‘1923’s Timothy Dalton Is ‘Yellowstone’s Most Terrifying Villain So Far

And he did it in only one scene...


There is something strangely appealing about the cinematic antihero: from Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” and Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone to characters like Jack Sparrow and Charles Foster Kane, Hollywood is littered with examples of classic antiheroes. Some of these characters merely blur the line between hero and villain, while others just waltz right over it. The curious appeal of the antihero, though, comes with a corresponding set of risks: if the antihero protagonist is too villainous, the story runs the risk of making the antagonist more likable than the main character, which is a delicate balance to strike just right. The villains have to be wicked enough to still come off as worse than the morally-questionable hero so that the audience still has someone to root for — or, at the very least, to root against.

It is in this respect that the Yellowstone universe has always had to play an interesting game with its villains. As the opposing force to the Duttons, the antagonists have run the gamut of character types and tropes. From Danny Huston’s Dan Jenkins to Morris and Hayes and beyond, the antagonists of Yellowstone, from the understandable to the outright fiendish, have always played a curious counterpoint to the antiheroic antics of Kevin Costner’s John Dutton.

For all the myriad ways that the villains have played across from the heroes of the story, though, none of them has ever been quite so menacing and just plain terrifying as Timothy Dalton’s Donald Whitfield in 1923. The scariest thing about the whole situation, though, is that, five episodes into the season, Whitfield looks like he is only getting warmed up.

‘1923’ Has Already Had Several Villains So Far

1923 has already seen an impressive set of villains, despite its limited episode count. Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle) was busy tormenting Teonna (Aminah Nieves) for the first four episodes, and when Teonna made her escape and took her revenge on Sister Mary, she only cleared the path for an even more intimidating antagonist to take Sister’s place: the headmaster, Father Renaud (Sebastian Roche).

Meanwhile, in the Dutton storyline, the main villain for the first half of the season looked to be Jerome Flynn’s Banner Creighton, as he trespassed on Dutton property, nearly killed Jack (Darren Mann), and ambushed the Duttons in Episode 3, crippling Jacob (Harrison Ford) and killing John (James Badge Dale) outright. Banner and his men set the Duttons at a serious disadvantage and left them scrambling to recover, with Jacob fighting through a slow and painful recovery and Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) trying to blitz home from halfway across the world.

Even so, with all the schemes of Renaud, Banner, and Sister Mary, none of them seems to hold a candle to the shadow Whitfield casts on the plot. He became a contender for the title of most intimidating villain in the space of just one scene in the first half of the season, but in Episode 5 his plans became a bit clearer. In his conversations with Banner and Cara (Helen Mirren), he revealed that he was slowly squeezing out all the other property owners in the area with an eye towards surrounding the Dutton ranch with a noose of his own properties. The plan suggests a host of further implications: Whitfield is aiming to own the entire valley, so what is he planning to do with it? Mining underneath the properties for the mineral wealth certainly seems to be his primary motive so far, but there is far more damage he can do than simply mining for resources. When he surrounds the Duttons with his own properties, he will have a base from which he and Banner can launch raids on the ranch, and it will leave the Duttons in a difficult situation to deal with. Whether they try to defend themselves or even just try to escape off the property, they will be surrounded on all sides by Whitfield’s estates.


Donald Whitfield Is Already More Dangerous Than Banner Creighton Could Hope to Be

While Whitfield’s plan to smoke out the Duttons has its merits amid the ranks of the best villainous schemes in the Yellowstone universe, his claim to the top spot comes largely from his very first scene in the series. When Banner goes to Whitfield for help in his escalating war with the Duttons, it is immediately clear that Banner is completely out of his depth in dealing with him. Where Banner has been lashing out in an emotional reaction against the Duttons, Whitfield is calm, controlled, and placidly sinister.

This foreboding self-control makes Whitfield ultimately far more dangerous than Banner is ever likely to be. Unlike Banner, Whitfield is not likely to make a mistake in a rash and emotional moment. He is instead acting as a chess player, carefully placing all of his pieces and establishing a strategy before he closes in for the decisive move. He also has far more in the way of resources at his disposal to execute his grand scheme, as well, and is clearly pouncing upon his opportunity to make the most of a moment of vulnerability from the Duttons, who otherwise would have been a major obstacle to his ultimate goals. With John dead, Jack distracted, Spencer half a world away, and Jacob down for the count, Whitfield likely has the best opportunity he will ever get to swoop in and take the ranch for his mining operation. Judging by his actions in Episode 5, he is making the most of his chances, too.

The contrast he cuts with Banner is telling, as well. While Banner had already pushed the Duttons to the breaking point in the first three episodes, in Episode 4 he was immediately overshadowed and outgunned in one conversation with Whitfield. As Whitfield systematically dismantled each of Banner’s arguments, he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that Banner was dead in the water without Whitfield’s help and support. All of Banner’s bluster wilted in front of Whitfield’s assault, and the man who had been the main villain of the series up until that point had to give way to a character who was more powerful and more sinister in every way. In the course of the conversation between the two men, the tables completely turned: while Banner came into the room thinking to use Whitfield as a weapon against the Duttons, by the time he left it was clear to the audience that it was Whitfield who would be using Banner as his instrument instead. His parting shot underscored the point, as well. When he threatened to murder Banner’s wife and children if Banner betrayed him, it was clearly no empty threat — and if he can pose that danger to his allies, there is no telling what he can do to his enemies.


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