Television's biggest drama is also the television industry's biggest drama. Paramount Network's hit Western Yellowstone should be on an easy ride into a record-ratings sunset, but instead it's more of a bucking bronco that can't be tamed. Season 5, which has been on hiatus since January 2023, will be the show's final season, and while we always knew the end would be near, we weren't expecting it this soon, and Paramount Network probably wasn't either. Star Kevin Costner's participation in the final episodes of the series is still up the air as the actor moves on to a new passion project of his own — a series of Western films — which became the impetus for the series ending. But there is some good news from the ranch: Yellowstone Season 5 is gearing up to return to production, and in the meantime, it's reaching a whole new audience now that it's airing on CBS.
There's a lot of unfinished business to take care of before the flagship series signs off. Civil war has broken out among the Duttons, with Jamie (Wes Bentley) and Beth (Kelly Reilly) at each other's throats, John (Costner) at risk of being impeached, and a devastating illness spreading through Montana wildlife and endangering the Duttons' cattle.
Below, we'll go through what we know about the second half of the final season, including the latest release date, cast information, and recaps of the first part of the season to set you up for what's to come.
According to a report in early February by the Hollywood insider newsletter Puck, Yellowstone stars Kelly Reilly (Beth Dutton), Cole Hauser (Rip Wheeler), and Luke Grimes (Kayce Dutton) are in some tough negotiations to star in the in-development follow-up series to Yellowstone. We had previously known that some Yellowstone stars were being considered to be part of the new series' cast, alongside potential lead Matthew McConaughey, but this is the first time we've heard actual names. But whether they ride on to the new series depends on whether Paramount+ is ready to match the stars' alleged salary demands. Puck says Reilly and Hauser are asking in the $1.2 million per episode range (Reilly initially wanted $1.5 million, but came down), a considerable raise over their Yellowstone salaries, while Grimes is lower on the scale. Paramount has a big decision to make.
Equally interesting is the sequel's search for a female lead, with Michelle Pfeiffer's name reportedly coming up. Puck says the two sides are close to making a deal, and an announcement could come soon, with filming set for the spring and summer. As for McConaughey, he's reportedly not a definite lock for the role and is still waiting for a script.
Yellowstone is ending with Season 5
Yellowstone will end with Season 5, Paramount has announced. At the time of the announcement in early May 2023, the show's final episodes were scheduled to premiere in November 2023, while a currently untitled sequel series was confirmed to be in the works and set to debut in December. However, the writers strike and the actors strike delayed both projects, and Season 5 is now set to return in November 2024.
The news that the show will be ending came after months of speculation surrounding the question of whether Kevin Costner would return for the remainder of Season 5 (and a report that claimed Costner would leave the show after Season 5, before the final season news was announced). It still remains unclear how involved Costner will be in the final episodes. But in an eye-opening interview with The Hollywood Reporter in June, Sheridan insisted that his intended ending is still in play, and The Hollywood Reporter says there are ongoing discussions with Costner's camp to film more scenes to wrap up his character.
"I'm disappointed," Sheridan said in the interview. "It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn't alter it, but it truncates it."
That doesn't mean the final season will be truncated, though. Yellowstone Season 5 Part 2 was supposed to be just six episodes, but that may no longer be the case. Sheridan told The Hollywood Reporter, "If I think it takes 10 episodes to wrap it up, [Paramount Network will] give me 10. It'll be as long as it needs to be."
Paramount has announced a new contemporary Yellowstone spin-off series called 2024, which appears to be the highly anticipated Yellowstone follow-up that Matthew McConaughey is in discussions to lead. Sheridan previously indicated that the series might take place in a different location than the flagship show.
"There are lots of places where a way of life that existed for 150 years is slamming against a new way of life, but the challenges are completely different," Sheridan told THR. "There are a lot of places you can tell this story."
One of those places Sheridan wanted to tell that story was on the 6666 ranch, the real-life North Texas ranch that became part of Yellowstone's story and the property that Sheridan now owns. However, production on 6666 is now on hold, because Sheridan is looking to spend extra time on it given that he's personally witnessed its storied history.
Yellowstone Season 5 Part 2 release date
Yellowstone Season 5 Part 2 will premiere in November 2024, Variety reported on Nov. 2. This means Season 5 will now be returning a year later than it was originally expected to return. An exact premiere date has not been announced, but production is scheduled to begin in late spring, according to Variety.
You can watch Yellowstone on CBS during the break
While Yellowstone is on hiatus, why not watch Yellowstone? The Paramount Network series made its broadcast debut Sept. 17 on CBS, where it airs Sundays, starting from the beginning of Season 1. And CBS isn't stopping with Season 1. On Friday, Oct. 20, CBS announced that it would continue to air Yellowstone on Sunday nights after the conclusion of the first season. Season 2 began airing on Sunday, Oct. 29.
On Dec. 4, CBS announced it will continue to air Yellowstone in 2024, even though the writers and actors strikes ended. Season 3 will begin its run on CBS with three episodes on Jan. 14, and conclude with a two-night finale event on Sunday, Jan. 28 and Monday, Jan. 29. Because CBS returns to regular programming after the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, it's unclear whether the network will air Season 4 of Yellowstone. A possible solution would be holding Season 4 and Season 5 Part 1 until the summer, which could help promote the final episodes when they air on Paramount Network in November.
In its first week on CBS, Yellowstone drew 6.6 million viewers, much more than the 2.8 million who tuned into the series premiere when it debuted on Paramount Network back in 2018. (As the audience grew, episodes on Paramount Network peaked at almost 10 million viewers.)
