February 21, 2024

with the first season of 1923 in the books, fans are eagerly awaiting the second installment Yellowstone Season 5 will air later this year. When the audience returns to the ranch, they will witness three generations of Duttons and their struggle to preserve the land of their ancestors by any means necessary. We’ve seen their unending strength and determination when it comes to protecting them from outside forces, but who are the real brains behind the operation? Three successful shows have been shepherded by the royal patriarch of the Yellowstone generation: John (Kevin Costner), James (Tim McGraw), and Jacob (Harrison Ford). The franchise has shown us the similarities between these men as they embody the salt of the earth ranch archetype: quiet, brooding and wise, always doing the honorable thing, even in moral gray areas.

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However, are these men the real reason Yellowstone Ranch has managed to stay afloat for centuries? While they are certainly strong characters, next to every Dutton man there is a woman (if not more) with little credit. For nearly 150 years, many strong Dutton women have done what it takes to protect their families and preserve their livelihoods.

RELATED: ‘1923’ Is Officially Better Than ‘Yellowstone’


Elsa’s epic journey in ‘1883’

Isabel May as Elsa Dutton with Tim McGraw as James Dutton in 1883
Image via Paramount+

The first incarnation of the Dutton family takes place in 1883as Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) takes his family on a road trip across America and finds himself in the Wild West. When we first meet Elsa, she is a stubborn child, scolded by her mother and aunts for not being civilized enough. When he meets his father, a Civil War veteran looking for a new life, it’s clear that he takes after him in classic Dutton fashion. As he travels across the country with a covered wagon caravan, he will experience new dangers and passions along the way. Rebelling against her mother and the gender norms of the time, she trades her dress for pants and joins the cowboys to round up cattle and protect the caravan. While he finds more autonomy and freedom in the West, he also loses his innocence in the fight to protect those he loves, killing the man who shot his fiancĂ© and witnessing many deaths on his journey.

Instead of succumbing to tragedy like many others in the series, she finds new love and a passion for other ways of life, falling in love with an indigenous man and vowing to live with him after getting her family safely to Oregon. Even when he sees his caravan destroyed and is shot by an arrow that would eventually kill him, he never loses his faith in a bright future. The relationships he makes with the local tribes along the way are the reason Dutton is able to start the ranch, as the leader of the Crow Nation gives James Dutton the land as a place to bury Elsa and start a new life. In the end, it was his perseverance and hope for a better life that brought his family to Paradise Valley, and he should be remembered as the founder of Yellowstone.

Cara’s Wisdom in War in ‘1923’

Helen Mirren in 1923
Image via Paramount

1923 It introduced us to the next generation of Duttons, facing the challenges of a modernizing world along with enemies from within and without. Early in the season, the family suffers a horrific attack that leaves Jacob at death’s door. In light of this tragedy, the burden falls on Cara (by Helen Mirren) to close the levels and prepare for the next battle, while he has to take care of everyone around him. As tension builds on all fronts, Jacob is looked after by mentor Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph), and begins gathering forces in the form of livestock officers.

As tempers flare among the men around him, he always keeps his cool and uses his wits, not pride, to figure out the best route to the ranch. Although Jacob condemns the modern world, Cara understands that if they don’t evolve with the rest of society, they will be left behind. He accepts that some changes are necessary for the survival of the ranch, but he also realizes the value of using all the resources available to him. Helping to light Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) into the sheriff for the attack on his family, he is ignoring the macho and egotistical way in which the men around him act “honorably” or illegally. We know the Duttons will win the fight, but it wouldn’t be possible without his careful planning and logical decisions.

Beth’s brutality in ‘Yellowstone’

Yellowstone-Kelly-Reilly-Social Outstanding
Image via Paramount

Dutton’s current generation faces greater threats than ever, as Yellowstone has become increasingly coveted over the generations. Fortunately, they still have the most ruthless Dutton, Beth (Kelly Reilly). Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that the ranch would have been taken long ago without his steadfast commitment to preserving his father’s legacy. His business savvy and intelligence set him apart from the rest of his family, showing different traits than his siblings. While those who came before her act with honor and love for the land, Beth sees a different reality of farm life. Understanding the economic implications of every decision the Duttons make is critical to surviving the calculated attacks they face from modern enemies, and Beth has the knowledge and skills to make tough decisions without letting her emotions get in the way.

Although Beth’s tactics are often cruel, she has been more affected by tragedy than most of her relatives. Blamed for his mother’s death, sterilized on the orders of his brother Jamie (Wes Bentley), almost knocked out and badly burned by an explosion, Beth has survived more than almost any Dutton before her. Through it all, she still has a shred of compassion in her, loving her husband Rip (Cole Hauser) and Carter (Finn Little), took the orphan boy under his wing. While Dutton may walk the fine line they walk, there’s no denying the ranch wouldn’t be the same without him.

In a genre often dominated by masculine ideas of morality, strength, and honor, it’s important to take a look at the women who helped build the West. Yellowstone, both on screen and off. While the Yellowstone Ranch is full of tough, tough characters of all genders, it’s time to recognize that the Dutton women are the real drivers of the ranch’s longevity and family legacy.

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