How Yellowstone’s Latest Big Death Could Mess Things Up Big Time For John Dutton

Spoilers below for Yellowstone’s latest episode, “No Kindness for the Coward,” so be warned if you haven’t watched! 

As much as any Yellowstone season tends to feature John’s reality whittling away at his grand ambitions, Season 4 has been particularly impactful regarding the Dutton patriarch’s outlook, with his near-death experience changing him in ways that his cancer scare and other close calls have not. Granted, it hasn’t slowed his roll to crush and destroy Jamie’s political climb, nor his ability to enact vigilante justice at a moment’s notice, especially with Rip around. But the deadly events that took place at the end of Episode 408 may upend any forward momentum that John had for both his revenge plans and his campaign to become Governor.

Below, let’s discuss Yellowstone’s second major death in Season 4, which joins Rip unexpectedly murdering Roarke by snakebite in the premiere, before digging into how that final sequence could set up a less-than-wonderful final two episodes for John, Rip and others. 

Sheriff Donnie Haskell And Others Died In The Cafe Shootout 

When John and Rip realized the cafe they were meeting Hugh Dillon’s sheriff in was in the process of being robbed, the two men chose to take matters (i.e. guns) into their own hands and use brute force to stop the criminal act, rather than calling up any other authority figures to serve as back up. Considering the thieves were cautious enough to play casual after seeing John and Rip approaching outside, it stands to reason they could have finished the job without anyone being injured or killed, and would have been available for shooting up after the fact. 

However, John and Rip did not allow that scenario a chance to potentially play out, instead going in with guns blazing. On the bright side of things, the thieves were effectively put down. But every other side of it was darkened with the blood of innocents, as Donnie and presumably more local citizens were killed during the close-quarters standoff. While John and the sheriff definitely haven’t always seen eye to eye, they both basically just wanted what was best for the area, so it definitely counts as the loss of an ally. And a loss made all the more depressing by him calling his daughter and dying a few seconds into their conversation. 

John And Rip Will Likely Be Put Under A Microscope Thanks To Governor Politics 

While John’s motivations in stopping the cafe robbery were admirable and all, generally speaking, they definitely weren’t crafted with his own immediate future in mind. When a prominent ranch owner who’d just announced his candidacy for the Governor’s office stops a crime with lethal force, people pay attention. And even if he initially comes out of it looking like a hero of sorts, it wouldn’t take much of an examination to realize John’s aggressive response is what caused things to become deadly. 

By all means, that definitely wouldn’t stop certain people from continuing to praise his acts, but it would likely draw a lot of unwanted attention to John’s life even beyond what he’d already expected from climbing Montana’s political ladder. The same goes for Rip, who has admitted in the past that he doesn’t even have any official identification on record, which is why he and Beth supposedly can’t have a wedding recognized by the courts. Rip’s identity situation would and should be addressed through him having to answer for his involvement in the shootout. Not that I ever want Rip to be caught up in legal matters, but I’m as interested as anyone to see how that would play out and/or be explained away.

Donnie’s Death Could Screw Up John’s Plans For The Imprisoned Riggins 

The whole reason John was going to meet up with Donnie Haskell was to try and come to an agreement for how to shorten Riggins’ jail sentence. (Obviously through a possibly “accidental” death as opposed to him being released early for good behavior.) John clearly doesn’t know that Jamie secured the attack-planner’s immunity already, which will possibly make him harder to bring harm to inside. Though likely not impossible, since the Duttons’ web of influence is far-reaching and as sticky as they come. 

Still, the sheriff’s death is nonetheless an obstacle for John to overcome in order to enact his revenge plans. After all, if Donnie gets replaced by someone who abhors what the Dutton family stands for, even temporarily, it will only make John’s more pressing objectives harder to check off his list. 

Any News Coverage Gives Jamie An Easy Opportunity To Dig Up Other Family Scandals 

I cannot imagine it was a coincidence that John and Rip’s robbery-stopping confrontation happened in the same episode in which Garrett and Jamie (along with the increasingly comfortable-with-all-this Christina) specifically discussed talking to John about what limits exist in terms of airing out each other’s dirty laundry. Because Jamie’s hands have been dirtied up time and again over the years — strangling someone to death in cold blood has such an effect — he doesn’t have much of a higher-road to take in that respect.

However, the cafe robbery is a situation that Jamie had nothing to do with, and could thus be spun against his father in some fairly damning ways, with the possibility of also bringing other skeletons out of John’s jam-packed closet in the process. Granted, that would probably just cause John to throw his son under every bus imaginable, thus soiling two generations of Dutton politics, but it might all be worth it to Jamie if it meant having an active role in tarnishing the family’s name in Montana and beyond. Which would likely be followed “coincidentally” by Jamie dropping his adopted surname and retaking Randall as his own. 

Even though I didn’t address it above, I feel like there has to be some overarching meaning in the episode being bookended by a flashback of Tim McGraw’s James Dutton possibly dying by gunshot after bringing brutal justice to horse thieves, and then Donnie’s death occurring during John’s attempt to stop thieves. I just can’t quite figure out how to tie it all together in a neat, blood-soaked bow, so hopefully Taylor Sheridan will do that for me in the final two episodes of Season 4. 

That’s right, Yellowstone only has two episodes left in Season 4, airing respectively on Paramount Network on the final Sunday of 2021 and the first Sunday of 2022, at 8:00 p.m. ET. Thankfully, however, this fictional universe began its expansion today, as the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill-starring prequel 1883 debuted its first two episodes on Paramount+, with the first installment airing on Paramount Network after Yellowstone’s latest.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

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.