10 Clever Easter Eggs Hidden in Yellowstone and its Spinoffs


It’s so hard to say goodbye. Fans everywhere are heartbroken that Yellowstone is ending this year but can be at peace knowing the Dutton legacy is not yet over, thanks to a Paramount-announced sequel. There are also prequel shows, with even more stories of the various generations. There will likely be even more shows announced as time goes on, so it is safe to say fans will be eating well on the Duttonverse for the foreseeable future.



With all these shows occurring at opposite ends of the timeline, it would be easy for anyone to ponder how franchise creator Taylor Sheridan would be able to connect the shows. One way is having Elsa Dutton serve as the voice of the prequel shows. Another is to include a treasure trove of Easter eggs throughout, some obvious and others less so. We know how fans love looking for these little nuggets of lore, so it’s here that we go over the top ten Easter eggs in the Yellowstone franchise.


1883 – Taming a Wild Beast

Paramount+


The most important part of any cowboy-related story is the horses. Without the noble steeds, there are no cowboys. The cast of every series from the Yellowstone franchise lives as their characters to some degree because the animals they ride and herd are very real, creating a feel and aesthetic both authentic and immersive.

To ride a horse, it must first be broken and tamed into submission to the point that it will do anything the rider wants. We learned this in the Yellowstone episode “Kill the Messenger” (1.02) when John struggles to tame a gift horse from his son Kayce. Seeing this, Rip suggests he take the beast into a river to better work the fight out of him. It’s a passing thought, but fans would later learn that this tactic goes back a long way.


In the 1883 episode “The Weep of Surrender” (Season 1, episode seven), the Comanche Sam gifts James with a wild horse, hoping he will take it in exchange for Elsa’s hand in marriage. We later see the Comanche turning the horse in the river repeatedly as James watches on. He is then left shocked when Sam emerges from the river with the horse fully tamed.

From this scene, we can guess that this method of breaking horses has been passed down from generation to generation, with James being the first to learn it. It’s too bad it has not been used since this scene. Seeing it used hundreds of years prior really helps sink in just how long the Dutton’s have been riding.

1883

1883

Release Date
December 19, 2021

Seasons
1

Related: Is Yellowstone’s Main Audience Missing the Message Behind the Show and its Characters?


Yellowstone – Dutton’s Long Gone

Yell Tobstones
Paramount+

The very first Easter egg of the show comes in the final minutes of the series’ pilot episode. A lot is set up in this episode: the feud between John Dutton and Chief Rainwater for the ranch, which once belonged to Rainwater’s tribe; his dangerous rivalry with Dan Jenkins; the rift between John and his youngest son Kayce, and his oldest son Lee’s reluctance to step out of his comfort zone in preparation for his inheritance of the ranch.

Lee doesn’t have to worry about it for long because he is killed in a confrontation between the ranch hands and the Indian Reservation farmers. It’s always a shock to see a core character dispatched so quickly, but it cleared the way for what could prove to be some heavy foreshadowing.


At the funeral service for Lee, John somberly lifts his face to the sky before we see shots traveling through the Dutton cemetery to show the names of past relatives. These names include Margaret, Elsa, and the ranch founder James, all of whom star in the first prequel series 1883, and the dates on the stones also tell when each member was lost, with Elsa’s date reading 1883, with her parents having passed after the series’ conclusion.

Related: 1883 Creator Reveals Why the Yellowstone Prequel Will Not Have Season 2

Yellowstone – Sheridan Foreshadows Sam Elliot

Sam Elliot in The Hero
The Orchard


Season four of Yellowstone may have been Jimmy’s most trying. Yes, he had come a long way from being the good-for-nothing grandson, but his journey was not yet over. At the end of season three, Jimmy breaks his word to John about leaving his rodeo ambitions behind, leading the owner of the Yellowstone ranch to send him away to the 6666 ranch with Travis, a professional horse trainer and horseman and friend of the Yellowstone.

It was a temporary banishment meant to give Jimmy a crash course education in cowboying before it ultimately changed his life for the better, making him a hardened cowboy and helping him find the love of his life.

Jimmy departs in Season 4, episode three, with Travis and his crew, and while on the road, Travis and Jimmy engage in small talk in which Travis notes his admiration for the movie Road House, citing actor Sam Elliot as his idol. What fans may not have known at the time is that Sam Elliot was set to play Pinkerton Agent Shea Brennan, the man leading a wagon train of immigrants across the Oregon Trail.


It’s a small nod, but that’s the thing about Easter eggs. Some are throwbacks fans can catch instantly, while others don’t pay off until later. To this day, Shea Brennan is one of the best characters to be introduced to the Yellowstone franchise.

