BySarah Paris/Dec. 15, 2022 6:22 am EST
The meteoric success of "Yellowstone" came quickly, but it didn't begin with Season 1. The series debuted on Paramount in the summer of 2018 and,per Metacritic, drew solid (but not spectacular) ratings. However, according to Deadline, the Season 4 premiere drew in 12.7 million viewers — a 66% increase from the Season 3 premiere — and became the most-watched series across cable, network, and streaming channel shows.
Set among the majestic mountains and sweeping plains of Montana, the modern-day Western showcases the lives of the Dutton family and their Yellowstone ranch. "Yellowstone" is an epic saga with echoes of "The Sopranos," "Sons of Anarchy," and "Animal Kingdom." The show's creator-writer-director, Taylor Sheridan, gives each member of the Dutton family a distinct, complex personality. Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) stands out with her larger-than-life volatility and acerbic wit. When it comes to defending her family, she'll cross any and all ethical and moral boundaries. Beth polarizes fans of the show: She has become a character some viewers adore and others love to hate: One "Yellowstone" fan on Twitter wrote, "Unpopular opinion: Beth Dutton is toxic ... not an angry feminist icon. She is a woman in need of therapy."
Whatever else can be said about her, the only female Dutton is nothing if not memorable. Here are some of her best and worst moments on "Yellowstone."
Worst: Beth sets out to destroy Dan Jenkins
When Beth Dutton first appears on "Yellowstone," there's no build-up to her cutthroat tactics; she's vengeful from the onset. In Season 1, after local Native American chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) threatens to start a land war with the Duttons, Beth promises her father, John (Kevin Costner), that she'll keep the Yellowstone ranch in the Dutton family no matter the cost. Thus, when land developer Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) teams up with Rainwater and comes sniffing around the ranch, Beth's claws come out.
Jenkins isn't noble in his greedy motivations and doesn't care if he destroys the Duttons in his quest for wealth. However, Beth's counterattack feels like a soap opera plot. In Season 1, Episode 3, she sets out to seduce the married Jenkins in a bar; by season's end, she's wrecked Jenkins' marriage. At one point, she tells him, "When I break you, I want to know that I'm breaking generations," wanting him to know how grossly he's underestimated her.
The phenomenal acting talent of Kelly Reilly lends authenticity to Beth's melodramatic antics. Reilly spoke with Cinema Blend about Beth, saying, "I love her mind. I love her intelligence. I love her fierceness. She's a warrior." Yes, Beth is fierce. Still, the character's resolve to wreak havoc on Jenkins' life feels excessive, especially so early in the series.
Best: She puts a cowboy in his place
Although Beth Dutton's methods may feel extreme in "Yellowstone" Season 1, they can be incredibly entertaining. One of Beth's shining moments in the first season comes when she claps back at a smarmy cowboy in a bar. In Episode 4, "The Long Black Train," Beth viciously lures Dan Jenkins to a packed honky tonk bar and instigates fights to ensure he gets beat up. Beth sits with Jenkins at the bartop, and, as she is wont to do, throws back a couple of beers. She's quickly approached by a young cowboy who makes lewd, suggestive comments. Jenkins tells the cowboy he "can't talk to [Beth] like that" and gets throat-punched. When the cowboy tells Beth she'd "better have a big pistol," she responds, "I do. It's called my name. Beth Dutton. What's yours?" The cowboy just shakes his head and walks away.
Taylor Sheridan sat down with Deadline to discuss "Yellowstone" and said, "You know, the toughest person on that show is Beth (Kelly Reilly)." Beth's succinct rejection of the cowboy shows that she isn't afraid to speak her mind or wield her power. It's a subtle nod to her resilience sans the theatrics typically present in Beth's scenes. As noted in a Vulture review of the episode, "Kelly Reilly is giving her all to this part," which helps to make Beth's quips satisfyingly biting.
Worst: She's attacked by masked assailants
This moment isn't an instance of Beth behaving badly but rather one of the worst incidents she endures. In the Season 2 episode "Resurrection Day," the season's antagonist, Malcolm Beck (Neal McDonough) sends masked thugs to Beth's office. They brutally attack and murder Beth's assistant Jason (David Cleveland Brown) and beat Beth beyond recognition. The fierce veneer Beth hides behind remains intact as she refuses to show fear. Ultimately, Rip (Cole Hauser) comes to the rescue, rushing in and saving Beth's life just before she's raped. In the aftermath of the attack, Beth suffers extensive physical and emotional trauma, including a facial scar.
The attack scene was narratively dramatic, powerfully emotional, and difficult to watch. In a Reddit thread about the episode (and the attack scene in particular), TrivialTrials313 wrote, "My heart is still pounding. Need time to process that entire scene. Wow, wow, wow." In the same thread, a user named Please said, "Seriously[,] I got anxiety just watching that scene..." Although Beth escapes with her life, the injuries she suffers in the attack show that she is vulnerable.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Best: She destroys the bougie boutique
Throughout "Yellowstone," Beth Dutton is at her best when she's defending her family. One of the most brilliant examples of Beth's loyalty shines in the Season 2 episode "Enemies by Monday." When Kacey Dutton's wife, Monica (Kelsey Asbille), attempts to shop in a high-end boutique, the bougie store clerk, Veronique (Allison Dunbar), racially profiles her, falsely accuses her of stealing, and calls the cops. Monica calls Beth, her sister-in-law, for help. Beth comes right to the rescue.
