In the past seasons of Paramount Network’s record-breaking neo-Western series Yellowstone, we’ve all seen the incredible character development of Rip Wheeler, played by veteran TV and film actor Cole Hauser. This gritty grade A-charmer has worked his way down the long, winding road of a traumatic past and evolved into the ace and lead brute force behind the Dutton’s ranch who gets sh– done. As they say, “No matter the question, Rip Wheeler is always the answer.” And, of course, we can’t forget to mention his fiery love story with Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly), which has also shaped his character.
And so, let’s strip Rip down (not what you might be thinking!), get to know him deeper, and see how much he has grown throughout the show.
Rip Wheeler was born on September 28, 1983, and he grew up near Miles City on a pig farm in Montana with his family. After their parents divorced, he and his little brother stayed with their mother. But everything changed for him on the night of July 14, 1997, when his abusive father returned and attacked their home one night.
He ended up on the ground, and when he regained consciousness, he found his brother dead and his mother getting stabbed. He then cracked his father’s skull open with a frying pan, killing him. After escaping from his home, he ended up in a hay loft, where he fell asleep still covered in cuts and blood.
A sheriff found him and suggested that John Dutton (Kevin Costner) of the Montana Livestock Association should take a look. Rip confirmed the story that John heard had happened. And instead of turning him in, the Dutton patriarch took him in and gave him a second chance in life as one of his very own ranch hands.
Rip accepted the second chance, and as a pledge of loyalty to the Duttons, he was marked with the ranch’s infamous brand. Then, with a winner-take-all mentality that he learned from John, Rip climbed his way up the ranch. And eventually, he earned the patriarch’s and his colleagues’ trust and respect and became the ranch foreman.
He was and remains to be the man that would swoop in and save anyone at a moment’s notice, fight when need be, and stand with and up for others.
Aside from his official designation, Rip has also murdered people on behalf of John so many times to protect the family and their land and help cover up for their crimes. Oh, he also fought a grizzly bear once and lived to tell the tale. But underneath this tough and gritty persona as a cowboy is a soft and caring man. He would teach Kayce (Luke Grimes) and Monica’s (Kelsey Asbille) son, Tate (Brecken Merrill), how to ride a horse while his father was out. He even told Kayce that he could add babysitting to his list of talents.
And John Dutton has seen all of that. In fact, back in the finale of Season 2, John gave him his own cabin on the ranch. The patriarch also acknowledged that there was nothing Rip wouldn’t do for his family.
Becoming a Dutton – finally.
It’s no secret that Rip and Beth share a deep connection. We saw it right off Season 1, Episode 1. They have known each other since they were teens and bonded over the trauma of losing loved ones. And as they got older, their broken souls became even more intertwined. They knew each other’s dark secrets without speaking a word. Rip even killed for love when Beth was assaulted by two masked men in her office. He was a quiet, deadly force who would fiercely protect everyone he cared for.
Some would argue that they’re two toxic people wounded with baggage trying to heal in each other’s arms. But looking at the other side, they also love each other for who they are – despite all the flaws and the things they did. No false pretenses. And they have become each other’s safe space in a world full of chaos and violence.
The two got engaged, with Beth proposing to Rip with a black engagement ring. And when they finally got hitched, Rip returned the favor by giving her his mother’s ring as a symbol of his vow to love and cherish her for a long time. The act may be simple, but it screams a lot about how much Rip values Beth. As one fan pointed out, “He only had one loving and endearing person, and that was his mother. And now, with Beth, he has found love in a partner.”
As Omar Sanchez of Entertainment Weekly articulately said, ‘Rip is the soul that keeps the bleeding heart of rehabilitation and retribution alive on the expansive piece of land today.’
Without Rip Wheeler, the Yellowstone ranch that the Duttons have protected for generations would’ve probably been gone.