Ranking All The Members Of Red Dead Redemption II's Van Der Linde Gang
Red Dead Redemption II is one of our favorite games of the year, and a big part of why is its memorable cast of characters. From the maddening leader Dutch to grifter Hosea, foul-mouthed Sean, lewd Karen, impertinent John Marston, and the loyal Arthur Morgan himself, there’s more than enough characters for you to love and hate in the Van der Linde gang. But really, who’s the best of the best of this gallery of rogues? Let’s saddle up and find out, partner. Here are all the members of Dutch’s gang ranked from worst to best.
Be warned: MAJOR spoilers ahead for Red Dead Redemption II's story. Do not read unless you've finished the game.
24. Micah Bell
Ugh. Do we even need to talk about this jerk? Loud, obnoxious, always picking a fight, thinks he’s more clever than he actually is. Stuck somewhere between being a vile, bigoted bully and the tag-a-long who’ll do anything to win validation, Micah sucks in every way possible. Trashboy supreme.
23. Leopold Strauss
It’s bad enough that Strauss is a loan shark. However, it’s his cruel business that results in Arthur getting infected with tuberculosis when our antihero goes to collect a debt from the Downes family. It doesn’t help he’s downright sleazy and seems to derive pleasure from causing others misery. Yuck.
22. Bill Williamson
Bill Williamson has the distinction of being one of the characters who appears in the original Red Dead Redemption as one of John Marston’s targets. Like his appearance in the original game, Bill’s just kind of stupid. And a bully, always picking fights with someone, needing to have others praise him. You can always count on finding Bill sulking, whining, or getting ready to throw down with someone because they made him feel small. What a baby.
21. Simon Pearson
Unlike the last three, Pearson isn’t awful. He’s just kind of a dork, as Sadie reveals when she reads his letter to his aunt out loud featuring Pearson outright lying about his accomplishments in a bid to impress her. However, he’s not harmful to the group and fulfills an important role: feeding everyone, which goes unappreciated by the whole gang. Pearson’s biggest crime is how uninteresting he is. But hey, at least he gets out of this adventure alive!
Poor Kieran. As a former O’ Driscoll wanting to find his place within the Van der Linde gang, there’s a lot of pathos in his struggle for acceptance. However, that journey is cut short just as everyone starts to warm up to him, raising the stakes to take down Colm O’Driscoll.
19. Jack Marston
From the outset, Jack’s an interesting character, but the vast majority of that interest comes from what you know about his role in the original game. In Red Dead II, Jack’s essentially a callback machine more than a character.
18. Molly O’ Shea
Molly doesn’t get much time as anything more than someone begging for Dutch’s approval and failing to find it. However, the stomach-churning scene where Miss O’ Shea drunkenly brags about a betrayal she likely didn’t commit and is gunned down by vengeful mama bear Susan Grimshaw is one of the game’s biggest moments.
17. Reverend Swanson
Swanson’s an interesting character in that he bounces back and forth between a wise man and fool, often doling out helpful advice to the gang members just as much as he needs to be rescued from his alcoholic adventures. He’s also responsible for that badass “You’ve got to love yourself a fire” speech, so full marks for that one, bud.
If there’s one face of Red Dead Redemption II that’s launched a thousand memes, it’s Uncle and his tragic case of LUMBAGO. Picked on just as much as Pearson, everyone regards Uncle as a fool. However, he’s not actually that dumb, as revealed when he does an AMAZING roast of John Marston’s attempts to woo Abigail with a “dream home” that’s essentially an outhouse. “I’ve had better nightmares than this dream.” Sick.
15. Javier Escuella
For all his wacky shenanigans and boasting in Red Dead Redemption, Javier doesn’t get that much time front and center in the prequel. You usually see him sitting near a campfire silently or playing a few songs to woo the crowd. However, dude looks rad as hell. He's easily the best dresser in the whole outfit (outside of Arthur, of course), and there’s one scene where beats the living daylights out of Micah, so, y’know, that shoots him up several spots alone.
