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The Obscure Book That Could Explain Yellowstone's Season 3 Finale

As has become typical of the neo-western hit, Yellowstone's third season came to a violent conclusion. In many ways, the final episode was fairly straightforward. We saw things come to a head between the Duttons and the shadowy forces of Market Equities, with the Duttons taking the win thanks to Beth (Kelly Reilly) planting a story about the hedge fund's CEO (Karen Pittman) being accused of workplace misconduct. Things on Yellowstone are never that simple, however, and the battles aren't over until they're over.

The end of the episode saw Beth, Kayce (Luke Grimes) and John (Kevin Costner) targeted in a coordinated series of attacks. At first, it seemed obvious that Market Equities was behind the bombings and shootings. The hedge fund is only one enemy of the Duttons, though, and while they may be the most visible adversary, that doesn't make them the only possible culprit. As much as the finale seemed straight forward at first, there were actually many questions left unanswered by the time the credits rolled. That's fitting, considering one of the biggest questions was posed right from the beginning: What is the title of the episode itself supposed to mean?

The finale's title, "The World is Purple," doesn't have any direct connection to a line or moment in the episode. As one Reddit sleuth posited, however, it may in fact be an obscure literary allusion. Depending on how far you want to extrapolate, it's a reference that might provide more clues to who was actually behind the violent cliffhanger.

The meaning behind The Purple Land

Reddit has been abuzz with theories and discussion since the season 3 finale of Yellowstone. User One_Shall_Fall opened up an intriguing line of inquiry about the episode's title when they started a thread called, "'The Purple Land by WH Hudson,' the 'best work of gaucho literature' and the meaning of last week's Title."

They introduce readers to the book The Purple Land by William Henry Hudson, a 19th-century adventure novel set amongst the cowboy culture of Uruguay. There are several obvious connections between the novel and Yellowstone. The most notable in the wake of the season 3 finale is the title of the novel itself. As One_Shall_Fall posits, "I believe Sheridan has read the novel and that is why the title has the name it does. The quote that I think started it is, 'I will call my book The Purple Land. For what more suitable name can one find for a country so stained with the blood of her children?'"

The quote referenced comes toward the end of the novel when its British narrator is describing how he plans to record his adventures in the Uruguayan countryside, wherein he gained a deeper understanding of the cultures of the Americas and the struggles they've faced. One_Shall_Fall continued to draw comparisons by adding, "The entire theme of this episode was being willing to kill and die for your land, your heritage, or your love."

At first, this might seem like an obvious reference to the plight of the Duttons, but while the Duttons are at the center of the narrative on Yellowstone, they aren't the only ones with a claim to the land. In the season 3 finale, we learned they aren't the only ones willing to kill and die for it.

Who is willing to kill the Duttons to claim what is theirs?

In "The World is Purple," one character in particular espouses the virtues of using any means necessary to protect — or in her case, reclaim — the land. That would be Angela Blue Thunder (Q'orianka Kilcher), the fierce lawyer who has repeatedly pushed Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) to take more drastic action in order to finally wrest the outsiders from the land that rightfully belongs to the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock. At various points throughout the season, Thomas and Angela entered into an alliance with the Duttons to combat the shared enemy that is Market Equities, but in the finale, Angela makes it clear that this alliance is only one of temporary convenience.

Early in the episode, she tells Thomas, "There is no such thing as morality. There's own the land, and there's lose the land." She goes on to point out that the folly of morality is that it's not a virtue that is fairly doled out when it comes to history: "That's all you'll be judged by, not how you do it. Winners are never judged by how. They save that for the losers."

Thomas and Angela stand on the side of the Duttons during their climactic meeting with Market Equities, but after that meeting is over, Angela confirms that the only allegiance that matters to her is the one she has to the people of the Broken Rock Reservation.

Angela Blue Thunder's plans for the purple land

After the big meeting, we see Angela and Thomas driving back to the reservation. It's here that Angela clarifies her goals and philosophy. She tells Thomas, "You have an opportunity to free that land of him. And it will look like everyone but you did it." This appears to be a suggestion that Thomas should have John Dutton killed. After all, at this moment in time, when he has so many other enemies, would anyone immediately suspect Thomas and Angela?

When Thomas pushes back, telling Angela that what she's suggesting is a crime, she makes more explicit her point from earlier in the episode: "They make their rules to be broken. The United States has broken every rule it has ever made ... they only hold others to their rules ... They make rules for the slave, and they make rules for the masters — you're following the slave rules. But if you follow the master's rules, then you kill him, and give us our land back."

If we are going to read the title of the episode as a reference to The Purple Land, then perhaps the reference is not to the Dutton's continued struggle to hold onto the ranch they've owned for a couple hundred years, but rather to the struggle of the people whose land it has been for many millennia. Perhaps that also answers the question of who is willing to kill the Duttons to reclaim their land, stained as it is by the blood of its children. After all, other than her intimidating personality, Angela has had another defining characteristic throughout the season: Her purple lipstick.