The YELLOWSTONE universe is vast and growing, and I’m way behind the trend on this. The “YCU,” as I like to call it, includes the first show YELLOWSTONE, plus the mini-series 1883, the 2-season drama 1923 (reviewed here), plus at least three more series in development. When I heard Harrison Ford and Dame Helen Mirren were starring in 1923, I was immediately on board. In the interest of full disclosure, I also found out the secret series a friend of mine was filming last summer was also 1923! Yes, one of my friends for going on three decades, Brian Konowal, stars as Clyde, one of Banner Creighton’s (Jerome Flynn) henchmen.
I am all about Harrison Ford’s current TV work (aka SHRINKING and 1923), and Mirren elevates absolutely everything she touches, so even if my friend weren’t a player here, I’d have tuned into every episode. What I knew about the YCA going in was that it has a very passionate fan base and Kevin Costner. It revolves around the Dutton ranching family throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. 1923 is a prequel to YELLOWSTONE and a sequel to 1883. Now that we’re all level set on the facts let’s dive in.
We’ve seen plenty of tv shows that depict the early 1900s in big cities, within high society, or among gangsters. BOARDWALK EMPIRE, PEAKY BLINDERS, THE KNICK, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, AND DOWNTON ABBEY are just a few off the top of my head. The not-so-old west is a fascinating era – when electricity was still uncommon outside metropolitan areas of the US and when the automobile drove into town, replacing the horse as the main means of local transportation. The 1920s weren’t only a dark period because of prohibition, Black Thursday, and the onset of the Great Depression. The All of this serves as a backdrop to 1923 as Jacob and Cara Dutton (Ford and Mirren) fight to hold onto their cattle ranch from competitive ranchers, bankers, and a quickly growing modern society.
There are two “b plots” throughout S1 of 1923 that some say enjoy even more than the adventures of Jacob and Cara. Handsome Spencer, the Dutton’s nephew, lives and works in Kenya. While his story is filled with beauty and romance, 1923 still manages to critique the European colonizers who treat the wild African outback as a place for weekend glamour, with complete disregard for wildlife and conservation. It’s here that the writers don’t delve deep enough into the harm the British have brought to central Africa, but the other big B-plot back in Montana almost makes up for it.
Back in Montana, 1923 takes up the issue of the Catholic Church’s abuses of Native American children. It’s equal parts powerful, sad, and infuriating. Actress Aminah Nieves’s incredible performance stands out among a cast that already includes so many stars. Nieves’s’ Teonna Rainwater is given agency to take control of her fate, and so far (thankfully), the show hasn’t veered into white-savior territory.
While I wait for the second and final season of 1923, it’s time to get caught up on 1883 and YELLOWSTONE. You can stream all of S1 on ParamountPlus.