Following delays over a scheduling dispute with star Kevin Costner, the second half of season five remains on hold amid the ongoing writer and actor strikes.
When Yellowstone aired its midseason finale back in January 2023, the future was looking ominous for the Dutton family on the fifth season of the Paramount Network mega-hit series. For a refresher, Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) had just thrown down the gauntlet against his sister Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) and father John Dutton (Kevin Costner) in a move that would usher in an all-out war between the embittered family members. Will Jamie kill Beth? Or will John kill Jamie first? Those were the high-stakes questions sitting with viewers.
Then, the fate of TV’s biggest show changed course.
Behind the scenes, a scheduling dispute with Yellowstone star and patriarch Costner ushered in a months-long production delay on the second half of season five. The cast and crew had been planning to resume filming in March with an announced summer premiere date, but those dates came and went. Not until early May would the network announce that Yellowstone was going back into production, but that the remaining episodes, which would now launch in November, would mark an abrupt ending to the beloved neo-Western saga and flagship series. There were, however, new plans to continue the Dutton dynasty (which already counts spinoffs 1923 and 1883 in its stable) with a Yellowstone sequel series, widely reported to star Matthew McConaughey and debut in December.
The announcement came just days after the May 2 writers strike, which would ultimately usher in the July 13 SAG-AFTRA strike; the rare double strike effectively shutting down Hollywood productions and grinding U.S.-produced series — including Yellowstone — to a halt.
With the final episodes of Yellowstone still locked in the barn, The Hollywood Reporter is keeping track of everything that is known about the Taylor Sheridan series before it rides off into the night.
When Will the Final Episodes Air?
Most likely, sometime in 2024. With two of Hollywood’s biggest guilds in a standoff with the studios, the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are predicted to be lengthy, with expectations that the work stoppage could continue into the fall. Yellowstone had not begun production before the strike was called, and the scripts from creator Sheridan, who writes the entire series, were not yet complete. April to October is when they typically shoot, with snowy Montana winters complicating filming on the heavily outdoor series. If the strikes aren’t resolved soon enough, winter could delay the season even longer.
Where Does the Cast Stand?
Months before the writers strike was called, reports of Costner wanting to exit the series sent a jolt through the Yellowstone-verse. How could TV’s biggest hit continue without its Oscar-winning lead?
In late March, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios Chris McCarthy, spoke to those fears when he told The Hollywood Reporter that Yellowstone “wouldn’t be what it is today without Kevin and we hope that that stays for a long time to come.” Flash forward to May: Viewers got their answer that Costner would indeed be staying on the series but that the series will be ending. And a question remained: In what capacity will viewers see John Dutton? (McCarthy later told THR: “This Yellowstone chapter is closing sooner than we all wanted, but we feel good with where it’s going to end.”)
In late June, Sheridan sat down with THR for a rare cover story where he opened up about the scheduling clash, shedding light on the source of the delay: Costner wanted to focus on his own Western epic, a four-movie passion project titled Horizon that he’s co-writing, directing and starring in. “He and the network were arguing about when he could be done with Yellowstone. I said, ‘We can certainly work a schedule toward [his preferred exit date],’ which we did,” said the prolific TV hitmaker. “But once lawyers get involved, then people don’t get to talk to each other and start saying things that aren’t true and attempt to shift blame based on how the press or public seem to be reacting. He took a lot of this on the chin and I don’t know that anyone deserves it. His movie seems to be a great priority to him and he wants to shift focus. I sure hope [the movie is] worth it — and that it’s a good one.”
Cover story writer James Hibberd reported that there are ongoing discussions to try to convince Costner to film a few scenes to wrap his character. Sheridan hinted that John Dutton was never going to be around for the very end of the show in his original script. Still, the creator admitted, “I’m disappointed. It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn’t alter it, but it truncates it.”
Along with the lingering question around Costner’s level of involvement, the official cast has yet to be announced.
How Many Episodes Will There Be?
An official episode count also has yet to be revealed. Sheridan, who told THR he was pencils down in support of the WGA’s efforts, also suggested that he might make more than the previously reported six final episodes. “If I think it takes 10 episodes to wrap it up, they’ll give me 10,” Sheridan says. “It’ll be as long as it needs to be.”
What Will the Final Run Be With Less John Dutton?
Yellowstone has built a sprawling cast of characters whom viewers have come to know and root for across the show’s five seasons. And while the biggest storyline when the show left off was indeed centered around the battle between Beth and Jamie — with Montana Gov. John Dutton squarely putting himself on Beth’s side — the feud certainly set up the possibility that John could be quickly taken to the “train station” (the Dutton code term for where they bury the bodies of their enemies).
When speaking in June after the writers strike but ahead of the actors strike, Bentley told THR he hadn’t talked to Costner and hadn’t yet seen any scripts, but he had given thought to how the the fate of the characters might play out.
“Does Jamie go down with John? Does John go down because of Jamie? Does Jamie have a hand in it at all, or does it turn out Jamie tries to protect him? There are so many potential ways he deals with John’s ending,” he said. “We’re at a point where I think everything is possible with the Duttons. It’s so hot and combustible right now that it could blow them all up together. I think the potential for that is real. But I also know that I am always surprised by Taylor and the turns and directions. With the tension and danger right now, it potentially could be either they are all gone, or one of them survives.”
John’s departure could also leave room to highlight more of the ensemble of characters, which includes Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Monica Dutton (Kelsey Asbille), Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) and right-hand man Mo (Mo Brings Plenty), Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) and the cowboys in the Dutton’s bunkhouse (played by Forrie J. Smith, Denim Richards, Ian Bohen, Jake Ream, Ryan Bingham and Jen Landon), as well as newer antagonists played by Dawn Olivieri and Piper Perabo.
What Is the Future of the Franchise?
There are no talks of the Yellowstone-verse slowing down, with the flagship being the most-watched series across cable and broadcast. After setting ratings records and launching multiple star-driven spinoffs (Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, as well as Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren now count themselves among the Duttons), the ranch drama has sparked a Western genre craze and has become a model for a new wave of franchise-building.
Amid the strike and with new content at a halt, Paramount Global is looking to expand the Yellowstone audience even more. Paramount Network launched a linear, weekly rerelease of prequel hit 1883 in June and CBS is airing edited episodes of Yellowstone on its reworked fall schedule Sunday nights, starting with the show’s first season.
Meanwhile the franchise’s second prequel series, 1923, was renewed for a second season before the strike and the sequel series was announced to be airing in tandem with the final season of Yellowstone (it remains to be seen if those plans will change after the strike). Sheridan had also confirmed to THR that he is planning several more prequels, which have yet to be officially announced. (However, the previously announced Four Sixes series, which was set to follow Yellowstone cowboy Jimmy, played by Jefferson White, is on hold.) “I think there will be enough for many more [prequels] — three or four,” he said. “Chris McCarthy trusts me, because I haven’t been wrong yet,” he said.
Where Will the Sequel Series Jump?
The follow-up installment was given a straight-to-series order, will have Yellowstone in its name and will stream on Paramount+ (at some point in the future). Sheridan hinted in THR‘s cover story that the spinoff — which would be the first to take place after the events of Yellowstone — may lean on an entirely new cast and location. Though the spinoff is in its early stages of development, the creator hinted that his approach would be similar to that taken with the prequels, which functioned as stand-alone stories within the generational family tree. “There are lots of places where a way of life that existed for 150 years is slamming against a new way of life, but the challenges are completely different. There are a lot of places you can tell this story,” he said.