “Yellowstone” brawl shown in such gory detail, it doesn’t age well in the grander scheme of Rip’s character development. While the pair notoriously has a close relationship throughout the prior three seasons of the show, Rip’s actions are ultimately his own fault — something he quickly seems to realize as he leaves Lloyd to bleed out. Beyond this brutality, there remains the question of whether or not this lesson is actually a necessary one, or if Rip seriously overdoes it. Even though this fight does set Rip up for a meaty redemption arc, it arguably does a disservice to the storylines and relationship that come before it.
Monica takes a ride with a predator
Though uncomfortable scenes often contain great messages, that doesn’t make them any easier to watch. In the Season 3 episode “I Killed A Man Today,” Monica finds herself in trouble after catching a ride with a guy revealed to be a known predator. After trying to persuade her to leave the vehicle to get better phone service, he quickly becomes violent and forcefully restrains her on the ground. However, it’s quickly revealed that Monica has put herself in the line of fire in the name of a sting. A sniper swiftly brings the predator to his arguably deserved end.
It’s admirable for a show with such a global reach to take on important issues like attacks on Indigenous women. But it also brings some questionable side effects along with it. Simply put, this interaction is awful to watch. The scene also reinforces the idea that women have to relive their trauma for the sake of the greater good. After meeting up with the authorities, Monica is visibly shaken by what she’s just gone through. She’s strong, but even the most rock-solid person would be rattled by such an encounter. Opening up emotional wounds is commonplace on “Yellowstone,” but it can, perhaps, be handled more sensitively.
As far as the “Yellowstone” universe goes, Sheriff Donnie Haskell isn’t exactly a main player. Though he is a consistent figure throughout the first four seasons of the show, his questionable morals and alliance with the Dutton family often fade into the background. That being said, his sudden death takes viewers by tremendous surprise and leads to moments that are excruciatingly uncomfortable to watch. In “No Kindness for the Coward,” John and Rip get involved in a diner hold-up Donnie is also working on; He’s storming in from the back kitchen to try and take out the thieves. The pair is successful, and Donnie gets caught in the crossfire. This results in a fatal blow to the throat.
To make matters worse, Donnie tries to call his daughter as he dies, only managing to get a few words out before the end arrives. John is left to tell Donnie’s daughter what has actually happened – the ultimate way to rub salt into the wound. This is a seriously stinging blow for any fans who have suddenly lost a loved one. The final moments of the scene are so intense, they make many fans wonder if they might not be an unnecessary hammering-home of the untimely nature of his death. Audiences are also left to sit with the knowledge that Donnie’s death could have been prevented if John and Rip hadn’t gotten involved. Is the scene just a case of someone playing the hero when it isn’t needed? If so, that’s seriously — perhaps unnecessarily — wrenching.
Seeing Teal on the toilet
Like the Montague and Capulets of “Romeo and Juliet,” the ongoing war between the Duttons and Becks is eternal. It’s also a lynchpin of the “Yellowstone” story. By the time fans get to “Sins of the Father” in Season 2, the feud between the two families is well established. Many of the Becks have met a grisly end at the hands of the Duttons, but no death is more unnecessary or confusing than Teal’s sudden demise. As Casey sneaks into his house, he fires at an unsuspecting Teal, who’s using the toilet. The two talk as Casey watches him die, unearthing the fact that Casey promised his wife that Teal would be killed in the most humiliating way possible.
As far as humiliation goes, this “Yellowstone” scene hits the nail on the head. The whole sequence feels awkward and excruciating to watch, not to mention fairly unnecessary to the bigger story that is playing out. There’s no doubt that Teal brings much of this misery on himself, but honestly, does anyone deserve to die without any dignity? Somewhere between funny and hard-hitting, the scene finds itself in a no man’s land that leaves many viewers confused, disbelieving, and embarrassed.
Finding out why Beth hates Jamie
Sibling antagonism is at the heart of any good family drama, but the tension between Beth and Jamie in “Yellowstone” is on its own unique level. The pair’s intensity is palpable throughout each season of the show, but it’s never revealed why Beth has issues with Jamie until a flashback in the Season 3 episode “Cowboys and Dreamers.” On his last day in town, teenage Beth confides in Jamie that she’s in trouble: She needs to hide a pregnancy from her family and prying neighbors. While trying to find termination options out of town, Jamie neglects to mention that the backstreet processes he’s looking into will leave her infertile.
It goes without saying that exploring pregnancy and abortion on TV is going to be contentious. Many fans turned against Jamie for his behavior, but others appreciate how this episode highlights the discrimination Indigenous people are faced with. Regardless, in the eyes of many viewers, this scene takes things too far. Some fans find the storyline outright insulting, with those who work as medical professionals weighing in on the flashback’s lack of accuracy.