14. Karen Jones
The lewdest, drunkest, most unapologetic member of the group, Karen is basically Red Dead Redemption II’s Pam Poovey, and we adore her. Whether she’s putting on a schoolgirl act to distract some tellers during a bank robbery or getting in drunken arguments with other members of the gang, Karen steals every scene she’s in. Now if only we could figure out where the hell she went.
13. Mary-Beth Gaskill
Though her quiet demeanor and absence during the story missions of Red Dead Redemption II might have you wondering why she’s this high on a list, players who have talked to Mary-Beth in their free time will know she’s secretly one of the most interesting characters for Arthur to interact with. A con woman who’s sweet on Arthur, their conversations have an honest, gentle quality to them. There’s also a lovely dance scene the two can have during a party sequence.
However, Mary-Beth’s best moment comes in the epilogue when John runs into her outside of Valentine and learns that she’s become a successful novelist and seems genuinely happy. A necessary bright spot in this epic, dark tale.
12. Sean MacGuire
The life of the party. A proud Irish immigrant, Sean is one of the beloved younger members of the group, boasting and ridiculing his fellow gang members with colorful language. His sudden death is also the first truly shocking moment in the story, kicking the Van der Linde gang’s descent into overdrive and leading into one of the best missions, “Blood Feuds, Ancient And Modern.” Ah Sean, you were gone too soon.
11. Susan Grimshaw
The hawk of the camp, the stern Miss Grimshaw’s job is to keep everything up and running to make sure the camp's inhabitants stay in line, which she does vigilantly. Grimshaw’s amusing scenes, including one where she forces Arthur to dunk his face in a barrel and bathe if he comes back to camp dirty, are undercut by her ruthless dedication to the Dutch's rules. Her cold-blooded, vengeful killing of Molly O’ Shea is a testament to this. Even though there’s a poetic quality to her shocking death by gunfire, it didn’t make us miss her (or hate murderer Micah) any less.
10. Abigail Marston
The no-nonsense, constantly flustered Abigail Marston of the original Red Dead Redemption returns as…a no-nonsense and constantly flustered gang member. Sure, Abigail might not actually experience that much change between the two games, but Red Dead Redemption II helps us understand why she is the way she is. It’s because she’s a savvy woman on the fringes of the action forced to watch the idiots in her life make the same mistakes over and over again.
However, Abigail just can’t help caring for people, even when they’re absolute morons. It’s her best and worst quality. Her genuine desire for her and her family to buy land and have an honest living is the series’ seed of hope.
Also, she shoots John Milton in his big, dumb head so big ups to Mama Marston for that.
9. Tilly Jackson
Another of the younger member of the crew, Tilly’s sometimes supportive, sometimes raw conversations with Arthur about the cruelty of hunting animals and hurting people are among the best bits of writing in the game. John meeting up with her in the epilogue to find she’s happily married with a kid marks another one of Red Dead Redemption II’s rare happy moments.
8. Josiah Trelawny
Trelawny is one of the most interesting members of the gang. A smooth-talking trickster who comes and goes as he pleases, the gang often finds their need to save him a hassle. However, Trelawny is often paying back Dutch and the rest with helpful tips and distractions — even if he never gets his hands dirty. Curious players who discover Trelawny’s big secret, and the reason behind all his time away from the group, in Saint Denis are in for a big surprise that’s likely to leave a smile on their faces.
7. Lenny Summers
LEMNY. A drinking mission with Lenny proves to be the game’s comedic high point, guaranteeing Lenny a high ranking. However, even outside of that, Lenny has some of the best conversations in the game, whether he’s talking to Arthur about white privilege, teaching Sean to read, or just being his enthusiastic self. His shocking death during the Saint Denis bank robbery proves to be one of the cruelest gut punches in a game filled with them.
6. John Marston
The John Marston of Red Dead Redemption II is very different than the man we knew in the original game. He’s crabby, wild, unnecessarily vicious, and sometimes just plain stupid. However, like Arthur, John undergoes his own quiet change during the events of the story. He learns to care for his wife and son and grows wiser, coming up with some of the best plans for the gang’s heists. By the closing credits of Red Dead Redemption II, we’ve watched John become the man we knew him to be in the original game: loving, faithful, honorable, and tragically doomed.