Yellowstone Season 5 Part 2 teaser
Paramount did release a teaser for the back half of the season, but it contained no new footage, since the new episodes haven't been filmed yet. Piper Perabo told TV Guide in mid-December 2022 that she had no idea what was coming after Episode 8.
Yellowstone Season 5 recaps
Need to catch up on the recent episodes? Read our full recaps and cast interviews for the latest Season 5 episodes.
After four seasons of manipulation, scheming, and fighting for power against the backdrop Montana's relatively untouched beauty, new governor John Dutton is now calling the shots, with Beth (Kelly Reilly) running the show behind him. His intentions are clear in the two-part premiere of Season 5. The ranch hands have not changed their ways, despite John's new gig, which makes for some of the best scenes in the premiere episodes. Read TV Guide's full review of the two-part premiere here:
It remains a mystery whether fans can expect to see Kevin Costner in the final episodes, but Season 5 has already brought a mix of familiar and new faces to the ranch. Josh Lucas returned as young John Dutton for the first time since Season 3. He was joined by Kylie Rogers as young Beth and Kyle Red Silverstein as young Rip. Jacki Weaver also returned as the Duttons' latest business foe, Market Equities CEO Caroline Warner, with Mo Brings Plenty and Wendy Moniz promoted to series regulars as Thomas Rainwater's (Gil Birmingham) right-hand man Mo and governor-turned-senator Lynelle Perry, respectively.
Four new characters have arrived on Yellowstone as well. Kai Caster plays a young cowboy named Rowdy. Lainey Wilson plays a musician, Abby. Lilli Kai plays Clara Brewer, Gov. Dutton's new assistant. And 1883's Dawn Olivieri joined the cast as Sarah Atwood, a Montana newcomer and "corporate shark" who has attached herself to Jamie.
Before the season premiered, it was announced that Kathryn Kelly, who plays Jimmy's fiancée, Emily, had also been promoted to series regular and returned to the show alongside Jefferson White as Jimmy. So far, they've only appeared in the midseason finale and are happily living and working at the Four Sixes Ranch in Texas.
The back half of the season is also likely to feature more Orli Gottesman as Halie, a young, confident girl drawn to Carter. So far, we've only seen her at the county fair and briefly in the midseason finale. "In Season 5, Halie becomes that person who gives Carter the chance to come out of his shell and to teach him not only about himself, but he finds himself always wanting Halie to be around," reads her character description. "Halie comes along and now there is someone who can fit that mold and be there for him."
Yellowstone Season 5 picked up after the bloody events of the Season 4 finale; Beth (Kelly Reilly), who we all know is the real brains behind every operation on the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch, manipulated her adopted brother Jamie (Wes Bentley) into killing his biological father, Garrett (Will Patton). After it was revealed that Garrett was the one who ordered the attempted hits on John, Beth, and Kayce (Luke Grimes) back in Season 3, Beth figured he had it coming. She also made sure to hang onto the evidence, so now she's got Jamie under her thumb and out of the governor's race, clearing the way for their father to be the only Dutton running for office. She also just got hitched to Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) and watched her father's new, confusing vegan special friend (Piper Perabo) head off to jail, so basically, it's Beth's world and everyone else is just living in it.
Complicating Beth's quest for world/Montana domination is the fact that Kayce has been on a heck of a spiritual journey that showed him a vision of two paths. At least one of those paths, as he told Monica (Kelsey Asbille), would result in "the end of us." Whatever that means, it can't be good.
In November 2023, Paramount officially greenlit two more spin-off series: 1944 and a contemporary spin-off called 2024. Variety reports that, according to sources, 2024 will feature new characters as well as some crossover characters from the flagship show. This appears to be the sequel series that Matthew McConaughey has reportedly been in talks to star in, though that has yet to be confirmed. Michelle Pfeiffer is also reportedly in talks to be the female lead, while Yellowstone stars Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, and Luke Grimes are also being considered to carry over into the new show. No premiere date has been announced.
A prequel limited series, 1883, aired on Paramount+ late in 2021, and revealed the origin story of the Dutton family arriving in Montana. The series starred Isabel May as the brave and adventurous teenager Elsa, elder sister to John Dutton's great-grandfather, John Sr., and Tim McGraw as her father, James.
Sheridan is also writing a Yellowstone spin-off called 6666, which takes place at the real historic Four Sixes Ranch in Texas (which Sheridan owns) and tells the story of how the ranch has continued to operate in the same way today as it did over a century ago. That spin-off will air on Paramount Network, along with the original show, though it's currently on hold as Sheridan assesses its heritage — as owner, from a front-row seat — to honor its history.
The Sheridan-produced limited series Lawmen: Bass Reeves, starring David Oyelowo as Bass Reeves, was originally expected to exist within the Yellowstone universe as a prequel to 1883, but now functions as its own standalone series.
Additionally, Sheridan has previously said he had several more Yellowstone prequels in the works. "[The prequels are] time capsules of life in Montana as a microcosm of the world as a whole," Sheridan told The Hollywood Reporter in June 2023. "They're big spectacles, and the more that you move into the modern era, the bigger that spectacle becomes. I know these are huge bets Paramount makes on me every time. I'm asking them to give me Game of Thrones Season 6 money for what is essentially a pilot every year, and that's a big ask. As long as I do my job well, and people don't bore of the genre, I think there will be enough for many more [prequels] — three or four."
30 fun facts about Yellowstone
If you think you're a fan of Yellowstone but want to become a super fan, then check out TV Guide's compilation of 30 (and counting) fun facts and behind-the-scenes secrets about the show, including how you can visit the real Dutton ranch and what it takes to be a cowboy on a Taylor Sheridan show.