5. Donald Whitfield
Played by ’80s James Bond star Timothy Dalton, the biggest bad of “1923” is Donald Whitfield, the machiavellian monster and industrialist who wants the Yellowstone Ranch for himself. While he did top our list of worst villains in the series, he doesn’t quite take the cake when it comes to toughness. Still, he’s not to be underestimated, with a ruthless resolve and willingness to do just about anything to get what he wants.
Unlike so many other heroes and villains seen in “1923,” however, Whitfield’s toughness cannot be accurately measured based on how he handles a fight or wields a weapon, or even how well he can take a beating. Instead, Whitfield’s spirit comes from his merciless pursuit of power and his utter lack of moral principle that makes him particularly dangerous. He admits that terms like “decency” don’t apply to him as a businessman, which makes him unafraid to go up against even the most ferocious of foes. Whether it be his business rivals in a boardroom, gavel-banging judges in a courtroom, or gun-toting ranchers on the range, Whitfield will take them on undaunted.
So far it’s been Whitfield’s devious mind and indomitable will that prove he’s made of sterner stuff. Given how tough he seems to be with the pen, we wouldn’t want to see him pull his sword.
4. Banner Creighton
There are a number of sinister villains populating the world of “1923,” from scheming double-crossers like agent Clyde to cruel and unfeeling monsters like Father Renaud. Without a doubt, the rudest ruffian and toughest terror in Montana is Banner Creighton. Not the biggest bad in the series, Banner actually starts out as something of a lowlife wretch, a rival rancher who’s embittered by the Duttons’ unwillingness to share the Yellowstone’s land and resources. But when he draws the ire of Jacob Dutton after trespassing on his land, it ignites a war that sees him grow into a much worse nemesis.
3. Jacob Dutton
The many patriarchs of the Dutton family are often considered the toughest of the bunch, from Kevin Costner’s John Dutton on “Yellowstone” to Tim McGraw’s James Dutton on “1883.” But Jacob Dutton in “1923” might just be the toughest of them all, and not just for what he’s done, who he’s gone up against, or how fearless he is. It’s also because of what he’s endured. He’s been more in more hardships than could be handled by even the hardiest hombres.
In the series premiere, we learn that Jacob arrived in Montana with his wife after the death of his brother James, only to find his sister-in-law Margaret dead and his two nephews all alone. The pair raised the two boys as their own, took control of the Yellowstone, and built it into the sprawling empire. As the region’s livestock commissioner and one of its wealthiest land, he’s a man of great power and influence, which has made him a number of enemies. The latest include Banner Creighton, who came gunning for him and his family. Creighton killed Jacob’s nephew in cold blood and gravely wounded Jacob.
2. Spencer Dutton
Though the world of “1923” isn’t quite the Wild West, most of the heroes are old-school gunslingers and cowboys just the same. That’s why it came as a bit of a surprise when we meet Spencer Dutton in the series premiere. Spencer is making a name for himself as an adventurer in Africa. He’s cast much more in the mold of Indiana Jones than Butch Cassidy. Like the whip-wielding relic hunter, Spencer has a penchant for running headlong into danger, getting into all kinds of scrapes and scraps and facing life-threatening situations with a shrug.
More than just a risk-taker, Spencer is easily the toughest Dutton we’ve ever seen. A veteran of World War I, Spencer has fought in the trenches, faced machine gun fire, and watched comrades die in his arms and lived to tell the tale. Now a big game hunter, Spencer makes a living as a killer of man-eating beasts, and in the series premiere successfully faces down a leopard with his bare hands. His tenacity and courage were tested further still when he boards a doomed tugboat that leaves him stranded at sea after colliding with a ghost ship.
When ranking a list of the toughest characters in “1923,” you might have expected a Western hero type to top the list. But the toughest character isn’t any kind of cowboy or gunslinger, but a young Native American schoolgirl named Teonna, and it’s not a particularly close race, either. This should come as no surprise to those who saw Teonna’s story unfold, as she was torn from her home, forced into a Catholic boarding school, and cruelly abused by her headmasters, led by the despicable Father Renaud.
Despite her young age, Teonna faced horrors that no person should ever have to face, including beatings, lashings, and worse. Unwilling to let them break her will, Teonna stood her ground and fought back, murdering her tormentors and clawing her way to freedom. But that wouldn’t be the end of her harrowing journey, as she’d be relentlessly pursued by Father Renaud’s ruthless clergymen. Aided by Hank though, Teonna would show a lionhearted spirit, continuing her fight and surviving against all odds.