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Ranking Yellowstone Characters By Likability

Taylor Sheridan's "Yellowstone" is an exciting, action-packed western that very much deserves your attention. Filled with complex characters, an intriguing premise, and enough Sheridan-styled brutality to make fans of "Sicario" wince, the Montana-set drama follows the ongoing land struggle between John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and the various organizations, companies, and indigenous people who want to claim his property to fulfill their own agendas. 

With a sprawling cast that includes Costner, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Wes Bentley, Jefferson White, Forrie J. Smith and Gil Birmingham, among others (including Sheridan himself), "Yellowstone" is certainly not lacking in memorable characters. Each and every one arrives bearing a horse truck-sized amount of personal drama that directly impacts their approach to the intricate plot. As such, some of these folk are likable enough, while others will have you praying for some sort of bear, wolf, or Beth to leap from the wilderness and tear their soul to pieces.

In case you're wondering who's who, we got you covered in that regard. The following list that ranks the characters on "Yellowstone" from most likable to least likable. So, have a little cake with your steak, beware of spoilers and read on!

1. Kayce Dutton

Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) was perfectly content living on the Broken Rock Indian Reservation with his wife and son, but unexpectedly fell into the family business following a series of events surrounding his brother Lee. As his position on Yellowstone ranch grows — so far, he's ascended to the rank of Commissioner of the Livestock Association — and his strained relationship with his father mends, Kayce ability to escape his father's turbulent world decreases. This makes it harder to protect his own family from the dangers of his homeland.    

Of all the characters on "Yellowstone," Kayce remains the most likable mainly because he's not actively pursuing anything. Rather, he seems to inherit his father's problems and, being a former Navy SEAL, possesses a set of skills that make him really valuable in the rough and ragged wild west. That's not to say the character's ignorance absolves him of his crimes. It's just that, of the four Dutton children, Kayce is the most compassionate and thus the most likable. It helps that he's one of the few characters on the show actively searching for a semblance of peace beyond his father's empire — something we hope he eventually acquires.  

2. Chief Thomas Rainwater

Despite his ongoing feud with John Dutton over possession of the Dutton land, Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) remains a peaceful business man who would prefer to fulfill his objectives through lawful, honorable means instead of violence. Throughout the series, he uses his vast power to aid his Native American brethren and occasionally lends a helping hand to the Dutton family. In one enthralling subplot, Rainwater helps Monica Dutton (Kayce's wife) stop a killer who had preyed on a number of Native women. Later, in the highly viewed Season 4, he works with John to identify the man who ordered a hit on the Dutton family.   

At some point, we expect Rainwater to step further into the limelight and employ more aggressive actions to take back his ancestral property — though, hopefully, not to build a casino, a notion that doesn't sit well with every member of his tribe. For the time being, we're happy to report that the Chief of the Broken Rock Reservation conducts himself with a certain integrity many on "Yellowstone" seem to lack. Whether he deserves to win in the end is up for debate, but we're more than happy traversing the rugged frontiers of Montana with Rainwater for the time being.  

3. Jimmy Hurdstrom

Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) started out as a low level bum with no future, but quickly found favor on the Dutton ranch where he learned the ways of the cowboy and unexpectedly gained a love of rodeo. While a tad slow on the uptake and lacking in general social skills, Jimmy still displays enough charisma and good ol' fashioned underdog spirit to keep viewers invested in his person. He's become so popular that creator Taylor Sheridan spun the character off into his own series, dubbed "6666" (or "Four Sixes"), and even gave him a new love interest in the form of Kathryn Kelly's veterinarian Emily. 

Sure, Jimmy was a little cold towards Mia (Eden Brolin), even after she helped him recover following his tragic rodeo accident, but we can forgive the man for stumbling through a complicated love triangle. This is particularly true after he willingly gives up the Yellowstone life in favor of something a little less, ah, murdery. As Lloyd Pierce, played by Forrie J. Smith, exclaimed of Jimmy in the Season 4 finale, "Look who went off and became a cowboy." Tip of the hat to you, young Jim. We're all pulling for you! 

