The End of ‘Yellowstone’: What Is Known About the Final Episodes

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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.

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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 2023 with an announced summer premiere date, but those dates came and went. Not until early May of 2023 would the network announce that Yellowstone was going back into production, but that the remaining episodes, which were set for a November 2023 debut, 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 2023.

The announcement, however, came just days after the May 2 writers strike, which would ultimately usher in the July 13 SAG-AFTRA strike; the rare 2023 double strike effectively shutting down Hollywood productions and grinding U.S.-produced series — including Yellowstone — to a halt.

The status of the final episodes of Yellowstone were then locked in the barn for months — until the flagship series was given a November 2024 premiere date send-off following the resolution of the strikes. Below, The Hollywood Reporter is keeping track of everything that develops about the series, co-created by Yellowstone-verse boss Taylor Sheridan, as it rides off into the night.

When Will the Final Episodes Air?

When this all began, we initially predicted: “Most likely, sometime in 2024.” And, we were right. On Nov. 2, Paramount Network went on to announce that the second half of the final season will air in November 2024.

Production had been set to resume in late spring 2024 and, on May 20, the network announced that production has finally begun in Montana on the final episodes.

Before two of Hollywood’s biggest guilds, WGA and SAG-AFTRA, found themselves in a standoff with the studios, Yellowstone had not yet begun production. 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.) Sheridan began working on the scripts once the writers strike resolved in September 2023.

Now, scripts are complete and filming is underway.

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 of 2023, when viewers were told that Costner would be staying on the series but that the series is ending. But the still-looming 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 (and was just announced to be premiering at 2024 Cannes in May). “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 were 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.”

In early September during a divorce hearing from wife Christine Baumgartner, Costner went on the record for the first time about the dispute, saying he might take the show to court. Per reports, Costner claimed he’s owed $12 million for the second half of season five after Paramount “walked away” from negotiations. “We tried to negotiate, they offered me less money than previous seasons [and] there were issues with the creative,” he said.

As for whether or not that meant Sheridan would write Costner totally off the series — and deliver him an off-camera fate — media newsletter Puck reported that Sheridan did just that and wrote the post-strike back half of season five without John Dutton. Now, in April 2024, Costner has made his first public comments on his Yellowstone fate, implying that there’s still a chance Sheridan could revisit the script.

“I’d like to be able to do it but we haven’t been able to … I thought I was going to make seven [seasons] but right now we’re at five. So how it works out — I hope it does — but they’ve got a lot of different shows going on. Maybe it will. Maybe this will circle back to me. If it does and I feel really comfortable with [it], I’d love to do it,” he told Entertainment Tonight while at CinemaCon promoting Horizon: An American Saga.

He added, “[Dutton] needs to be proactive in what happens and I’ve kind of had my own fantasy how [the character’s final arc] might be. But that’s Taylor’s thing. I said as much to him a while back. I had thoughts how it could happen, but we just have to see.”

But, if Costner is not involved at this stage, with scripts complete and filming underway, it’s starting to seem less than likely that he will be.

When speaking to THR‘s Awards Chatter podcast the day before Paramount Network announced that filming was underway, Costner said that, from his perspective, the scripts for the second-half of season five weren’t ready in time before having to start on his passion project film, Horizon, which made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival. “I had 400 people waiting for me and my own money there. And so, a series that I gave all my attention to for five seasons, I still was prepared to do that. But I couldn’t break my word with actors that I made promises with, and a promise I made to myself. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at me,” he said. He said he would indeed return to Yellowstone, but there is still no word on Costner’s participation.

The official cast, meanwhile, also has yet to be announced.

How Many Episodes Will There Be?

An official episode count has yet to be revealed by the network. Sheridan, who was pencils down in support of the WGA’s efforts when speaking to THR for the cover story, suggested at that time 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 Without (or 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 much 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 would 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.

Grimes recently said he understood Costner’s decision to prioritize Horizon, but called it “unfortunate” for the story. “Whatever happened there is unfortunate if it’s changed anything about how the show was going to unfold,” he said. It has previously been reported that Costner wanted to approve his character’s fate in the series, but Sheridan — like most showrunners — doesn’t typically let actors determine how their character’s storylines end.

What Is the Future of the Franchise?

The Yellowstone-verse isn’t slowing down. In fact, it’s only ramping up. With the flagship reigning as the most-watched series across cable and broadcast, Paramount Network previously confirmed that two more spinoffs are in the works: 2024 (working title), a present-day story, and another prequel, 1944, that will follow in the footsteps of 1883 and 1923.

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 content halt and delay from the strikes, Paramount Global looked to expand the Yellowstone audience even more. Paramount Network launched a linear, weekly rerelease of prequel hit 1883 in June and CBS has been airing edited episodes of Yellowstone on its schedule Sunday nights (the first season premiered to a solid start in ratings).

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 remain). Sheridan had confirmed to THR that he was planning several more prequels; and now one of those has been confirmed. (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.”

Where Will the Sequel Series Jump?

The follow-up installment, now tentatively named 2024, was given a straight-to-series order and will stream on Paramount+ (at some point in the future). Sheridan had hinted in THR‘s cover story that the spinoff — which would be the first to take place after the events of Yellowstone — might lean on an entirely new cast and location, but it’s now been announced that the series will continue exploring the Dutton family dynasty with new characters and locations, as well as some existing characters.

There is still no official word on McConaughey’s casting, or on which Yellowstone stars will return, but Hauser recently hinted that his Rip and Reilly’s Beth could play a part in the sequel.

Details on 1944 are scarce at the moment, but the creator had 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.

James Hibberd contributed to this story.

This story originally posted July 2023 and will be updated as news develops.

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