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The Most Upsetting John Dutton Moment From Yellowstone Season 3

"Yellowstone" patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is loyal to one thing and one thing only — his family's legacy. That includes keeping his expansive ranch's land intact, even if he must sacrifice the well-being of his family and the employees who would quite literally die in his name. 

John has shown moments of spite towards others throughout the show's four (soon to be five) seasons. He's been willing to go harshly against anyone who has turned on the family, and anyone who has done him harm — just look at what happened to his relationship with his adopted son, Jamie (Wes Bentley) over the course of the show's third and fourth seasons. 

Dutton commits a number of foul acts during the show's third season, in particular. But which of those moments pushed the envelope for the show's audience? Here's what some viewers think was the most upsetting thing he did during that period.

John ordering an execution of an old employee didn't sit right

During the third season of "Yellowstone," John has to tell his Jamie that he isn't his biological father, as Jamie needs to obtain his birth certificate to file official paperwork related to his senatorial campaign. It's a choice that will have far-ranging consequences during the show's fourth season. John also refuses to sell his massive spread, even though it is killing his family financially, and he is nearly shot to death by a rival in the season finale, in an act of revenge. 

However, while John revealing Jamie's true paternal history to him is somewhat cruel, it is a necessary gesture, and importantly, something he doesn't do specifically to hurt his son. None of these acts involve stone-cold murder, which makes John telling his bunkhouse crew to take the men who attacked Teeter (Jennifer Landon) and Colby (Denim Richards) "to the train station" his most upsetting act of Season 3.

In one way, John is pretty justified in requesting this hit — the men Roarke (Josh Holloway) hired attacked Teeter and Colby while they were skinny dipping and in a vulnerable state. But it's an eye for an eye gesture that shows how calculated the Dutton patriarch is. When it's revealed that one of the attackers was once a branded Dutton ranch hand, Walker (Ryan Bingham) actually rips the brand from the man's chest before hanging him. That Dutton — who so often speaks about caring about his family and his extended family on the ranch, including his branded hands  — ordered this to happen makes it all the more disturbing. It becomes clear that any of them could be next, at any time, if they step out of line.

Are the murderous ways of the Duttons justified?

Some viewers of the show also thought this moment went too far, as many agreed that the idea of John's murderous behavior was hard to watch. Over on Reddit, u/QwertyVirtuoso notes that the Duttons have a tendency to kill to cover their crimes up. Referring to the hanging, they emphasized that while a big part of the show's appeal was that the main characters were flawed and problematic, unlike Western programs of the past, John's actions in this episode reach a point where it becomes hard to empathize with him any longer. The user wrote, "I assume the writers want us to actually care about the main characters so there's a limit to what they can do and have us still root for them." Later in the post, they observe — pretty bluntly — that "John is a murdering scumbag."

While users generally agreed that John's actions were unethical, many also argued that everything presented in the episode was very true to the established character. As one Reddit user noted, "They kill those who leave the ranch because they need to ensure that those who leave the ranch don't expose all the skeletons in the closet. It may not be 'right' morally speaking but it makes sense considering all the criminal activity the Duttons as well as the cowboys engage in."

"Yellowstone" fans will find out whether all of that murdering will ever catch up to John Dutton when "Yellowstone" returns for its' fifth season sometime in the future.