All eight glorious horsey seasons of McLeod’s Daughters comes to TVNZ on Demand today. Sam Rutledge ranks the daughters – by order of McLeodiest (just go with it).
“Farm soap” isn’t as a ubiquitous term as I’d like it to be. All the drama of a regular soap, but plunked into the rural wild where there are horses and big old airy houses and a lot of cowboy hats. That’s what McLeod’s Daughters promised me when I started watching it and that’s what it delivered on. It was like Days of Our Lives but if every actor was outside on a horse for 40 minutes an episode. Sheer bliss.
McLeod’s Daughters ran for an impressive eight seasons with over two hundred episodes in the can, which I think is roughly half of the amount of daughters that Jack McLeod was responsible for fathering (no one fact-check this, thank you).
We never actually meet this infamous horndog, mind you. The guy who managed to have three different daughters from three different women dies as the impetus for the series’ beginning, but his legacy lives on in the amount of drama his life choices caused.
Mainly, who is the most entitled to his beloved farm, Drover’s Run?
It’s always the women who are in charge at Drover’s. Consistently, no matter how many changes of ownership or management the place went through during the show, there was a point made that women ran this world, and if there’s one thread McLeod’s manages to carry through it’s that. It’s probably why the show is called McLeod’s Daughters.
So I decided to find out which of them, if any, was the best McLeod. The McLeodiest of Daughters, if you will.
Jodi Fountain, introduced in the first season as the housekeeper Meg’s daughter, eventually finds out her mum had kind of a wild past and the guys she thinks is her dad isn’t her dad at all, and her real dad is Jack McLeod. Jodi can get a little wild herself, though, and her antics included hosting some strippers who had broken down in a van near the farm, getting involved in drag racing (the car kind not the fun queer kind), almost getting married to a Spanish dude before calling it off, and perhaps most notably: faking her own death to go into witness protection.
This is all pointing towards Jodi being not entirely of sound character; sort of an unreliable kind of person, so who’s to say what would happen if she were given any real responsibility to uphold the McLeod name? The name that she only got in like season 4 so it’s not a huge part of her identity anyway? Not the McLeodiest Daughter, sorry.
Sidenote, I have a question. Say you had a secret affair with the dad of the two adult women you’re essentially looking after, and also the daughter who resulted from that affair also lived in the same house and had no idea… WHY WOULD YOU EVER BECOME A HOUSEKEEPER FOR THAT FAMILY IN THE FIRST PLACE. What kind of insane move is that to make. Meg Fountain is bold.
Regan McLeod is not technically a Daughter, but when Jodi fakes her own death she inherits part of Drover’s Run, which I think gives you just as much Daughter status as actually being sired by Daddy McLeod. Regan is a McLeod cousin and when she arrives on the scene it’s for shady purposes: she wants to mine the place for gold like an old-timey prospector.
This doesn’t go over well, but when she gets bitten by a venomous snake (Australia!) and Tess has to save her life she changes her tune a little bit. Eventually, because there are no other McLeods about who are doing anything useful, she basically takes over the farm. She does an okay job, but given that she’s really a cousin and also had that weird gold obsession, she is not the McLeodiest Daughter.
I want to say that McLeod numero uno in order of birth is also unequivocally the best McLeod, but I cannot.
Claire McLeod is the eldest and crankiest McLeod daughter, which is a delight to me because I am also the eldest and crankiest daughter in my family, and we also both prefer horses over people. Claire should be the McLeodiest Daughter – she wants the farm to run smoothly; she has good ideas about how to make it better; she kicks all the useless men out of the place in episode one and has a very Beyonce’s Run The World attitude about her.
One problem: she dies in season 3.
THE WORST THING THAT MCLEOD’S DAUGHTERS EVER DID TO ME was killing off my very favourite horse-riding non-hetero. It’s not quite killing-Will-Gardner-on-The-Good-Wife, but up there. It hurt me so bad in my heart-parts that I a) had to sleep in my mum’s room when I watched it at the tender age of 12 and b) as a result I have not returned to it since.
When I rewatched the series some six or seven years ago I just fully skipped that episode when it came up, I couldn’t do it. And since it’s so relatively early in the series and was extremely rude, this takes Claire out of the running for McLeodiest Daughter. You could have gone all the way, Claire! You had the makings of a champion! Why would you accidentally plunge your ute off that cliff!
That means there’s only one daughter left.
independent journalism happen!Find Out More
Tess McLeod is the other OG McLeod. She’s Daddy McLeod’s second daughter and she’s a city gal, from the Big Smoke, where she moved to with her mum when Tess and Claire were kids. When she first comes back to Drover’s it’s not with good intentions. Tess is a different kind of golddigger: she wants to sell her dad’s farm for money so she can open a cafe. Bit of a yikes move to tell that to your butch sister who is clearly an absolute farm nut, Tess, all her shirts are plaid and she owns like 12 horses, where do you think she’s going to park them all without Drover’s Run?
However, Tess honestly comes around pretty quickly to the farm thing, and really steps up to help when the place is in jeopardy, which is almost all the time. After Claire dies she raises her baby, looks after Drover’s until her boyfriend dies in a plane accident then comes back from that plane accident actually alive and wants to move to Argentina, then moves to Argentina – presumably to sell La-Z-Boys. I don’t know if she’s the one who stuck around the longest or not (Jodi might have edged her out in terms of screentime), but in terms of character development she did the most to go from wearing flimsy dresses in high winds to embracing rural life to the fullest, and for that I am going to bestow upon her the title of McLeodiest Daughter.
You can watch all eight seasons of McLeod’s Daughters on TVNZ on Demand from today.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and do more investigations. Or get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel when you contribute $80 or more over a year.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.