1923 is the latest entry from Taylor Sheridan in his rapidly expanding Yellowstone-verse. The new series picks up 40 years after the conclusion of 1883 and finds Jacob (Harrison Ford) and Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren) at the head of the Yellowstone Ranch. 1923 will focus on the Dutton family as they struggle through drought, lawlessness, and Montana’s great depression. The series will debut on Paramount+ on December 18. The first episode will also be broadcast on Paramount Network following the midseason finale of Yellowstone season 5. The rest of the first season will air weekly on Sundays beginning January 1st on Paramount+.
1923 NEW DECADE SIMILAR STRUGGLES
The first few minutes of the premiere are spent quickly catching the audience up with what occurred since the end of 1883. Narrated by Elsa (Isabel May) we learn that “violence has always haunted this family” and 1923 makes good on that declaration. We also learn that Jacob and Cara came to Montana at the behest of Margaret after the death of James. A scene Yellowstone fans saw play out in a flashback during Season 4. The pair arrive a year later only to find Margaret dead and her children starving. This sets the stage for Jacob to lead the ranch and raise the future Dutton generation.
The time period might be new, but 1923 looks to be off to a familiar start, dealing with threats to the Yellowstone Ranch. As in Yellowstone many of the problems facing the Dutton family are directly related to their land. This time around, it’s not major real estate developers, but a sheep farmer, Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn), who appears poised to cause trouble. Though I was only able to screen the first episode, I am confident there will be plenty of onscreen tension between Creighton and Jacob and an impending range war.
AN UNEXPECTED STORYLINE IN 1923
One part of the first episode that was completely unexpected was a storyline involving a young Indigenous woman facing abuse at a residential school. During this sequence, audiences are introduced to Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves) who suffers abuse at the hands of those in charge. This part of the episode is difficult to watch. Not because it is bad television, but because of the treatment the girls of the school suffer. These schools were essentially reprogramming centers designed to wash away the culture of Indigenous youth. I applaud Sheridan for this unfiltered look at what occurred at these schools. While there have been times in 1883 and Yellowstone that speak to the mistreatment of Native Americans, this storyline takes it head on.
These scenes do feel a bit removed from the rest of the episode, given there is not a Dutton in sight, but that does not make them any less powerful. I’m sure during the remaining episodes of the season Teonna will connect with the Dutton family in some way.
If the name Rainwater sounds familiar, you might recall Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) from Yellowstone. Thomas Rainwater is the elected chief of the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock and owner of the Grey Wolf Peak Casino. Rainwater has been a staple of Yellowstone since the first season often clashing with the Dutton family. Whether or not this is purely coincidental naming of characters or a potential connection is yet to be confirmed. Though, knowing how Sheridan has used flashbacks and prequels to build out the Yellowstone story, my guess is it was not an accident.
THE DUTTON’S GO GLOBAL
Perhaps one of the more noticeable things about 1923 is where it takes audiences. Of course, the Ranch and Montana are prominent locations that will feature throughout the series. But within the first few minutes of the premiere, we find a Dutton family member very far from the stunning vistas of the American West. Spencer (Brandon Sklenar), the youngest son of James and Margaret, begins the series in Africa as a big cat hunter. This may seem like a strange departure from what we usually see in Yellowstone. As Yellowstone has made its neo-Western home in the American frontier. However, I am very excited to see what Sheridan will do with this new broadening of the scope.
The Yellowstone creator has always done a masterful job of blending the beauty of the environment the characters are in and the dangers it presents. This new location will certainly provide ample room to further showcase those dangers. As Spencer bluntly states “This is Africa, everything is dangerous”.
As part of this Spencer storyline, we also get a very brief glimpse into his service during the Great War. Trauma from the Civil War featured prominently in 1883, and it seems the first World War will be a key part of the backdrop for 1923. Time will tell if we get continued flashbacks to further explore this part of his past. A letter written by Cara as a plea for him to return home alludes to the young Dutton searching for the part of himself that was lost in the war. Depending on where the story goes with this aspect, this could prove to be a very compelling part of the series.
Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. Not much really needs to be said. But I will attempt to anyway. Both actors are legends and both are excellent in their roles here in 1923. Ford, even though in his 80s, portrays Jacob with a determination and gravitas that says he is not to be messed with. As Jacob’s wife, Cara, Mirren displays equal parts compassion and toughness. Mirren effortlessly appears at ease in the role whether wielding a shotgun or discussing the way of a rancher’s wife. But we wouldn’t expect anything less from the star. Unfortunately, we only get a few moments of the two together on screen, but it was wonderful to watch them. I’m hopeful that as the season progresses, we’ll be treated to more scenes of Ford and Mirren together.
The rest of the cast does a great job. Since this was only the first episode there wasn’t a ton of screen time for everyone. But as the season progresses there will certainly be more time for each of the characters to shine. I do have to specifically mention Nieves and her powerful performance during the residential school scene. She did a fantastic job and along with Mirren and Ford provided standout performances throughout the episode.
With only the first episode available for this review, I can’t say for certain how the rest of the season will play out. However, a strong foundation for several storylines has been laid in the premiere. Though with three, seemingly isolated arcs introduced, this first episode can feel slightly disjointed. That is a very minor critique though as each of the stories shows promise. It will be interesting to see if and how the individual stories eventually connect together over time.
1923 certainly has a built-in audience as a member of a hugely successful franchise. But the show does not rest on its laurels, but instead takes something familiar but adds in unexpected turns. With the combination of the cast and the writing prowess of Sheridan, I am eager to see what the rest of 1923 has in store.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
Sound off and tell us what you think! Are you excited about this Yellowstone Origin Story? Also, what other eras do you hope Yellowstone might explore? That Hashtag Show wants to hear from you.
You can tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below. You can find me on Twitter at TheIndianaSlone. Also, be sure to stay up to date on all your Pop Culture and Entertainment news by following us at ThatHashtagShow.com.