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Questionable Things We Ignore On Yellowstone

Known for its riveting stories, captivating characters, and sweeping locales, "Yellowstone" has been one of the most absorbing TV shows out there since its debut. Set in the wide open ranges of Montana, the series tells the story of a sixth-generation family struggling to hold on to a dying way of American life. 

Since its first season, "Yellowstone" has kept fans on the edge of their seats as the Dutton family — led by Kevin Costner as John Dutton — fights off his enemies, all of whom are trying to steal a piece of his land and his home, the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch. From criminal kingpins, drug dealers, and thugs to corporate raiders and rival community leaders, the Duttons are under constant threat. 

As the series goes on, more and more viewers are starting to notice a few things that just don't add up. Whether it's inexplicable story beats that have fatal flaws, characters making mind-boggling decisions, or just the way the world is portrayed, we don't always notice these issues while we're waiting with bated breath for the next episode. But with some time to ponder, we've found some questionable things about "Yellowstone" that we let slide. 

The Duttons are in dire need of better security

Throughout "Yellowstone," we're regularly shown what a powerful and influential family the Duttons are. When the series begins, family patriarch John Dutton is Montana's livestock commissioner, while his son Jamie is a powerful attorney and daughter Beth is a prominent corporate raider. As the series progresses, Kayce comes aboard to take John's role, Jamie becomes the state's attorney general, and John becomes the governor of Montana. Between their powerful positions and their crucial land ownership, they've made plenty of enemies, yet have never seemed to bother with private security or even a bodyguard.

This lack of attention to their own safety has led to serious consequences: they've faced deadly attacks from the Beck brothers — who kidnapped Kayce's son Tate — and were memorably the victims of a multi-pronged assassination plot that they barely escaped from. They still didn't learn their lesson. Sure, they have Rip Wheeler and some useful ranch hands, but it seems odd that the Duttons wouldn't have an armed security team, especially after being the victim of such targeted violence. Maybe their self-reliance is a point of pride for them, but by this point, it mostly comes across as foolhardiness. 

Their enemies by contrast always have security of their own. Even real estate developer and rival businessman Dan Jenkins was smart enough to employ a bodyguard. Meanwhile, the Duttons are foolish enough to make dangerous foes wherever they go and trot around without anyone to protect them.

All those dropped storylines

In fairness, this is one element that loads of fans — especially on Reddit — aren't so quick to ignore. But for the rest of us, enraptured as we are by the yearly drama on "Yellowstone," it's easy to forget how many side stories have come and gone with no resolution. What seem at first like major recurring elements disappear before we get a satisfactory conclusion. Even if we remember them, we often just shrug, because what replaced them was probably even better. 

The best example of this is Tate Dutton's dinosaur bones. The son of Kayce Dutton, Tate becomes obsessed with a treasure trove of unearthed dinosaur relics he discovers in their backyard on the Broken Rock Reservation early in the series. While the family never quite gets around to digging them up completely, they become the target of treasure hunters who use a drone to find them, which very much feels like a tease for a future confrontation. Some have argued that the story is complete and was merely a metaphor, but it was too big a development at the time not to get a follow-up, leaving many fans feeling like the story was incomplete.

Likewise, characters like cowgirl Avery, Jamie's assistant Christina, and lawyer Angela Blue Thunder were all teased as major stories that disappeared. While they all eventually got half-hearted explanations, it sure felt like the writers either forgot about them or just decided they weren't worth continuing.

Life in Montana

One of the signature elements of "Yellowstone" is its geography. Set in Montana, with its lush vistas and soaring skies, the series gives us plenty of awe-inspiring shots of the splendor of what is often called Big Sky Country. Problem is, the depiction of life in the region is anything but accurate, according to those who grew up locally. A 2022 blog for Jelt admitted that some elements — such as issues faced by indigenous women — are well done, but the show leaves something to be desired when it comes to geography. 

For example, the Dutton family often mentions that the ranch is located in Paradise Valley. In real life, Paradise Valley is about half an hour from Bozeman, one of the state's most famous cities. Looking at the sweeping vistas from the Dutton homestead, it's hard to imagine a major city in such proximity. That's likely because the ranch's filming location is actually in Darby, more than 200 miles away from Bozeman and well over two hours from the state capital, Helena — where family members like Kayce, Jamie, and Beth work their 9 to 5 jobs — by car.

With the lengthy distances between the many locations in the series, there'd be a serious limit on how much anyone could ever do in a single day, or how quickly they could get there during a crisis, yet it's rarely an issue in the plot.

