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The Saddest Death In Yellowstone Season 1

Paramount Network's "Yellowstone" now has four seasons of thrilling, neo-Western drama under its belt, and it's safe to say the show has become a hit beyond anyone's wildest dreams (except for maybe Paramount's). With a new season of the saga on the way, and Taylor Sheridan cranking out spin-off series left and right, the "Yellowstone" ranching-verse will no doubt be dominating the cable TV and streaming realms for the foreseeable future. But if Sheridan and company want to keep the wagon train running on the flagship series a little longer, they may need to slow their roll a bit when it comes to dispatching central characters.

As any "Yellowstone" fan who's been around since the show's early days can tell you, bodies have indeed been piling up with shocking regularity — beginning with the series' 2018 premiere. While quite a few of those offings were well-earned, and likely even celebrated by "Yellowstone" fandom, others were far more tragic. Some were even downright heartbreaking. Of all the sad deaths in Season 1 of "Yellowstone," few were more devastating than the show's very first.

Lee Dutton's death was both tragic and a catalyst for much of Yellowstone's Season 1 action

That death came in the pilot episode of "Yellowstone." And its effects are still being felt in the series' narrative landscape. The death in question is that of Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), who is killed in a fateful showdown with the Broken Rock Reservation faction. Said showdown began over a cattle dispute after several of the Duttons' prized livestock inadvertently wander onto Broken Rock lands. The land itself is at the center of the conflict, of course, with the Broken Rock crew standing firm in their belief that the Duttons' cattle rightfully belong to them after crossing the property line. So when Lee leads a raid onto that land to retrieve the cattle, he is promptly gunned down by a trigger-happy Broken Rock resident who came into the night looking for a fight.

On a personal level, Lee's death is obviously devastating for the Duttons. He was the heir apparent, after all, the man in line to take over the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch after John (Kevin Costner) stepped down. Personal losses aside, Lee's death understandably heightened tensions with the Broken Rock crew, and threw the future of the ranch into flux by creating a power vacuum that still hasn't been entirely filled. 

And yes, it also further strained the marriage of Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) who, after putting down the man who killed Lee, was shocked to find it was his wife's (Kelsey Asbille) own brother. In the end, Lee Dutton's death was not only the saddest in Season 1 of "Yellowstone," it was arguably the series' most important to date.