No matter how much I can love a TV show, I realize that for one reason or another, there will almost always be episodic moments that I miss upon a first or second viewing. Case in point: Yellowstone's Season 3 finale was one of the more exciting conclusions of any TV show in 2020 and beyond, with the final ten minutes or so delivering a cacophony of potentially deadly shocks to the Dutton family. (Not to mention Cole Hauser's Rip stealing from his mom's corpse and all.) But somehow, through multiple rewatches, I never noticed a detail that seemingly points to another unseen attack happening on John Dutton's ranch going into Season 4.
After Rip got his ring for Beth, Yellowstone's Season 3 finale delivered that brutal blow for Jimmy when he fell off of the horse and knocked himself unconscious, following it up with Kelly Reilly's Beth having her office go kaboom. From there, the sequence shifted to Luke Grimes' Kacey being attacked as he was on the phone with Kelsey Asbille's Monica, and here's where things took an interesting turn that I'd completely missed previously. As Monica is reacting to what she hears over the phone and calling out Kacey's name, amidst the gunshots and breaking glass, there's the sound of a huge explosion behind Monica, which causes her to turn and look back.
I'm pretty sure the first couple of times I watched those hectic moments, I didn't have my volume up all the way, and my brain probably conflated the explosion noise to have come from Kacey's side of things. But after rewatching several more times with an open mind, that initially hypothesis seems blatantly wrong, unless the sound designer accidentally dropped something on his controls when putting the final mix through. Still, that wouldn't explain why Monica turned around to look off in the distance just after the explosion was heard.
Hats off to the eagle...eared Redditor who both noticed this and then shared the realization, as it potentially answers a big question I had about the Season 3 finale in general: why were the Duttons all attacked separately while away from the ranch, and why wasn't the ranch itself attacked? Granted, that could possibly be explained away by saying whoever is responsible is one of the many parties who are desperate to gain ownership of some/all of John's expansive ranch, and didn't want to damage it in the efforts to kill off the family. But that ranch is so goddamned big that half of it could be blown to smithereens and it would still be worth a bazillion dollars.
It makes total sense that the people who attacked the Duttons would also want to coordinate some kind of attack on the ranch itself, especially since they already know that John, Beth and Kacey aren't there. I'm not sure if anyone was keeping tabs on Rip's whereabouts, but his absence is an even bigger advantage. It's obviously not clear what would have been bombed on the ranch, from the main bunkhouse to John's gorgeous main house to the stables, but it sounded pretty massive in the moment.
Now, if all of this is true, one of the biggest follow-up questions becomes "Why would Yellowstone brush such an important moment like that aside without making it clear what happened?" That's not easy to answer without some insight from co-creator Taylor Sheridan or any of the cast, but there are a couple of factors that could clear things up. For one, the creative team may have felt like there were already too many big shocks in those final minutes, and wanted to hold back on revealing even more so that viewers would be more worried about the core family rather than the ranch. In a similar vein, perhaps all involved thought it would have been one too many WTF moments for a single episode.
Or, just maybe, Taylor Sheridan and company wanted to drop in a more subtle tease like that to set up how Season 4 will kick off, so that the premiere can continue delivering on the hectic action rather than sticking solely to showing John, Beth, Jimmy and possibly Kacey recovering from all their injuries. It would be great, narratively speaking, for those characters' moments to be juxtaposed with things getting violently haywire on the ranch itself. Will Monica prove herself to be hero for the day by getting her hands as dirty as Kacey's? Here's hoping.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also play devil's advocate here by saying that it's entirely possible Yellowstone set up that scene but won't end up paying off on it until years later, which seems ludicrous, I know. But for all that this show rules and features one of TV's best casts, Yellowstone does have a strange habit of just leaving storylines dangling by the wayside, with the discovery of dinosaur bones as the most glaring example. So if it just ends up being some innocuous thing that nobody talks about ever again, don't be TOO surprised.
Yellowstone Season 4 is set to debut on Paramount Network at some point this summer, likely in June, with not just one but two spinoffs on the way, with Jefferson White's Jimmy and Ryan Bingham's Walker reportedly set as the leads for one of them, while the other will be a prequel series going back to the Dutton ranch's earliest days in 1886, and both are heading to the Paramount+ streaming service.