Yellowstone Kills Off Lee Dutton in Pilot Episode

Yellowstone Kills Off Lee Dutton in Pilot Episode
What happend to Lee Dutton

In the opening of Yellowstone’s debut, we are introduced to the Dutton family, including Lee Dutton, the oldest of four children of cattle owner and patriarch John Dutton and his wife, Evelyn. He is a skilled cowboy who works for his father as a ranch hand and serves as an agent for the Livestock Department (of which his father is the Commissioner). More importantly, Lee is the heir to the Yellowstone ranch and the one who will take over the position of John as head of the family. 

And no one ever expected that an important character like him would be killed off right away. And surely not in the pilot episode. But for whatever reason – a warning that no one is safe, a necessity to the narrative, or merely for shock factor – Taylor Sheridan did. 

How did Lee Dutton die?

After the whole Dutton had been introduced, viewers were immediately met with a pressing issue. A fence broke and hundreds of cattle from the ranch wandered off into the property of the Broken Rock reservation. Lee went in to reclaim the cattle along with other ranch hands and agents of the Montana Livestock Association. They wouldn’t let thousands of dollars in profit be taken away from them. But what Lee didn’t know was that his brother Kayce was one of the people who were preventing them from taking back the cattle. 

Conflict ensued and then escalated into a shootout. Among the casualties was Lee Dutton, who was fatally shot by Kayce’s brother-in-law, Robert Long. Lee’s body was initially buried at the family gravesite, but he was dug out and cremated a few days later. 

This was done to protect Kayce from being linked in the gunfight and as the murderer of his wife’s brother. That is, after Lee went down from the gunshot, Kayce swept in and shot and killed Robert. 

Dave Annable as Lee Dutton

American actor Dave Annable’s Yellowstone journey ended way too soon, and fans were definitely very sad to see him go.

According to the actor, he had an ongoing project when he was approached for the role, and he almost turned it down. And it was creator Taylor Sheridan who encouraged him to still do the audition. When he heard the callback that he got the role, he became so excited. And that excitement doubled when he attended the four-day cowboy camp to train for the role. 

But at the same time, Annable knew that his character would die right in the pilot episode. He didn’t want to, but that was how Lee’s story was written. He only spent two days on set, but for him, it was one of the best life experiences he had ever had, especially since he got to bond with the Kevin Costner

The actor remained to be an avid supporter of the series. He promoted the show’s season 2 premiere with a funny caption saying, “Not sure how the show made it to a season 2 with its biggest name being offed in the first episode, but the good news is these three hunks are still in it. Kevin Costner. Wes Bentley. Luke Grimes.”

He also posted a Memorial Day marathon reminder for fans. 

Was there a plot hole in Lee Dutton’s death?

As it turned out, Lee’s death was not only a major shock factor for the viewers. It also became one of the main driving forces in his brother Kayce Dutton‘s character arc. After his death, Kayce assumed his role as his father’s ranch hand and was burdened with the responsibility of being the big brother to his siblings, Beth and Jamie. 

But eagle-eyed fans were quick to note some loopholes in his death. That is, Lee was nowhere to be seen in family photos during the flashback scenes when he was still supposedly alive. There were fan theories that this was done on purpose. After all, it’s Yellowstone. As one fan commented, “Maybe there is more to Lee’s story. Took three seasons for us to learn that Jamie wasn’t John’s son.” Though some attribute these loopholes to sloppy writing. 

We’ll just have to stay tuned to see whether there’s more to Lee Dutton’s story or if he was simply forgotten as soon as he dropped dead in the pilot. 

Screen Deets