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Why Yellowstone’s Season 4 Premiere Flashback May Be More Important Than Fans Think

Spoilers below for Yellowstone’s Season 4 premiere, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!

Yellowstone presumably didn’t surprise any fans too hard when its Season 4 premiere revealed that John, Beth and Kayce Dutton survived their respective cliffhanger attacks that concluded Season 3. However, I do imagine quite a few within the record-high audience were taken aback when country music superstar Tim McGraw made his debut as James Dutton in the 1893 flashback that preceded his full-time spot within the cast of the upcoming 1883 spinoff. The scene was obviously important for introducing John Dutton’s grandfather as a proud but empathetic landowner, not to mention our first looks at young John Sr. (Jack Michael Doke) and Spencer Dutton (Charlie Stover). But what about all the other characters in that scene?

While Gregory Zaragoza’s character Red Bear was the only tribal native earning focus in the flashback, he was leading a sizable group of men, women and children, and it seems quite possible, if not outright probable, that these American natives will have their own connections to Yellowstone’s current-day characters. CinemaBlend recently spoke with star Kelsey Asbille, whose character Monica Dutton has familial ties to the Broken Rock Indian Reservation, and she gave quite the interesting answer when I inquired about Monica’s ancestry, as seen in the video above.

Monica Dutton talking to Thomas Rainwater on Yellowstone Season 4

(Image credit: Paramount Network)

When I first asked Kelsey Asbille if she thought the upcoming 1883 spinoff would explore Monica’s family history, she was generally open with her enthusiasm, saying:

Yeah, I think that it is. Yeah, I'm actually really curious about that, too. I'm really excited about the prequel. I'm a fan, same as you. I'm like, 'Ooh, the prequel's gonna be cool.' And it's nice that there's that kind of continuation, so maybe I'll learn a lot more about Monica by watching.

By any stretch, it sounds like the conversation has come up a time or two, and it seems likely that Kelsey Asbille has a roundabout idea of how 1883 will expand the roots of Monica’s family tree. But when I asked if Yellowstone’s flashback scene itself may have featured characters directly tied to Monica, she suddenly (and hilariously) clammed up, saying:

Nick, you're gonna get me in trouble. I know that there are some hints of the prequel in Yellowstone and vice versa. [Laughs.] How's that?

Obviously, an intentional absence of evidence in a case like this does not properly serve as evidence itself, although I will admit to feeling a small sense of confidence in making two assumptions here. First, it appears as if one or more members of Red Bear’s clan are ancestors of Monica in some form or fashion, seemingly marking the inception of the Dutton family’s eventually complicated AF relationship with surrounding reservations. (We can’t be fully certain these were Broken Rock members, of course, but TV does embrace convenience in such ways.) 

red bear in flashback scene in yellowstone Season 4 premiere

(Image credit: Paramount Network)

All that said, there isn’t necessarily much wealth in speculating about Red Bear and Monica’s potential bloodline ties if Yellowstone doesn’t follow up on this flashback later in Season 4. Considering it’s set in 1893, ten years after the prequel’s story will begin, it isn’t outwardly the ideal place to call back to this premiere’s flashback.

Which brings me to the second assumption: that won’t be Yellowstone Season 4’s only flashback scene involving James Dutton and Red Bear, and there are meaningful connections yet to be established with that narrative device. Now, this isn’t exactly a mental stretch, considering it would be very strange for Yellowstone to introduce a previously unmentioned relative like Spencer and then never refer to him again. Co-creator Taylor Sheridan and Co. probably realize not every Yellowstone fan will watch 1883 — even with its first trailer hitting in the middle of Yellowstone’s first hour — and won’t have that context to rely on down the line, so returning to that past timeline for at least one more sequence would help make Tim McGraw’s debut feel like less of a non sequitur.

It's too bad the Season 4 look-ahead preview that aired after the two-episode premiere didn't feature any conclusive evidence of James Dutton's return, but it's still worth checking out below!

To note, there are definitely also potential/probable connections between the body set to be buried in the flashback and the remains that were dug up on the construction site. (Even if Caroline Weaver made it sound as if it was a planned scheme meant to delay progress.) But since I didn't get to ask Kelsey Asbille about that directly, and since I don't have any fantastical ideas about what it could all mean, we'll save that convo for another day. 

Yellowstone will either prove me right or wrong when future episodes hit Paramount Network on Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET, with the third installment being followed by the simulcast premiere of Taylor Sheridan and Hugh Dillon’s new Paramount+ crime drama Mayor of Kingstown, with Jeremy Renner fucking people up in a non-Hawkeye kinda way.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.