When Beth arrives at the store, she recognizes Veronique as an old high school acquaintance. The wrath Beth unleashes on her is a sight to behold. In a moment of heartfelt loyalty to Monica, she literally strips Veronique down, humiliates her, and gives her a taste of her own medicine. Monica stops Beth from victimizing Veronique any further. After they leave the store, Beth tells Monica, "You have a kind soul. The whole world can see it. The whole world's gonna hate you for it. Today was probably more about that than anything." Good Housekeeping called the scene the "most intense" of the season.
Once again, Kelly Reilly soars in this rare selfless moment for her character. As Den of Geek notes, this heroic scene is also a foreboding sign; "a warning that, if Monica doesn't somehow convince Kayce to leave with her and Tate once and for all, something bad is going to happen."
Worst: Beth tells Carter she'll never be his mother
Beth usually reserves her cruelest words on "Yellowstone" for those who deserve her vitriol. However, in Season 4, she exhibits a hateful coldness toward the young orphan Carter (Finn Little). Carter and Beth meet in the season's premiere, when Beth takes a break from visiting a gravely injured John in the hospital and steps outside for a smoke. She encounters Carter, whose sass reminds her a bit of herself. After his father dies, Carter shows up at the ranch, and Beth and Rip begrudgingly take him in.
Although Beth can't have children of her own, she vacillates between treating Carter like a son and showing him only defensive callousness. She kicks him out of her house and makes him sleep in the barn. As noted by Outsider.com, Beth's damage runs deep. Not only is she unable to have children but she also feels responsible for the tragic death of her own mother, Evelyn (Gretchen Mol). Nonetheless, when Carter inadvertently calls her "mama," Beth lashes out. "You lost your mother, kid. You don't get another ... And I'm nobody's mother," she snarls. Men's Health noted Beth's unwarranted harshness toward Carter, saying, "The main issue some have with Beth, however, has to do with the Carter storyline — her illegally adopted child with whom she seeks to reconcile her own parental traumas. She responds to all this by neglecting him in a petty and not altogether coherent way."
Best: Beth proposes to Rip
On "Yellowstone," the one fissure in Beth Dutton's tough exterior is her passionate, genuine romance with Rip. In flashback scenes, we see a teenage Beth (Kylie Rogers) and Rip (Kyle Red Silverstein) fall in love. When Beth leaves for college, their romance ends. However, as the series begins, the now-adult couple picks up where they left off. Beth's love for Rip is unwavering and Rip embraces all of Beth. By the middle of Season 3, Beth realizes she wants to marry her stalwart cowboy. After her dad gives his blessing, Beth proposes to Rip in the episode "The Beating."
Kelly Reilly chatted with Town and Country Magazine about her hopes for Beth and her character's relationship with Rip. "There is a version in my mind where her and Rip just go build a house together somewhere and live quietly. But right now, her world is pretty much on fire," she said. Beth's proposal to Rip made her more relatable and three-dimensional, showing a tender side to her personality she doesn't often reveal. When Beth confesses to Rip that she can't have children, he sweetly reassures her, "You're all I need." According to Rotten Tomatoes, the episode scored highly with critics and audiences alike.
Worst: She sets up Summer
On "Yellowstone," Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo) is the antithesis of Beth Dutton. She's a vegan environmental activist without a family who protests hot-button issues. However, Summer shares more similarities with her nemesis than Beth would care to admit. Neither backs down from their commitments and neither is afraid to fight. Summer first appears in the Season 4 episode "Under a Blanket of Red" to protest the Montana Livestock Association. She later sleeps with John Dutton, and "daddy's girl" Beth simmers with jealousy.
Beth sees Summer as easily manipulated and decides to use the activist to thwart the construction of a new airport that would encroach on Dutton land. Beth pushes Summer to protest and urges her to fight back against the cops who show up to disperse her crowd. As a result of Beth's annoyance with her, the activist ends up in prison.
Piper Perabo spoke to Decider about her character's friction with Beth, saying, "I was so excited to do these scenes with her [Kelly Reilly] because I think she's so good. I love what she's made of the character of Beth ... If you want to go up against the best, you go up against Beth Dutton." We wonder if Summer would feel differently.
Best: She survives a bombing
The season finale of "Yellowstone" Season 3 exponentially raises the stakes seen in previous seasons. Mysterious antagonists seek their revenge on all things Dutton and the season ends with a true cliffhanger, which carries over into the premiere episode of Season 4. Yellowstone ranch hands are attacked. John watches a young mother and her son get gunned down, then begins to bleed out from his own multiple gunshot wounds. Kayce engages in gunfire in his office that carries over into a high-speed chase; he also gets shot. Kayce and Monica's young son, Tate (Brecken Merrill), kills an intruder at the ranch house.