1883 – An Early Vision of Home

Tim and Faith
Paramount+

The prequel 1883 is about dreams. The first Dutton’s, along with hundreds of immigrants, travel across an untraversed country to find a home on the other side for a new beginning. Given the hardships of the frontier, Shea Brennan makes it clear numerous times throughout the series that the journey will be arduous, and many will not make it. Despite the large number of dead that builds the longer the journey goes on, the dreams of a new beginning never fade, and with as little confidence as there may be in the naive travelers, they remain determined to make it.


James Dutton carries this vision for his family, and although his wife Margaret may not see the same vision as her husband, she more than carries these goals with her on the back of the trust and dedication she holds for her husband. In his vision, James shares with her a promise in episode three to give her a long happy life with a house big enough to get lost in. Fans will remember that this is the same house that Monica would one day get lost in herself in the first episode of season three.

Sadly, James wouldn’t come to complete this promise as he would die of wounds from a gunfight with horse thieves, as revealed in a flashback in Yellowstone (Season 4, episode eight), approximately 10 years following the events of 1883. His wife Margaret would also pass a year later, also revealed in Yellowstone (Season 5, episode eight), with it later being stated that her brother-in-law Jacob found her frozen body a year after she had written to him following James’s death. He honors his brother’s dream by raising his sons Spencer and John and turning his small ranch into an empire, with the large house included.


Yellowstone – Blood the Boy

Blood the Boy
Paramount+

Throughout Yellowstone, the idea of lineage hangs over everything. Thomas Rainwater wishes to honor his people and ancestors by reclaiming the Yellowstone ranch as part of the reservation, while John Dutton wants to honor his family legacy by passing it on to Kayce, whom he will then pass on to his son Tate. However, Kayce’s desire to do things differently may set the family’s heritage on a different path going forward. Until then, one thing they continue to share is a particular hunting tradition.


In the episode titled “Blood the Boy” (Season 2, episode six), Kayce and John take Tate on his first hunt. Before this, John explains to an eager Tate the importance of being sure before firing a gun, noting that the life taken cannot be returned. The boy would later on come to feel this truth after killing his first deer and showing remorse. A similar scene takes place in the 1883 episode “River” (Season 1, episode three) when James takes his young son hunting.

In both hunting scenes, after the younger Dutton’s make their first kills, their fathers “blood” their sons by rubbing the animal’s blood on their son’s faces. Kayce explains to his son that the act is to honor the creature, with John stating that all things must kill to survive. James’s sentiment is a little different, saying, “When you kill things, son, it makes you a little less man, a little more animal. We try to find the balance between them. That’s all life is.”


Related: Yellowstone Star Addresses Possible Young Dutton Spin-Off

Yellowstone and 1883 – Heaven and Hell Are Here

Keilly Reilly as Beth Dutton driving a car in Yellowstone
Paramount+

Across three generations, fans have seen that the most insightful of the Duttons are the women. While the men rage and fight for their land, it’s the family matriarchs who see all and understand the most. Beth is arguably the most dangerous of the clan. The men can fight and scheme and kill, but Beth knows how to kill someone without killing them.

Her iron will was no doubt inherited from Cara Dutton of 1923, who shows no fear walking alone into enemy territory so they can think her husband is dead. Then there’s the indomitable spirit of Elsa Dutton, who learned what it was to be a cowboy on the trails but fell trying to protect her own. Elsa and Beth, as far apart as they may be, recognized one common truth of the world.


“I think heaven’s right here. So is hell. One person can be walking the clouds right next to someone enduring eternal damnation. And God is the land.” Beth uttered this quote in the episode titled “Resurrection Day” (Season 2, episode seven). Elsa said more or less the same thing in the 1883 episode “Lightning Yellow Hair,” and given their trajectories and that of those around them, they couldn’t be any more right. Elsa is free and discovering herself on the trails while many die or lose everything and everyone. For someone like Tate, the ranch is a paradise, while for Jaime, it’s a prison. Taylor Sheridan connects the multiple generations of Dutton’s in the smallest ways, but they show the audience that the iron will of the West lives on even hundreds of years later.


1883 and 1923 – Elsa’s Knife

Elsa's Knife
Paramount+

This one is an even smaller detail. Fans were undoubtedly saddened when they learned that 1883 would only be the duration of a single season. Understandably, given that they had fallen in love with the complex characters of the earliest Duttons. The series had knocked it out of the park, but fans had to learn what became of them in flashbacks and the second prequel series, 1923. James and Margaret are gone, but their legacy lives on through their two sons, Spencer and John, with their dream growing year by year thanks to Jacob Dutton.