5. Charles Smith
One of the best new additions to Red Dead’s world, by the time II starts, Charles has only been with the Van der Linde gang six months. However, he quickly proves himself to be one of the most dependable members, shining as a hunter and soldier. Smith’s wry sense of humor and inclination to ride up with his fellow outlaw no matter the danger makes him incredibly likable. Here’s hoping we get some DLC playing him.
4. Hosea Matthews
The Grifter Grandpa, Hosea is sweet and funny most of the time and is responsible for hatching most of the group’s scams. His venture into the Rhodes saloon with Arthur, disguised as his brother Fenton, is amusing as hell. For all his wisdom, Hosea is most interesting when the cracks in his sweet facade show, like when he fends off Bill’s bullying by pulling his pistol or mocks Catherine Braithwaite as her life burns down around her. Alongside Lenny, Hosea’s sudden demise is heart-wrenching and also the moment that signals without a doubt that the gang is doomed.
3. Sadie Adler
Full of hate and fire, Sadie Adler’s transformation from grieving widow to vengeful outlaw is fantastic. Over time Sadie eventually emerges as one of the gang’s best gunners and even turns into one of the best bounty hunters around by the time the credits roll. It’s a very satisfying arc to watch, filled with beats that are both horrifying but entertaining to watch — usually involving an O’ Driscoll biting the dust. The best thing that can be said about Sadie Adler is that she just doesn’t give a damn what you or anyone else thinks about her, and that’s probably why she’s so good at anything she puts her mind to.
2. Dutch Van der Linde
The leader himself. One could argue that the entire story is mostly concerned with Dutch’s breakdown, which is why Dutch gets all the big scenes as we watch him slowly unravel. The writing for his character and the work of voice actor Benjamin Byron Davis successfully leads you into believing in the man’s inherent charisma even when it’s clear that he has no plan or hope, and is just someone clinging for survival. However, it would be a disservice to call Van der Linde a coward or rat. His return in the epilogue to help John finish off Micah is a fantastic finale and one that indicates some vestige of the brave, honorable man that Dutch Van der Linde once was lay among all the wreckage he’s wrought on himself.
1. Arthur Morgan
When Arthur was revealed to be the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption II, people didn’t really know what to make of him or how he was going to compare to John Marston, one of the most beloved characters in video games. Morgan’s gradual transformation from unlikeable, gruff henchman works because it’s supported by a powerful underlying pathos that slowly unfolds throughout the course of the story. Whether it was the fact that Dutch and Hosea took in Arthur and groomed him to be a psychopath in order to earn their love, the failure of his relationship with Mary Linton, or the death of his son Issac, Arthur has lived a hard life.
A key plot twist halfway through the game reveals that Arthur has been diagnosed with tuberculosis. There’s no plot fussing or hope-clinging, it is then and there Arthur (and us) know he’s going to die. That moment becomes a crossroads for our hero. How does he choose to live out his last days on earth? As someone fully embracing wanton nihilism and murdering, looting, and destroying their way through the world? Or someone ever so gradually trying to improve the lives of those around him? It’s ultimately a choice left up to the player. But regardless of the decision, Arthur Morgan emerges for the first time in his life a man free of the manipulations around him. He rebels against Dutch, advises (and possibly aids) brother-in-arms John Marston to leave the outlaw life, and goes out on his own terms.
More than anything, Morgan reflects the difficulty of the word “redemption.” In the original Red Dead, John Marston’s redemption was clear, with him sacrificing himself up to save his family. However, Morgan’s a more complicated protagonist and his redemption is more of a question mark than an absolute. Does Morgan redeem himself? Does it matter? Even if he doesn’t, he’s still one of the most fascinating character arcs we’ve seen in games ever. Period.
For more on Red Dead Redemption II, check out our list of 101 things you can do in the game as well as our Red Dead Online impressions.