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Episode 1: Meet the Duttons

Right now Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan It is clear that he knows his audience. The opening scene of 1923This is Helen Mirren blasting a man using her shotgun. It’s a shocking first image for the latest entry in the grand Yellowstone canon. In 1923Paramount+ premiered the movie “” on Sunday night. Get used to it. actors in (or approaching) their 80s act like the most badass cowboys you’ve ever seen.

In 1923This is the first episode. Harrison Ford—who, yes, has also been Duttonified—holds up his pistol in a pose reminiscent of a little character named Han Solo. He presses the six-piece shooter against the neck of a sheepherder, and threatens him with violence. Like Kevin Costner’s John Dutton, Ford’s Jacob Dutton is as aggressively stubborn as he is selfish—proving that being a Dutton is fully transmutable no matter what year is in the title. It would have been easy to put Costner in an era machine and send him back a few decades. And yet, if being Costner’s ancestor is all the role requires, then Ford seems like a perfect fit. Ford said that he was proud to be Costner’s ancestor. The New York Times earlier this month, “I don’t want to reinvent myself. I just want to work.”

If you’re not familiar with the larger Yellowstone extended universeYou might find yourself deep within the Dutton family Tree Wiki pages. (Get ready to House of the Dragon flashbacks.) 1923 It is more than a Yellowstone prequel, but it’s a sequel to the previous spinoff, 1883. Does this matter at all? Not entirely! 1923 This could be considered a brief history of Montana’s cattle industry. However, the similarities to the Montana industry can be seen. Yellowstone are still striking. It can’t be a coincidence that both families are in the process of leaving their ranch to herd and brand cattleWhile facing the financial restrictions that such an endeavor places on the family company, he also had to face the challenges of running a family business. In the 1920s it was the Great Depression. The Great Recession of the late aughts brought us to where we are today. Really, though, 1923’s first episode feels like Yellowstone Without the stock market. Wondering what Paradise Valley looked like in cattle ranching’s heyday? Or just what John Dutton tries to preserve in Yellowstone? Well, that’s what 1923 hopes to show viewers—if disease and murder doesn’t get our central family first.

Other than Ford and Mirren’s heavyweight performances, 1923’s debut episode is all over the place. For a Yellowstone diehard, it may be easier to pick up—but otherwise the series offers a bunch of disjointed stories that will eventually coalesce in the future. You just may not know exactly what you’re looking at until we get there. Outside of the various Duttons spread out across Paradise Valley—in addition to Spencer Dutton, who is a troubled WWI vet out in Africa—there’s also a boarding school for Native American girls where a young Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves) is forced into assimilation. The one thing that has remained constant so far is: Senseless violence. The family we follow may be corrupt, sure, but they’re seemingly good-intentioned. The Duttons care about their children and support the ranch’s cowboys. They also fight against evil businessmen and are generally non-discriminatory regarding race and gender. For all the talk of preserving Montana values, however, there’s a lot of murder and deep resentment—early on, a priest, a nun, and a young Native American woman all beat each other until they’re scarred and bloody.

If there’s anything worth preserving in this Montana ranch, it’s what Paradise Valley is supposed to represent—hardly ever what humanity has made it become. If 1883 was the prequel that showed how humans mistreated each other at the expense of nature’s beauty, 1923 This episode will likely show how the Duttons became murderers to protect their paradise. If there’s any throughline in thIt is crazy town, it’s what Elsa Dutton says via voiceover at the very beginning of the episode: “Violence has always haunted this family… and it followed us here.” Spencer Dutton hunts dangerous game in Africa, Teonna Rainwater beats on the righteous whites who deny the Native population their culture, and Helen Mirren unloads shotgun rounds into some poor dude.

It isn’t all murder, though. I can certainly appreciate the natural chemistry of Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren snuggling up in bed at night—even if it conflicts with my desire to watch the Dame mow down more guys, like 1923 isA video game. But if there’s anything I know after watching nearly five seasons of Yellowstone and its other prequel series, it’s that we can have it both ways.

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