The clean ranching life

The life of a rancher isn't for everyone, particularly neatniks. Living your life mostly outdoors — in the elements and among the animals — is neither easy nor clean. After a long day, you're likely to be covered in sweat and dirt, your clothes caked in mud and muck, and your truck? Well, that needs as many regular washes as you do. But despite the realities of life as a cowboy, "Yellowstone" almost always shows its cast in spotless — if rugged — clothing, and in big trucks that shine like the day they came off the lot.

For most viewers, this aspect of the series might go unnoticed. Viewers far removed from the ranching life and rural communities with few paved roads and a lot of rain might not understand what it's really like. To have verisimilitude, the show would need to depict its characters in tattered, hard-used clothing, with hands cut and bruised from labor and car windshields splattered with bugs and mud. 

Many are happy to ignore a mostly superficial element to enjoy the drama, but for those who've lived it, seeing the likes of Rip, Walker, Kayce, and others waltzing around in spotless jeans, jackets, and clean cowboy hats only serves to hammer home what an artificial Hollywood production "Yellowstone" really is.

Montana family politics

"Yellowstone" is centered on members of the Dutton family, who are willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto their legacy — including using power and influence over regional politics. But there are quite a few leaps in logic for that story to play out. The series shows the family's reach as a long one, with members of the Dutton family in key positions throughout the region: Jamie is elected Attorney General, Kayce takes his father's seat as Livestock Commissioner, while Beth at one point winds up working for the company that's trying to take them all down.

In Season 5, John is even elected Governor of Montana. We find it hard to believe that this level of power and control could all be so easily achieved. We're not sure if their positions of power violate any existing nepotism laws, but it still seems far-fetched that no oversight committee or ethics agency wouldn't be concerned that so many members of the same family sit in some of the area's most powerful positions. In fact, a real-life nepotism probe was opened in 2021 over South Dakota congresswoman Kristi Noem's daughter over a minor matter of a residential license grant. 

Meanwhile, Governor Dutton uses his power to stop a lucrative land deal that would have destroyed his own property. This was the very reason he ran for office. The conflicts of interest are staggering. While corruption and nepotism are very real and widespread problems at all levels of government everywhere, this level of brazenness is not so easily overlooked.

Jamie as a lawyer

While the job of a lawyer is an important and necessary one, there's no denying that attorneys have earned a certain reputation for being untrustworthy and mercenary. Jamie Dutton is one such lawyer, who represents his family in their legal matters — and their extralegal ones as well. He's gotten them out of sticky situations more than once, usually after someone runs afoul of the law. This brings up a few questions, such as whether it's really believable that Jamie Dutton could use legal chicanery to obfuscate such serious crimes.

This goes beyond Jamie's ability to get the Duttons out of trouble using legitimate loopholes learned at Harvard. He's also been guilty of some seriously questionable tactics, like dishing dirt on his family to a reporter despite also serving as their legal counsel. Similarly, we're not sure how good an idea it is for him to manage his father's will while John Dutton lies dying and the fate of the ranch is in jeopardy while also presiding over the state as Attorney General.  

Of course, his worst transgressions are the two murders he committed. Though he's not the only lawyer to engage in criminal conduct, it seems pretty questionable that he'd kill to solve his family problems. We overlook it for the sake of the drama, but that's not a very good lawyer, if you ask us.

Where are the Feds?

In addition to the Duttons having their fingers in every political pie, they've also held some serious sway over law enforcement. For four seasons, Sheriff Haskell seemed completely under the control of John Dutton, allowing the family to keep the law out of their hair when violence or even death resulted from their mischief. As the stakes were raised, the violence escalated. Tate Dutton was kidnapped by the diabolical Beck brothers, real estate developer Dan Jenkins was murdered, and then Garrett Randall orchestrated a complex assassination that saw gunmen belonging to a Free State Militia invading multiple sites and decimating a Bozeman office. With all this carnage around the Duttons, where the heck are the Feds?

A kidnapping plot of a young child could fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI, which has a field office in Butte, Montana. Meanwhile, the activities of an armed militia carrying out gangland-style killings in a heavily populated city and engaging in armed conflict on an open roadway surely would have drawn the attention of the FBI, ATF, or even Homeland Security. The DEA is also probably overdue for a visit as the drug trade is alive and well across the region. Surely they would have been called in when Yellowstone enforcer Rip and ranch hands Lloyd and Jimmy blew up the mobile meth lab used by Blake and Ray, a pair of drug dealers who killed Jimmy's father.