4. Lloyd Pierce

As the resident old coot on "Yellowstone," Lloyd Pierce (Forrie J. Smith) carries a strong devotion to the ranch and its inhabitants. On several occasions, he has displayed a willingness to surrender his life for the Dutton cause. Truth be told, we were more than happy to place the character a little higher on this list — until we saw the darker side of his persona rear its ugly head in Season 4. You can't chuck a knife at a fellow cowboy over a woman and expect to earn top marks in a likability contest. Lloyd eventually patched up that long-winded feud, but not before shocking viewers with his wanton disregard for the rules of the ranch. 

Of course, the signs were all there. In Season 1, he drove a pesky ranch hand named Fred to the "train station." In Season 3, we see him morph from happy-go-lucky ole timer to angry murderer real quick after discovering Walker, who was presumed to be dead, alive and well at a local bar. This happened immediately after Rip asks him to be the best man at his wedding. In other words, just 'cuz he looks and acts like a likable fella doesn't mean Lloyd wouldn't slit your throat on a moment's notice.

5. Tate Dutton and Carter

Tate and Carter are the youngest members of the Dutton Ranch and each has a unique story that demonstrates the pros and cons of the cowboy life. 

Tate Dutton (Brecken Merrill), for example, arrives on the ranch with very little regard for authority. After spending time with his Grandpa John and performing the duties of a ranch hand, he ditches his childish ways and learns to love the great outdoors. Of course, his lessons come with a price. In Season 2, he's kidnapped and tortured by a militia, and at the start of Season 4 he's forced to kill an intruder in order to protect his mother. These events leave him traumatized, but, as Rainwater tells Monica, will also hopefully allow him to become a fierce warrior in the near future. For now, he's still just a precocious child fumbling his way through adolescence, but we're curious to see where his journey eventually takes him.   

Comparatively, Carter (Finn Little), the son of a heroin addict, stumbles onto Dutton Ranch with nothing but his stubbornness. He slowly evolved into a teachable young man with a knack for the cowboy life. It's easy to love the bit where he schools the bunkhouse with his poker skills, and get a little choked up watching Rip teach him how to tie a knot on some horse equipment. Overall, he's a good kid in need of a decent life, and one of the few characters worth rooting for on the show.    

6. Colby/Ryan/Teeter/Walker

As the ranch hands on "Yellowstone," Colby (Denim Richards), Ryan (Ian Bohen), Teeter (Jen Landon) and Walker (Ryan Bingham) are distinct enough to stand out from one another, but we still don't know all that much about any of them beyond a few brief hints sprinkled about here and there. As such, it's difficult to get a gauge on any of them based on the fleeting moments we spend in their company. 

That said, we like each of them for different reasons. Colby and Teeter are engaged in a will they/won't they relationship that has yet to fully develop, but is nonetheless still fun to follow; Ryan willingly placed himself closer to the action in Season 3 and seems eager to lose himself for Yellowstone if need be; and Walker, who vacated the property but eventually returned, has struck up a relationship with rodeo gal Laramie, and has (somewhat accidentally) taken a liking to his fellow ranch hands. 

All three stories are of the subplot variety, but the characters are likable enough in their own right. At any rate, our views of the happenings within the bunkhouse offer a nice reminder that, despite the violence permeating around Yellowstone, this is also a place brimming with ordinary people who are all attempting to live ordinary lives.  

7. John Dutton

We love John Dutton (Kevin Costner). He has a cool demeanor that allows him to make calculated decisions without succumbing to knee jerk emotional reactions. As a father, he seeks only to protect his children. As a landowner, he wants to live in peace on his property. And yet, there's a darker side to him that's questionable enough to drop him well below others on this list.

For starters, his stubborn inability to see eye to eye with opponents or family members on practically anything makes him difficult to root for. Many of his issues would subside if he were willing to yield even a modicum of his vast power. There's also a case to be made that his fatherly abilities have caused more harm than good, as his children have more or less compounded matters with their own troubles — an issue attributed to the loss of John's wife, who died and seemingly took the last remnants of his soul with her to the grave.

Regardless, we're still rooting for John to find some semblance of happiness. He's spent the majority of his life fighting for land and property — all because of a promise he made to his dying father — and deserves something for his efforts. His proclivity for violence and revenge-fueled justice is troubling, but he receives high marks for at least trying to play by the rules. (See: Scolding his daughter Beth for purposely using and abandoning an animal activist, an action he dubs immoral.)

