Yellowstone’S Biggest Mistake? Killing Off Its Most Promising Character


Could Lee Dutton have brought more to the show?

At the moment, it feels like the biggest dramas and mistakes surrounding Yellowstone are the ones that have played out off-screen. But despite the whole Kevin Costner-Taylor Sheridan saga, there have been almost 5 full seasons of action on the ranch.

So much has happened on the show that it would be easy to forget that Lee Dutton ever existed. But his death was the catalyst for everything that followed.

Who was Lee Dutton?

Lee Dutton, played by Dave Annable, was the eldest Dutton son and heir apparent to the ranch. His death came in the first episode of the first season and brought about much of the family strife we’ve witnessed over the next five and a half seasons.

Despite being a very minor character in the show, Lee seemed likeable, focused and genuinely invested in the future of the ranch. Of course, it’s easy to make a character seem likeable when you give them less than ten lines of dialogue and then kill them off.

But there seemed to be a different dynamic with Lee that could have helped the show.

His death set up the rest of the show…and then he seemed to disappear

One of the biggest problems with the Lee Dutton storyline is that it doesn’t really make sense. If he was just there to be killed and create the tension that fed the rest of the storyline, his death could just as easily have happened off-screen.

It was hard for the audience to take his death too hard as they barely knew him. Had the show opened with the family learning of Lee’s murder and coming to terms with it, he might have had more of a presence.

Although they did seem to be coping. He’s barely mentioned once he’s dead and buried. There were a few brief flashbacks, but his death didn’t seem to have the lasting effect on the family that one might have expected. And it seems highly unlikely that he’ll suddenly get any kind of prominent mention in the second half of season 5.


What could Lee Dutton have brought to the show?

Had he stuck around a bit longer, Lee Dutton might have been the voice of reason in a rather dysfunctional family. It would have been hard for him to last beyond Season 1, as his death was a major plot point.

But there would have been nothing to stop battle lines being drawn throughout the first season, so Lee’s death late in the season would have resonated more with the fans. This approach would have secured two major victories for Yellowstone.

Firstly, it would have allowed viewers to feel the change in the air when Lee was killed and the whole future of the ranch was turned upside down. As such a pivotal moment in the Dutton family’s history, his death didn’t seem to have the gravitas it deserved.

Secondly, if viewers had got to know Lee a little better before his unfortunate demise, it seems more likely that his memory would have been kept more alive.

While it’s easy to dismiss the lack of any sort of post-death presence as simply a result of the character being primarily a plot device, every time you remember Lee, you can’t help but feel that his family – and the show – did him a disservice.