A show like “Yellowstone” clearly shows the mechanics of the carrot and stick equation. While many of the show’s players are happy to buy, bribe, or promise their way into a position of power or leverage, there is always the threat of the other, less pleasant option. Though there are a few exceptions, almost everyone in this series is capable of violence, and that often makes scenes feel like a powder keg that could go off at any minute.
Still, even in a show that’s this tense with violence and strife, there are some characters whose bad sides you especially don’t want to get on. John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is an old west-style take-no-prisoners type, and Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) never met a face she didn’t want to punch. All the same, it’s Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) and Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes), who will be most likely to put you in the ground if it comes to it.
These are easily the two characters with the highest kill counts on “Yellowstone,” or at least they are based on the events that we’ve seen and heard about in the series. However, despite their personalities and kill counts, there’s an interesting dichotomy between the two most violent characters in Taylor Sheridan’s neo-noir, and it juxtaposes them in a way that shows both their core values and how they see the world.
Kayce has killed more people but Rip is more ruthless
Considering his Navy SEAL past, it’s easy to understand how Kayce has the highest kill count in “Yellowstone.” This is, of course, doubled down by his job as livestock commissioner, a position that regularly sees him in armed firefights. Since Kayce is a central character in the show, it’s not all that surprising that he tends to come out on top in these skirmishes. Still, this means that they usually end with Kayce gunning down his opponents.
Interestingly, however, Rip is easily the coldest killer on the show. John’s ruthless enforcer is tasked with taking out the trash any time that it’s called for. From dropping off ranch hands at the infamous train station to murdering those who have crossed the Duttons and their allies, Rip is hands down the most dangerous character in “Yellowstone.” This is something that Jamie (Wes Bentley) should likely keep in mind in Season 5, Part 2.
A situation that clearly shows the difference between the two most deadly characters in “Yellowstone” is when Kayce decides to spare Walker’s (Ryan Bingham) life after being ordered to kill him. As he explains to Rip after the fact: “You’ll never meet a man who’s killed more men than me, but I ain’t ever murdered one. I never will.” With this in mind, viewers would probably rather be sitting down the barrel from Kayce, but getting on the bad side of either Dutton ranch hand can easily have life-ending consequences.