8. Dan Jenkins

Poor Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston). The man arrived in Montana with the hope of starting a new life and a new empire, but ran into obstacles every which way he turned. Out of the original "Big Three" on "Yellowstone" — John Dutton and Thomas Rainwater being the other two — he was the only one who showed any sort of remorse for the violence the trio's ever-inflating conflict created. At one point, he even extended a hand to Beth Dutton following her attack at the tail end of Season 2; and offered John his land once it became too expensive for him to manage. 

Sure, Dan picked fights in all the wrong places and was about as good a businessman as he was a husband, but he remained surprisingly likable throughout his tenure on the series — and deserved much more than he received in the end. "I have a right to be here," he says after being shot by mercenaries. "I have a right. This is America." Indeed, Dan. Indeed.

9. Beth Dutton

Look, we rank Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) at the top of the list in terms of best characters on "Yellowstone." She may not ride horses or rope cattle or even shoot guns, but her ability to destroy legions of enemies (foreign and domestic) with little more than a laptop and a sharp tongue make her one of the more memorable TV characters in recent memory. In the event of a fight, we absolutely want Beth in our corner.

That said, she doesn't exactly pass the likability test with flying colors. Oh sure, she reveals a soft, gooey center in quiet conversations with Rip, and displays a surprising amount of compassion for Carter. Yet, we get the feeling Beth would just as soon leap off a cliff than participate in friendly gatherings with anyone outside of her inner circle — John, Rip and maybe Kayce. As an ally, there's no one better, but Beth's vehement condemnation of anything beyond her own personal ideology makes her a particularly difficult character to truly like, no matter how much fun we have watching her do her thing. 

10. Rip Wheeler

Similar to Beth, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) is someone we admire more than love. We get why he is the way he is — there can't be any softies on Yellowstone. It's also true that he has, on more than one occasion, revealed traces of emotion under that thick, macho man exterior (he practically breaks down after beating the snot out of poor Lloyd in Season 4). He's also not prone to hijinks, jokes or ... well, anything fun, really. He's the type of guy you want leading a cattle drive, running the midnight shift at a maximum security prison, or hunting down serial killers, but not necessarily the type of person you want to sit next to during an afternoon screening of, say, "West Side Story."

Still, what keeps Rip from bottoming out on this list is his unflappable loyalty to his fellow Yellowstone-ians. Through thick and thin, he's always on their side and willingly puts his own life on the line to ensure their protection. That's the type of friendship you can't put a price tag on. Just be careful not to step on his toes, it could earn you a one-way ticket to the train station.   

11. Monica Dutton

Every TV show needs its moral center, and Monica Dutton (Kelsey Asbille) certainly fits that mold. As Kayce's wife, she has the rare view of the ranch's inside dealings from an outsider perspective. This allows her to see its rotten core with clear eyes. Unfortunately, Monica's morality also makes her a little annoying. When life is completely devoid of problems, as it was during long stretches of Season 3, Monica is as happy as a box of birds. When the going gets tough, however, she has a tendency to shut down, hate on Kasey, resort to jealous antics, and get really melodramatic — all of which creates more drama than is absolutely necessary for her weary spouse. 

Yeah, we get it, Monica's been through a lot — kidnapping, assault, and murder weigh heavily on her soul — but there's a point where one must pick a side and stay the course no matter how difficult the road becomes. Otherwise, you're just getting in the way. A harsh truth, to be sure, but such is life on Yellowstone.

12. Jamie Dutton

It was easy to like Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) early on in the show. He was the one Dutton family member with enough intelligence to make a life for himself outside of his father's ranch. There was something refreshingly normal about his geeky office vibe, which contrasted sharply with the mud-covered cowboys at Yellowstone.  

As the series has gone on, however, we've seen Jamie for who he truly is: A selfish worm who murders innocent people, lies to his family, and has the audacity to blame his calculated actions on others. When backed into a corner, Jamie will use any means necessary to escape. Case in point: In Season 4, Jamie learns that his real father (played by Will Patton) ordered the hit on his family, but chooses to remain quiet. Naturally, Beth eventually discovers the truth and offers her brother three options: 1) tell John, 2) tell Rip, or 3) kill his real father. Guess which one Jamie chooses? 

Yeah, he's that kinda guy — a snake with enough prowess and intellect to completely destroy the Dutton family. Not only is he unlikable, he's utterly terrifying.