John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner, is the patriarch of a ranching family and owner of the largest ranch in the U.S. Dutton’s Yellowstone Ranch borders the national park of the same name, a Native American reservation called Broken Rock, and Bozeman, where real estate developments threaten his ranch land. John Dutton is determined to preserve the land and the way of life that has sustained his family for generations, and by any means necessary.
While Dutton is fighting to defend his land, he’s also struggling to unite his four children after the death of their mother. Beth Dutton, the volatile daughter with a self-destructive streak, is a cutthroat player at one of Montana’s most powerful banks, and she doesn’t flinch at the prospect of a hostile takeover to keep the state’s energy companies in line. Jamie Dutton, a.k.a. “the responsible one”, uses his attorney credentials to fend off legal threats to the ranch despite his subtle resentment for feeling overlooked compared to his siblings. Lee Dutton never left the family ranch or business, content to follow in his father’s footsteps. Kayce Dutton, the fiercely independent fourth child, is torn between past and present family ties, having moved from the ranch to the Broken Rock Reservation. And finally, though not a member of the Dutton clan, ferociously loyal hired hand Rip Wheeler oversees the ranch and has a soft spot for Beth. - Source: Vulture.com
Josh Lucas portrays Dutton in his younger years.
- Beware of 'spoilers' from here on down!
Dutton ends up in a traffic accident as he crashes into a truck with his car and horse trailer. It leaves him with a noticeable head wound, but his horse is in far worse shape so he puts it out of its misery. The truck driver has not survived the crash and as Dutton walks away from the scene he realizes that there's a lot he has to go through to keep his cattle fed.
Later that day his son Jamie helps him get his head wound fixed. Jamie thinks he should consider selling some of the land, but John is nowhere near convinced. He walks out to his helicopter to fly to a meeting in Bozeman and, in the process, sends Lee, another son, off to roundup some strayed cattle.
After the meeting John is just in time to keep a quarrel from getting out of hand. Lee has difficulty getting the cattle back since they've wandered onto reservation land because the barbed wire has been cut. There's resistance from the reservation people and John walks from his helicopter to talk things over with Felix Long, an Indian elder. They cannot get to an agreement and John decides to leave the cattle on the reservation for now, but not before noticing his youngest son Kayce is one of the men herding the cattle.
That same day there's an auction and there Dirk Herstrom convinces John to give his grandson Jimmy a job, even though he has a history of criminal activity. John also speaks with Governor Perry, who tells him about the hearing she and John's son Jamie attended earlier that day. She mentions Jamie's opportunities in politics and even though John is not wild about the idea, he accepts her invitation to have lunch some time.
At the home ranch that night, John's daughter Beth shows her father the so-called 'Master Plan' of Paradise Valley, confirming John's suspicous of the building of a new city. He decides to go for a ride.
The following day Kayce's trying to tame a wild horse he's caught. John brings him a visit, expressing his wish to see more of Tate, his grandson.
While riding fence later that week John gets to talking with Lee about his vision of cowboying. They see a cow giving birth and help her out, making Lee realize how much pleasure he gets out of the work. The business part, however, is not that much to his liking.
Dutton has ordered a freight of buffalo. When he has had these unloaded he sees Dan Jenkins, of Paradise Valley, playing golf somwhere nearby, so he decides to have a talk and rides over on horseback. First thing that comes to Jenkins's mind is the fact there's no rodeo in Bozeman, but Dutton's not interested and immediately gets to the point: he's not about to let Jenkins put subdivisions in his valley. When he's done talking he also reminds Jenkins that he owes him a horse, referring to the accident earlier that week.
Kayce has decided to take his son for a visit on the ranch. The Dutton brothers take Tate fishing, while John and Rip Wheeler, on of the best ranch hands, have a look at the site of the planned subdivision. Ron Wright is along to explain the situation. The people of Paradise Valley are about to dam the river right next to Dutton land, so John thinks it best to move the river.
Thomas Rainwater, the newly appointed chairman of the Broken Rock Reservation, and John Dutton are discussing the cattle situation while watching Felix Long hunt down one of Dutton's tame buffalo. Rainwater makes clear that he's not going to play along with Dutton's ridiculous view on the Indian situation.
John is not about to give in and sends his men off to take the cattle back by force. As they've taken position, John gives the signal to take back the herd, but someone is doing his very best to keep them on the reservation. This someone turns out to be Kayce and John decides to retreat. Everybody leaves, but Lee is not about to leave the cattle behind.
The following morning John sees Kayce riding in with his brother Lee laying in front of him over the saddle. It turns out Robert Long, Kayce's brother-in-law and lifelong Broken Rock resident, killed Lee. John takes Lee to sit with him for a while.
At the funeral John gets to thinking about other family members that have passed away. Especially Ned and Chance Dutton come to mind. When they walk back from the grave site he sees Kayce. They have a short talk and Kayce leaves him his horse. John asks Jamie and Beth, who've just recently come over, to stay with him for a while.
Check out the table(s) below to find out in which episodes Dutton made an appearance.
- O = appeared in this episode
- - = did not appear in this episode