Cover-ups that make little sense

Beyond just the lack of federal law enforcement, something doesn't sit right with us about the many cover-ups the Duttons are involved in. For starters, we've pretty well lost track of how many murders they've committed or been connected to, be it a pair of meth dealers or Jamie's birth father Garrett Randall. Far too often the effort of covering up their many crimes involves little more than dumping the victim's body into a remote canyon.

Let's put aside for a moment whether the idea of the so-called "train station" — a euphemism for a place where they can supposedly dispose of corpses with no consequences — is believable or not. The lack of sophisticated effort to cover their tracks just doesn't add up. Even if local cops were bribed, eventually someone would start asking questions that would lead back to the Yellowstone ranch. Maybe that's an autopsy of reporter Sarah Nguyen revealing she was strangled by Jamie, or an investigation into the meth dealers revealing a feud with Jimmy and an apparent motive. We find it hard to believe that the short lengths Rip and the rest go to in order to hide their crimes would throw anyone off so easily.

It all works on the screen because it's exciting, action-packed, and full of gritty tension, but think about it for more than a few seconds and it all starts to unravel.

So many crooks!

For such a powerful and influential family in the Montana region, it really is remarkable just how many criminals exist in and around Yellowstone. Sure, the real world is full of real crooks, from dangerous killers to white-collar slimeballs, but from watching "Yellowstone" you'd think Montana was little more than a haven for every two-bit thug from Texas to Canada. 

On the ranch, the family has a habit of hiring recently released inmates as helpers, which seems like a questionable choice. Lowlife criminals and drug dealers aren't exactly known for being hard-working or trustworthy, yet they form the backbone of the ranch. Rip himself is a former teen murderer, and while we're all for giving people second chances, it seems like a risky hiring strategy. Plus, having so many suspicious individuals at the ranch could look a bit suspect for a powerful, well-known, and politically influential family. 

Additionally, though plenty of crime goes on in board rooms across the globe, it seems every investor and businessman in "Yellowstone" is also perfectly happy to resort to murder. From the Beck brothers who come to town looking to build a casino to real estate tycoon Dan Jenkins, everyone seems oddly eager for bloodshed in a way that doesn't square with reality.

Characters discarded quickly

"Yellowstone" doesn't lack for truly compelling characters. From ranch bad boy Rip Wheeler, whose backstory is both scary and tragic, to Chief Rainwater, neighboring rival and leader of the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, there are plenty of heroes and villains to love and love to hate. 

Still, the show has often brought new characters on board who show so much promise only to come to quick ends. These characters are seemingly introduced for the sole purpose of moving someone else's story forward and are then discarded. 

Take for example journalist Sarah Nguyen. Her investigation into the Duttons seemed to exist solely to give Jamie a way to betray his family and create a sticky situation. It seemed she was killed off just to raise the stakes. Despite the drama of her murder at Jamie's hands, so much more could have been explored if an investigative reporter had become a longer recurring character digging into the Dutton family. 

Jamie's birth father Garrett Randall is also underutilized. At first, he seemed like he could be a long-term rival to the Duttons, giving Jamie a real purpose and future away from the family. In what seems like it was just an excuse for a big, explosive season finale, Randall instead is killed by Jamie's hands for orchestrating an assassination scheme against his son's adopted family.

Flip-flopping heroes

Fan favorite Beth Dutton may have gotten on some people's nerves over the last couple of seasons with her escalating feud with her brother Jamie, but one thing we can grant her is consistency. The same unfortunately can't be said for some other characters on the show. More than one Dutton family member, villain, and ranch hand has seemingly flip-flopped their personality, fulfilling whatever role the writers come up with for them for their latest story.

This includes string-strumming ex-con and rancher Walker, a cowboy who came to the Yellowstone ranch early on in the series. Given his dislike of violence, he drew the ire of Rip Wheeler and was booted from the range. He was only saved from death by the merciful Kacey. A couple of seasons later, Walker is back against his will, but this time he quickly fits in and even gets involved in some violence himself. Meanwhile, Rip's hatred of the man disappears overnight. 

Jamie Dutton also changes course on multiple occasions. He can't seem to decide if he wants to ally himself with his adopted family or strike out on his own, forming a series of repetitive stories where he leaves and returns. 

The same can be said of Kayce Dutton, who at first wants nothing to do with his family's business, but then comes to live with them before changing his mind and leaving again. Sometimes, these changes in character are part of their progression, but all too often these questionable about-faces make us wonder what the show is really trying to achieve.