Yellowstone has had a great run, but a rumored end this summer is probably the right move

Kevin Costner’s gravelly-voiced rancher John Dutton once mused, in Paramount’s hit seriesYellowstone, that “you can’t fix a broken wagon wheel, but you can use the parts to make a new one.” No one would accuse the OG Paramount series from creator Taylor Sheridan of being “broken” — well, scratch that, some of you might — but the second half of that maxim pretty aptly describes what the network is doing right now vis a vis Sheridan’s myriad shows he’s launching for the Paramount Plus streamer.

Without getting too far down into the weeds, Paramount had crafted a streaming strategy for Yellowstone before it had a firm handle on its own streaming ambitions — which is why the show, now one of the biggest on cable, doesn’t live on its own network’s streaming service. And it’s also why Paramount has wisely tasked Sheridan, who’s now a proven hitmaker with legions of fans, with building out as many shows as he cans … for Paramount’s streaming service, specifically.

The result: Multiple Yellowstone prequels and spinoffs, like 1883 and 1923, for a start. In fact, Sheridan’s bulging Paramount Plus portfolio is also starting to beg a question among a certain contingent of Yellowstone fans … is it time to call it a day on this one?

Will Yellowstone end with Season 5?

The show, a neo-Western set in present-day Montana, is currently on a mid-season break and set to return with six more Season 5 episodes at an as-yet unspecified date this summer.

Part of the reason why there have started to be rumblings about this being the end is the fact that fan approval of the show has seriously taken a nosedive. Let’s look, for example, at just the trajectory that the Rotten Tomatoes scores have taken.

Back in Season 1, Yellowstone had a solid 83% audience score on the review site. Now? Well, as of Monday of this week, the audience score for Season 5 stood at an abysmal 33%. “So much has changed with the writing of this series,” one reviewer lamented this week. “The first two or three seasons were very edgy. They almost had a Sopranos or Breaking Bad feel. Now it feels like I’m just watching a soap opera. Sad.” Added another:

“Getting so ridiculous and boring with the same old character extreme behavior that never matures or evolves. It’s like the writers are just not working at it.”

From there, meanwhile, we have word from our sister publication Deadline that series star Kevin Costner has been locked in something of a dispute with the studio over his shooting schedule, which seems to be conflicting with his film projects. So, the key Yellowstone star seems to want out — or, at least, a diminished presence — and fans are also pretty dissatisfied with what they’re seeing at the moment. The time would thus seem to be right to return to the Paramount Plus playbook: Stick a fork in this one, and work with Sheridan on some sort of Next Big Yellowstone Thing that can be exclusive to the streamer.

And that actually looks like exactly what Paramount is going to do.

Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan
Taylor Sheridan attends the black carpet during the “Yellowstone” Season 5 Fort Worth Premiere at Hotel Drover on November 13, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. Image source: Omar Vega/Getty Images

Matthew McConaughey reportedly entering the picture

The rumor, again per Deadline’s reporting, is that all sides are currently working on ending Yellowstone after Season 5 closes out this summer — and then bringing some sort of an extension to the story over to Paramount Plus. And for that next chapter of the story, Matthew McConaughey is reportedly in talks with Paramount.

To be sure, Paramount isn’t confirming any of this for now. “We have no news to report,” a Paramount Network spokesperson told Deadline. “Kevin Costner is a big part of Yellowstone, and we hope that’s the case for a long time to come. Thanks to the brilliant mind of Taylor Sheridan, we are always working on franchise expansions of this incredible world he has built. Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner.”

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey walks on the grid during the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on July 24, 2022, in Le Castellet, France. Image source: Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

For now, Paramount Plus continues to build out the Sheridan-verse, with shows like 1883, 1923, the forthcoming 1883 spinoff Bass Reeves, plus Sheridan’s other upcoming Paramount Plus shows that aren’t even connected to that world (Lioness and Land Man being two examples). Regardless of how the Yellowstone story shakes out, Paramount Plus subscribers — who have a fast-growing library of content to enjoy — will be the ultimate winners.

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