It’s almost been a year since “Yellowstone” Season 5 aired its mid-season finale, and fans are still no closer to finding out what fates await John Dutton and his ranch-dwelling brood. The series has been plagued by controversy for most of this year, with much of the hubbub surrounding the impending exit of Kevin Costner and how series creator Taylor Sheridan will handle it. And if recent legal disclosures examined by Insider are any indication, Sheridan’s job could be more complicated than previously believed, as Costner is apparently not currently under contract to return.
That surprising news came about in a legal filing in which Costner claims his 2023 income will be dramatically different than 2022 as there’s no more “Yellowstone” money coming in. “I will earn substantially less in 2023 than I did in 2022,” the statement reads. “This is because I am no longer under contract for ‘Yellowstone,’ the principal source of my income last year.” And yes, if Costner is not under contract, he’s obviously not required to return for the back half of Season 5.
However, it’s unclear whether Costner was never signed on for Season 5 in its entirety or if the actor is just implying he has no further obligations to the franchise. But if Costner is sitting the rest of Season 5 out, Sheridan has his work cut out for him in conjuring a palatable exit for arguably the show’s most important character.
It remains unclear how Yellowstone will end even if Costner returns
As for what led Kevin Costner to forge ahead with his exit from “Yellowstone,” it seems the time restraints that come with shooting the series were getting in the way of other priorities, primarily his work on the Western epic “Horizon: An American Saga,” on which he serves as writer, producer, director, and star. Costner intends to make four Horizon films; the first two have completed production, but the third installment was postponed due to the now-resolved WGA strike and ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. By all accounts, “Yellowstone” had yet to shoot a scene of Season 5’s back half before the strikes.
With no apparent “Yellowstone” contract in hand, Costner may well prioritize finishing his Horizon movies before he even considers returning as John Dutton. As for Taylor Sheridan, it’s not entirely clear how he’s approaching the possible absence of his series’ central figure. He could write John out of the story via an off-screen death. But given how much “Yellowstone” fans love John Dutton and how impossible the man is to kill, such a scenario may not sit well with those who’d prefer to see him go out in either a literal — or at least metaphorical — blaze of glory.
Sheridan has also openly admitted Costner’s “Yellowstone” exit dramatically impacted the timeline of his character’s departure. Nonetheless, it seems Sheridan has formulated some sort of plan to deliver a satisfying finale in the back half of “Yellowstone” Season 5, with or without Costner in the fold. And yes, he’s already secured a green light for a Costner-less “Yellowstone” sequel series to boot.