The entirety of the Red Dead Redemption franchise revolves around flawed characters trying to change their ways, starting in the original game with John Marston and following up with Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2. Even though those two protagonists have both meaningfully changed by the end of their storylines, there are many characters in the Red Dead Redemption games who are never able to make up for their past.
In the Red Dead Redemption franchise, nearly every character could be considered “bad” in some way. Living a criminal lifestyle, many of these people are, at least indirectly, involved in crimes such as robbery, extortion, and murder. For a character to have found redemption in the context of this world, they must have made choices that meaningfully changed their life for the better, such as leaving the outlaw life or putting the gang before themselves.
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The characters who failed to find redemption are those who became consumed with greed or paranoia, disregarding those around them for their own selfish benefits. Listed below are their unfortunate tales.
Bill Williamson in Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption 2 players become accustomed to seeing Bill Williamson as the punchline to a lot of jokes, ranging from what Arthur says to him at camp to what the gang talks about on missions. Despite his grumpy and cold demeanor, Williamson appears to be a loyal member of the Van der Linde gang, consistently following Dutch’s orders and keeping the camp safe. This all changes in Chapter 6, however, when Williamson is one of the gang members who takes Micah’s side against Arthur and John. Williamson sides with the majority, saving himself instead of doing what is right.
Later on, in the events of the original Red Dead Redemption, Williamson is one of the game’s main antagonists. When John first approaches him he has no interest in a meaningful conversation, instead insisting that he is happier being a leader without the interference of Dutch and his old gang. As Williamson goes deeper into the outlaw lifestyle, he shows no interest in reconnecting with John or finding a way out of his criminal ways. Whereas so many of Red Dead Redemption 2‘s characters find the error in their ways, Williamson simply continues on with business, seemingly without any guilt or remorse.
Javier Escuela in Red Dead Redemption
Similar to Williamson, Javier Escuela is a loyal ally to Arthur for most of Red Dead Redemption 2. However, when Dutch asks who is with him (and Micah), Javier sides with him, despite Arthur pleading “think for yourselves.” This betrayal, which comes after Arthur has just recently risked his life to save Javier’s on Guarma, shows that Escuela would rather protect himself than do the right thing.
Javier’s role in Red Dead Redemption is again similar to Williamson, although in Escuela’s case he now works for the Mexican Government. When facing his own capture (or possible death) at the hands of John, his last ditch effort for freedom is to offer to give both Williamson and Dutch’s locations to John. Considering these are the same people that he sided with years prior, it demonstrates that Javier would sell out anyone if it meant he could survive. Since Javier remained selfish throughout his life, he was never able to find redemption.
Molly O’Shea in Red Dead Redemption 2
Unlike Williamson and Escuela, both of whom made more direct decisions that harmed the people around them, Molly was a victim of poor circumstance. O’Shea spends most of Red Dead Redemption 2 as the main love interest of Dutch van der Linde, but as the game progress players watch their relationship begin to deteriorate. Ad Dutch goes from a caring leader to a paranoid mess, Molly’s attempts to connect and reason with him fail. Drifting away from Dutch, Molly becomes desperate in her attempts to win back his affection.
Unfortunately, her desire to snap Dutch out of his paranoia leads to a mistake that not only harms herself, but the Van der Linde gang as a whole. In Chapter 6 of Red Dead Redemption 2 she returns to camp still drunk from Saint Denis. She then begins berating Dutch, claiming that she isn’t like “any of your stooges,” a reference to the gang’s blind faith in Dutch. She eventually “admits” to ratting the gang out to the Pinkertons, a reveal that players later find out is a lie. While O’Shea likely told Dutch she ratted in a desperate attempt to anger him, or at the very least grab his attention, it ended up costing her her life. In addition, it protected the actual snitch, which lead to further misfortune for the rest of the gang. Despite being a sympathetic character, her final action hurt the people she cared the most about.
Micah Bell in Red Dead Redemption 2
Many of Red Dead Redemption 2‘s characters may not have found themselves on this list if it weren’t for Micah Bell. Micah is the engine that cause the downfall of the van der Linde gang, through both his manipulation of Dutch as well as his correspondence with the Pinkertons. From his introduction it is easy for players, as well as Arthur, to see that Micah is a bad man. By the time the rest of the gang can come to this conclusion, the damage has already been done. Not only does Micah’s eventual death keep him from redemption, but based on what players see in the epilogue of Red Dead Redemption 2, it appears he never felt an ounce of regret for the things he had done.
Dutch Van der Linde
The leader of the Van der Linde gang and Arthur’s surrogate father, Dutch begins Red Dead Redemption 2 as a likable and trustworthy man, one who clearly puts his gang first and fights for what he believes is right. Even when Dutch does do unexpected things, such as putting the gang at risk to help Eagle Flies, it is ideologically consistent with his belief in a free country for all. As the gang becomes more desperate, however, Dutch seemingly stops putting the group first, leaving people behind and trusting people like Micah for advice. When Dutch eventually turns on Arthur and John, it demonstrates just how unstable he had actually become.
Despite killing Micah at the end of Red Dead Redemption 2, Dutch continues his bad deeds in the original Red Dead Redemption. When he and John first come face to face, Dutch is holding an innocent woman hostage. After taunting John for marrying Abigail, Dutch kills the woman before making his escape. When he is finally cornered by John, he tries to excuse his actions by claiming he had to spend his whole life fighting change. Although this might have been true earlier in his life, by the time of Dutch Van der Linde’s death he had become a shell of the man he once was. In the story of Red Dead Redemption, Dutch never comes close to atoning for his actions.
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