John puts his horse down
It doesn’t take long for “Yellowstone” to establish exactly what kind of show it is. In the opening moments of the pilot episode, audiences are introduced to the top dog that is John Dutton, currently in the middle of trying to protect his ranch from encroaching land developers. The opening scene shows a healthy stream of blood running down John’s face as he tries to comfort a suffering horse, and eventually puts it out of its misery. We later learn that it’s all a result of a nasty traffic accident.
Though human deaths are always tough to watch — including that of the truck driver in this opening accident — there’s something about seeing an animal suffer that just hits differently. Not only have the stars behind the series had to clarify that the show doesn’t abuse animals, PETA has actively encouraged viewers to tune out of “Yellowstone.” It’s unsurprising that this opening scene went on to inspire not only more horse-related deaths, but more fan complaints as the show went on. For some viewers, this opening scene is a questionable introduction to the series as a whole.
Rip takes back the brand
When it comes to Rip’s wrath on “Yellowstone,” no one is safe. Characters take their well-being into their own hands when they decide to cross the Dutton family, and the Season 3 episode “Meaner Than Evil” shows just how intense the consequences can be. As a major antagonist across multiple seasons, Wade Morrow quickly loses the respect of the family — especially once he’s accused of stealing. After betraying the Duttons and their ranch, Wade is tracked down by Rip and violently killed in the middle of nowhere. As a branded worker, Wade also has his brand cut off before his body is dumped.
Some might say that “Yellowstone” routinely pushes the boundaries for what can be shown on cable TV, but this scene might just take the biscuit. Viewers who don’t have a stomach for gore will definitely need to look away, as close-ups of the brand removal, paired with Wade’s painful cries and guttural knife sound effects, are a lot to take. Even though the series is set in the present day, this particular violence feels uncomfortably old-fashioned, bordering on barbaric. As arguably the most agonizing death that “Yellowstone” has produced so far, this uneasy and intense scene is likely to be considered one of the show’s most shocking moments.
Jamie kills Sarah
Male killers are a common TV fixture, to the point that some fans find them overused. The events of the Season 2 episode “Blood the Boy” might not help “Yellowstone” age well in this regard. After Jamie tries to recant his statement when cooperating with Sarah’s campaign to expose corruption on the Dutton ranch, the two find themselves alone. Things quickly get ugly. Sarah tells him that his family deserves to lose everything, and Jamie becomes filled with rage. In a fury, he smashes Sarah’s head into the roof of their nearby car. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jamie finishes the job off by strangling Sarah as she lies helplessly on the ground.
Although it goes without saying that Sarah definitely doesn’t deserve to die, the way that Jamie goes about killing her makes the situation even worse. With a chilling stare, Jamie leans into his dark side with no real hesitation. “I’m so sorry,” he repeats, as he strangles Sarah — but does that matter? In fact, the show’s choice to try and portray him as a good guy at heart through this line makes it an even more uneasy watch. No matter what he’s saying, Jamie is committing a horrific act, and actions speak louder than words. In the future, fans might see this scene as one more data point in a toxic trend.
The hit against the Duttons
By the time viewers get to Season 3, there’s just one thing missing from the catastrophes that the Duttons face on a daily basis: a life-threatening explosion. The episode “The World Is Purple” delivers that missing link, with Beth’s assistant immediately losing her life when opening a package that also causes Beth’s office to burst into flames. The hit on the Dutton family doesn’t stop there: Casey narrowly escapes being gunned down, while John barely misses being the victim of a drive-by shooting. It’s incredible that any family members survive the episode’s ordeals, let alone all of them. But while the action might seem far-fetched, it’s the gratuitous deaths that call this scene into question.
In the case of Beth’s office, it doesn’t make much sense for her assistant to be killed off. If the creators wanted this episode to have a major impact, surely a Dutton needed to be lost along the way? Moreover, when it comes to John, his toxic behavior is highlighted by the fact that an innocent mother is killed instead of him. Not only does her loss seem completely unnecessary, it also puts the spotlight back on the show’s bad relationship with extreme violence against women.
Flashback to Rip’s childhood
Context tells us everything — and when it comes to the Dutton family, a lot needs to be unraveled in order to understand their dysfunctional relationships. A hefty chunk of “Yellowstone” Season 5 is devoted to digging into the family’s history, with the episode “The Dream Is Not Me” particularly focusing on John Dutton’s rise to the top. While John’s toxic personality never really changes from what fans recognize in the present day, we learn that it’s a key reason why Rip has never been able to lie to him. Teenage Rip is also at odds with a boy called Rowdy over Beth around the same time. He’s seen knocking Rowdy to the ground with a boulder — truly copying the behavior he has grown up around all his life.
In essence, this is a masterclass in how to be a terrible person. Though “Yellowstone” understandably features rough-and-tumble guys, reinforcing toxic masculinity is never a strategy that’s going to age well. Not only do viewers see Rip at an identity crossroads that could have easily been avoided, John is also complicit in giving Rip the brand that sets him on a path of no return. Though the relationship between the pair is undoubtedly interesting, the murder of Rowdy is perhaps an unnecessary addition to the problems that are already sewn into the show.