Thus far, Walsh has appeared in the premiere episode of “Yellowstone” and one of the very last episodes up to this point. His character has book-ended the series in a way, lending a lot more credence to the idea that his presence throughout the show may have a deeper meaning. On the surface, Emmett expires doing what he loves and dies peacefully in his sleep during the annual Dutton cattle drive. He’s survived by his loving wife surrounded by the very cowboys he’s ridden with for years and tried to help protect along the way.
An aging, ponderous John Dutton remarks “He just died on the trail, like every cowboy dreams it.” On the surface, that may seem a little too mired in sentimentality, but Costner delivers the line with a healthy amount of pathos suggesting that he’s saying goodbye to a lot more than just a lifelong friend. The passing of Emmett Walsh represents another lost link with the past and a respect for tradition that’s becoming more and more outdated with each passing season. The Duttons put family first, but that’s only because they might be the only people who have the power to stop the cowboy way of life from dying out altogether in Montana. And they’re willing to risk everything for it.
With all of the murderous mayhem and continual chaos swirling around him, John Dutton may also be thinking that he might not live long enough to enjoy the same peaceful death that Emmet did under the stars with his hat on his chest.