'Yellowstone' Season 4 On Paramount: What's Eating Rip Wheeler?

Yellowstone Rip Wheeler Cole Hauser Paramount Network
Paramount Network

It is one of the most stunning character arcs happening on television right now, and it is all going down on “Yellowstone” via the Paramount Network. Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) has gone from acting like a likable roguish fan-favorite with a valiant bent to a one-man wrecking ball/fan-tom menace in Season 4. Thus begging the question, what is eating Rip Wheeler?

Be aware: Spoilers for “Yellowstone” Season 4, Episode 5, and everything that came before gets discussed below.

Cole Hauser’s breakout character has not been himself since “Yellowstone” Season 4 started, and the latest episode has only doubled down on that fact. Always known for his tough yet tender personality, Rip has been on a tear. The only people to escape his wrath have been Beth, John, and Kayce. Rip was somewhat soft on Jimmy before he departed to set up his spinoff (not to get confused with “1883”).

So far in Season 4, Rip has berated an orphan, murdered a man for no apparent reason, and mercilessly beat up Lloyd without asking any solid questions. Yes, the man who was like a father to Rip apart from John Dutton. The same Lloyd, Rip asked to be his best man at his wedding to Beth in a moving scene between the two tough guys, is now Rip’s number one enemy.

So, how did “Yellowstone” go from hitting us in the feels to obliterating our heart boxes? Rip is unrecognizable from his Season 1 persona, and he is growing less likable with every passing episode. It makes you wonder what will be left, if anything, of the Rip, that “Yellowstone” fans have known and loved if/when Beth’s big secret gets out.

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Beth is the one thing keeping his likability somewhat tethered. (Yes, Beth.) Otherwise, Rip is getting written as an uncharacteristic cluster of humanity. He has been cruel and violent without restraint, and I know all of this is going to be an unpopular thing to say with fellow fans. So, please bear with me everybody.

In Season 4, Episode 5 of “Yellowstone,” Rip declared that Lloyd was lucky to still be walking after Lloyd had fought Walker. The punishment does not match the crime, and Rip is going absolutely overboard. Lloyd disputed why Rip had been riding him so hard. In response, Rip claimed Lloyd had not put the brand first. 

Sorry Rip, but history matters. Lloyd has been getting provoked by Walker, and he finally snapped. Plus, Walker is different from Lloyd where the ranch is concerned. There should be seniority with the brand, which means Lloyd is higher up than Walker. Oh, and Mia and Laramie need to go. Rip has caused all of Lloyd’s issues by allowing them there.

Rip is arguably the most popular character on “Yellowstone,” and he has been for good reason. Unfortunately, Season 4 is not giving fans the character they love by any stretch of the imagination. Rip has been downright cruel. His loyalty to Lloyd seems to have no merit. It is the brand first, loyalty to people later.

He could have asked why Lloyd was fighting with Walker. Sadly, Rip did not care. In a scene akin to the gritty Kevin Costner starrer “Let Him Go,” Rip beat Lloyd without restraint last week, and kept piling on in Season 4, Episode 5. It was heartbreaking to watch. Lloyd deserves better. He deserved someone who managed the situation before Lloyd could not take it anymore. 

How can Rip be so decisive when it comes to Lloyd but not Mia and Laramie? You know, the cowgirl hangers-on I ranted about in the YouTube video above. They have done nothing since they got at the eponymous “Yellowstone” except incite trouble. Is Rip afraid it would be politically incorrect to kick the two troublemakers off of the ranch?

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Instead of taking care of it, he has let them destroy the bunkhouse from the inside out. It is unconscionable. Again, Rip is not being Rip, and “Yellowstone” is not doing “Yellowstone.” In earlier seasons, Rip would have dealt with Mia and Laramie. How much longer will this last, and can Rip find redemption? I would have never imagined feeling such anger towards or disappointment with Rip in the first place.

He has always been my favorite character. So, as challenging as it is to imagine wrestling with this question, it is just as difficult to imagine “Yellowstone” fixing the damage he has wrought. Find out if Rip makes it right when new episodes of “Yellowstone” Season 4 air Sundays at 8 pm ET on Paramount Network.