As we eagerly await the return of “Yellowstone,” the acclaimed series has found an unexpected home on CBS, where a tamer version airs, omitting the violence, nudity, and profanity that define the show’s signature style. “Yellowstone” shares little in common with another gritty series, “Sons of Anarchy,” except for one key link—Taylor Sheridan.
Before becoming a renowned writer and director for neo-Western television, Taylor Sheridan began his career as an actor. In the early 2000s, he gained recognition for his role on “Veronica Mars,” which eventually led to his stint as Deputy Chief David Hale on “Sons of Anarchy.” During his time on the show, Sheridan learned valuable lessons about television production and, importantly, the impact of character deaths.
Taylor Sheridan’s Short-lived Character on ‘Sons of Anarchy’
Sheridan’s character, Deputy Chief David Hale, made appearances in the first three seasons of “Sons of Anarchy.” Hale was a no-nonsense cop with a childhood connection to some members of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO).
His character served as an effective foil early on, as the second-in-command under Chief Wayne Unser. Hale’s nickname, “Captain America,” reflected his unwavering stance on crime, punishment, and law enforcement.
However, Sheridan’s time on the show was short-lived. His character met an abrupt end in the Season 3 premiere, “SO,” during a drive-by shooting at a wake for an SAMCRO member.
Hale was run over unceremoniously by the perpetrators. The surprising death of a character portrayed as one of the show’s few “decent” figures left audiences shocked.
The Reason Behind Hale’s Demise
Years later, Taylor Sheridan revealed the reason for his character’s sudden exit. He disclosed that at the time, the offered salary was deemed unfair, significantly lower than that of other cast members.
Sheridan found it insufficient to sustain his acting career, prompting him to step away from on-screen roles. This pivotal moment led him to focus on his career behind the camera.
As Taylor Sheridan shifted his focus to creating and writing, he didn’t forget his brief acting stint on “Sons of Anarchy.” In “Yellowstone,” Sheridan subtly delivered a pointed message to his former show.
In the Season 3 episode titled “Going Back to Cali” (a nod to the fact that “Sons of Anarchy” was set in California), Sheridan introduced the Divine Discord Biker Gang, a clear reference to the motorcycle-centric world of “Sons of Anarchy.”
In a memorable scene, the Divine Discord gang arrives in Montana to party on the Dutton family’s land, attempting to cut the fence. When conflicts arise between the gang and the Dutton ranch hands, Rip Wheeler, played by Cole Hauser, intervenes by driving his truck through the line of bikes. Sheridan’s portrayal of the bikers’ demise is reminiscent of his own character’s fate in “Sons of Anarchy.”
Additionally, in the same episode, the bikers return under the cover of darkness to set fire to the field. This leads to a confrontation with John Dutton, portrayed by Kevin Costner.
Dutton presents the bikers with a choice: leave Montana forever or face dire consequences. This scene underlines the importance of adhering to the law in the world of “Yellowstone,” echoing themes present in “Sons of Anarchy.”
Respecting Characters in ‘Yellowstone’
Despite the veiled jab at his former show, Taylor Sheridan is committed to treating characters with respect in “Yellowstone.” While Kevin Costner’s departure from the series following the fifth season led to speculation about John Dutton’s fate, Sheridan has vowed not to subject his characters to gratuitous deaths.
Sheridan emphasizes his dedication to storytelling and the characters’ integrity, refusing to resort to dramatic character exits as a mere “F-you” gesture. This commitment showcases the lessons he learned from his time on “Sons of Anarchy.”
In the end, while Taylor Sheridan’s nod to “Sons of Anarchy” in “Yellowstone” might be interpreted as a touch of pettiness, it adds an intriguing layer to the connections between these two influential TV series. Sheridan has certainly demonstrated his ability to make a statement, even through subtle storytelling choices.
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