Elsa remains as a narrator, but she lives on through Spencer as well. In the pilot episode, Spencer can be seen in Africa with Elsa’s knife lashed to his side as he hunts big game for hire. Fans will remember that Elsa first received that knife in 1883 episode seven after beating Sam in a horseback race. It’s a touching tribute, but sadly, the two have never met because, by the time Elsa died, Spencer had not yet been born. He was first introduced in the Yellowstone episode “No Kindness for the Coward” (Season 4, episode eight) when he is seen in a flashback with his older brother John and his mother waiting for his father’s return, which explains his being hardened, having watched his father die that very same episode.

1923

1923

Release Date
December 18, 2022

Seasons
1

Related: 15 Shows and Movies to Watch if You Love 1923


1883 – A Songbird for a Sad Day

1883 Songbird
Paramount+

When life is a series of battles to protect the ranch, it makes sense that not everyone is going to see old age. Not every fight turns into a gunfight, but as fans have seen, they are inevitable. It’s pricey to protect the cowboy way of life. John Dutton learns this firsthand in the series pilot episode when he loses Lee in a gunfight for his stolen cattle. Almost a century prior, John Dutton Sr. would also be lost in a similar gunfight on his way home when he and Jacob are gunned down, leaving Spencer as the last remaining heir to the Yellowstone.


There is mention of the past and present being connected in the previous entries. This one is the same but with a much grimmer meaning. With his eldest son’s lifeless body in his arms, John asks for his help in finding a spot to be laid to rest. In a form of symbolism, a songbird descends on the land in a particular spot, which John takes as his answer.

Many years prior, in the 1883 episode titled “This is Not Your Heaven” (Season 1, episode 10, James Dutton would find a spot for Elsa the same way. Elsa’s grave would be the very first in the Dutton personal cemetery, with many more names joining them as time went on. John Dutton V would be the most recently added in “Horses in Heaven” (Season 5, episode four). With the series ending this fall, there’s no telling who else may end up there.

1923 – Tribal Braids

1923 Teonna
Paramount+


The heritage of the Dutton clan has hung over Yellowstone for the entirety of its run. This family lives to fight for their ranch. They fight so hard that it makes one wonder if it’s even worth it. But it’s not just thousands of acres of land they fight for. It’s the blood, sweat, and tears of their ancestors who gave everything to protect their way of life, even after it was long gone.

The Duttons are only one side of the coin in this series, however. On the other side are the Native Americans, who reside along the borders of their ranch. Their lives aren’t as free as those across the fence, and they often feel themselves looking over their shoulders more than anyone. Their heritage, or in particular the Rainwater heritage, runs just as deep as Dutton’s, with far more blood in their footsteps.


In 1923, we are introduced to who can be presumed to be a distant relative of Chief Thomas Rainwater. Teonna is a reluctant attendee in an Indian residential school, a cruel place implemented to force Indians to integrate into the American way of life at the time. Due to her rebellious nature, Teonna finds herself brutally abused by the nuns, until she eventually murders two of them and flees. As part of this abuse, the nuns remove her braid in the episode “War and the Turquoise Tide.”

Around the same time in the main series, Monica finds herself in grief over the loss of her unborn child in the episode “Tall Drink of Water.” They may have both lost their long hair under different circumstances, but there is more meaning to this. Hair is significant in Indian culture, and to shed it is typically a sign of sadness and death. They are both pretty broken for obvious reasons, but for Teonna, her journey was only beginning.


Yellowstone – The Lost Sons

Spencer Dutton aims a rifle in 1923
Paramount Network

The number-one Easter egg in the Yellowstone franchise is by far the most significant. As stated before, the fight to protect the ranch is one that never ends. The Dutton’s have been fighting for what’s theirs for over a century, with many bodies falling along the way, and not all of them are the enemy’s. Not everyone in the family has been keen on this fight, though.

Some, like Beth, are in it reluctantly, wanting nothing to do with the ranch except to fulfill familial loyalty. Others, like Jack in 1923, have a harder time seeing the purpose when the fighting has already cost them dearly. Then there are men like Kayce and Spencer who find themselves alone for a time spent outrunning demons of a different nature.


There are a lot of similarities between these two men. They are both veterans, they’re strong-willed, they both suffer from PTSD, and they both spend an extended period away from their families, although for different reasons. Spencer spends six years away from home fighting in World War I before journeying to Africa to hunt big game. Kayce ran away from home after a conflict with his father and became a US Army Ranger.

The similarities continue because they both find themselves gravitating back to the Yellowstone following the death of a brother. A lot rides on both men’s futures, as they are the last remaining sons to carry the dreams of their ancestors into the future. Interestingly enough, they both also marry outsiders to their culture. More similarities will likely appear because 1923 is set for at least one more season, and with Yellowstone ending this fall, we could also see even more Easter eggs from the main series connecting to the past. There may even be connections to future spin-offs/ prequels. Anything is possible.


Stream Yellowstone on Peacock Premium, and 1883 and 1923 on Paramount+.



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