September 21, 2023

Go back in time 100 years to learn more about the Dutton legacy in 1923. Melissa reviews 1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story Season One

In 1883, the show ended with the Dutton family’s arrival in Montana and the death of their teen daughter and narrator Elsa. There were two flashbacks to the year 1893 in season 4 of Yellowstone. They showed James Dutton (Tim McGraw) and his two sons, the then-teenage John and the younger Spencer born after they arrived in Montana, and Margaret (Faith Hill) living in a cabin on what would become the Ranch. However, the second flashback eludes John’s death.



Thirty years later, we learn that after John’s death, a desperate Margaret wrote to his brother, Jacob (Harrison Ford) to come and help. Ultimately, he and his wife Cara (Helen Mirren) arrive in the winter to find Margaret dead and the children half-starved. Together, they’ve raised the boys and turned the Dutton Ranch into the powerhouse we know. But in the immortal words of Shakespeare, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” Trouble is brewing as the post-war drop in meat prices hits the ranchers and sheep farmers in the area hard. It’s not long before the family is beset with conflict as one of these sheep herders, Banner Creighton (Game of Thrones’ Jerome Flynn), allies himself with a twisted miner Baron (Timothy Dalton) to take the Dutton’s ranch from them. When war ignites, death comes again to the family.


Meanwhile, in British-controlled Africa, the younger son Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) is a game hunter hired to hunt man-eaters to protect colonists and rail workers. He meets the young and bored Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer) and is instantly smitten, and she is with him. The problem? She’s engaged in what she calls “a business transaction”. Ouch. Rather than marry a Lord she doesn’t love, and crave adventure, she runs after Spencer to join him on a hunt. Alas, the course of true love never did run smoothly as these two face not only adventure but near death together multiple times. And all before having to deal with the fallout of running off together. While on their way to America to assist his family, they run into her former fiancee and his family, who turn out to be members of the Royal Family.

1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story


Like its modern set predecessor, there is intrigue and plotting galore on both sides of the conflict. This is not a show to watch or have on in the background while you do something else. You have to pay attention to catch everything. There are a lot of characters introduced all at once to keep track of. And with all the Dutton men except for Spencer having names that start with J, it’s rather confusing. My own family had a hard time keeping track of who was who and how they were related to the modern-day Duttons and the ones from 1893. I’m even still a bit confused as the Yellowstone Wiki lists Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) as the father of Kevin Costner’s John. But if my math is correct, he’d have to be his grandfather.

There is a subplot dealing with an ancestor of Chief Rainwater, Teonna, attending an Indian boarding school and escaping. Her story is brutal but needs to be told as it’s something the history books like to gloss over. She deals with cruel nuns, even crueler priests, and bounty hunters as she tries to make her way to freedom. Which of course is relative for her people. In the end, we see her traveling with her father and a young man from the reservation trying to get to Comanche land where they believe the government presence is less. I’m curious to see how her story plays out.

1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story


A very brief subplot deals with the ranch foreman and his wife, who we find out is Chinese. There is a brief mention by him as having a family he can’t see in an early episode. It’s not until the end we finally see her and their kids. Unfortunately, the Duttons’ enemies crash the reunion beating him and arresting his wife for breaking interracial marriage laws. Honestly, this needed to be worked on better. Like Teonna’s story, this is an important part of history to tell. But time wasn’t devoted to it. There was no build-up.  It seemed like an afterthought that Sheridan wanted to touch on.


Elsa again narrates, which I find odd since she is dead at this point in the timeline. Unless it’s supposed to be her looking down on the family as the story continues. I’m not sure I agree with the choice. I think I would have rather had Helen Mirren’s Cara narrate as the reigning matriarch. Ultimately, I feel she was chosen to keep things consistent due to the actress (Elizabeth May) having a good voice for narration. However, as these historic prequels progress, I think I would rather see a new Dutton woman take up the narration each time.

Some historical inaccuracies bugged me. I immediately questioned why the Mauritania was docked at a port in Kenya. I ship I was under the impression was a trans-Atlantic liner (it was). Or if the Royal Alexandra was engaged to existed. He did and was coincidentally married to a woman named Alexandra. Ten years earlier than the show was set. Clearly, Sheridan didn’t do his due diligence with research. While American audiences probably wouldn’t notice, this anglophile did. Most shows create members of the nobility to avoid trampling history unless dealing with actual historic events.

1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story


My final issue was that it took seemingly forever for Spencer to find out what was going on back home. Purely because he refused to read Cara’s letters. Thank the Force for Alexandra who forces him to read them or he would have never found out. Then their journey home seems to be beset by numerous setbacks. The journey would have historically taken months as it is. But they seem to come across way too many obstacles, nearly dying multiple times, to the point they are nowhere near setting sail for America when the season ends and they are separated.

I thought at least they’d land in London or New York by the end to set off on the final leg of their journey. With the revelation at the end back on the Ranch, we’re left with a cliffhanger wondering if he’ll even make it in time to help save the family. Of course, we know he will since the mothership exists, but still.

1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story
Harrison Ford as Jacob Dutton and Helen Mirren as Cara Dutton in 1923 streaming on Paramount+ 2022. Photo Credit: James Minchin III/Paramount+


All this being said, the cast does an amazing job. Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford are superb as the Dutton leaders. And as a couple that have been together for decades. Dalton is chilling as the villain, and Jerome Flynn is excellent as the brash Creighton. Both young actresses playing Alexandra and Elizabeth did excellent jobs playing fierce, strong, independent women like Elsa before them and Beth and Monica to come. I liked the bonding Cara and Elizabeth did. And I can’t wait for Cara to meet Alexandra because I know they too will get along.

While I think there were a few missteps, I think that’s due to the shortened season and a lack of adequate research. Overall though, it doesn’t distract too much from the overarching Dutton story. I’m eager to see the conclusion and how this will fit into the larger story and lead into the next prequel. Four Stars for this period drama outing in the Yellowstone Universe.

1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story – Season One is now streaming on Paramount+

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