After an undetermined fate in the third season's final episode, Beth Dutton survives a firebombing of her office with her usual panache (although yet another of her assistants perishes in the explosion). Sooty and shaken, Beth emerges from the debris of her office building, lights a cigarette, and deeply inhales. She suffers third-degree burns and new, gnarly scars, but barely loses a step. Beth looks after her father as he recovers in the hospital and begins to plan her revenge on whoever tried to kill her family. This is the pinnacle of a fierce Beth Dutton. Per Deadline, "Yellowstone" wrapped up its third season as the highest-rated show on cable. Variety reported the Season 4 carry-over premiere episode gained 14.7 million viewers sans streaming.
Worst: She forces Jamie to kill his father
Carter and Beth meet in the season's premiere when Beth takes a break from visiting a gravely injured John in the hospital and steps outside for a smoke. She encounters Carter, and his sass reminds her a bit of herself. After his father dies, Carter shows up at the ranch, and Beth and Rip begrudgingly take him in.
Although Beth can't have children of her own, she vacillates between treating Carter like a son and showing him only defensive callousness. She kicks him out of her house and makes him sleep in the barn. As noted by Outsider.com, Beth's damage runs deep — not only is she unable to have children of her own, but she feels responsible for the tragic death of her own mother, Evelyn (Gretchen Mol). Nonetheless, when Carter inadvertently calls her "mama," Beth lashes out. "You lost your mother, kid. You don't get another ... And I'm nobody's mother." she snarls. Men's Health noted Beth's unwarranted cruelty toward Carter and stated, "The main issue some have with Beth, however, has to do with the Carter storyline — her illegally adopted child with whom she seeks to reconcile her own parental traumas. She responds to all this by neglecting him in a petty and not altogether coherent way."
Best: Beth comforts Carter
On "Yellowstone," Carter seems to bring out both the worst and the best of Beth Dutton. When the two first meet in the Season 4 episode, "Half the Money," Carter has no one to turn to; his mother is long gone, and his heroin-addicted father lies dying in a hospital bed. He meets Beth outside of the hospital and asks to bum a cigarette. In a shocking empathetic turn, Beth accompanies Carter to his dad's bedside and puts her arm around his shoulder. She urges the boy to say what he needs to say to his father. She stands beside him as he rages against the dying man. When Carter shows up to the ranch unannounced, Beth agrees to let him stay with her, her better nature shining through in spite of herself.
Kelly Reilly spoke to Decider about the evolution of Beth and Carter's relationship, and said, "I think Taylor Sheridan is saving Carter and Beth's relationship. I think things like that really take time with her. I don't think she can help him. I think she sees Rip in him. I think she sees a kid who has nothing and she wants to help him, but I don't think she's trying to be his mother."
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Worst: She threatens Jamie's son
Beth and Jamie Dutton will most likely never have a repaired, healthy relationship on "Yellowstone." However, Beth's remorseless brutality toward her brother often feels out of control. In Season 5, badass Beth may have crossed the line. In Episode 4, Beth spends the night in jail and Jamie bails her out. As Jamie drives Beth home, tensions already seem ready to boil over even before Beth notices a car seat in the back of his SUV. Reluctantly, he confesses that he has a secret son. Beth explodes. She screams at Jamie and tells him, "I'm going to take him from you. I'm going to rob you a fatherhood, Jamie. You don't deserve it and he deserves better than you. Next time you see him, you can kiss him goodbye because he is as good as gone." Threatening a baby? Not cool, Beth.
Kelly Reilly spoke to The Hollywood Reporter after the episode aired. The actress believes her character's motivations against Jamie run deeper than her own issues. "Beth believes that Jamie is the biggest potential threat to her father ... And if there's anything that is worth killing Jamie for, or getting rid of him for, it's if he threatens — or re-threatens — her father and the ranch," she said.
Best: Beth punches Hailey
When you're out with your significant other and a random stranger simultaneously flirts with them and insults you, you may have to restrain yourself from punching said stranger. "Yellowstone" Season 5 gives fans the cathartic release of watching a fictional version of these events. In the episode "Tall Drink of Water," Beth Dutton watches as a tourist, Hailey Brewer (Ashley Platz) hits on Rip on the dance floor of a bar.
Hailey obnoxiously confronts Beth and gives her sass, which prompts Beth to smash a beer bottle over her head. A fight ensues and Beth punches Hailey in the face. Although Beth is taken away in the back of a squad car, it's Hailey who is left battered and bruised. According to Den of Geek, "'Tall Drink of Water' ... belongs to Beth."
Beth continually proves to be the boldest, fiercest character on "Yellowstone." As IndieWire notes, "Beth Dutton remains a complicated and essential element of 'Yellowstone.'"Some of Beth's future actions may fail and some will succeed, but either way, we're along for the ride.