For the past few years, there’s been a phenomenon sweeping my social media feeds. From young and old alike. City folks to rural residents. They talk up a piece of IP I’m unfamiliar with: hot cowboys, family drama, gorgeous landscapes, and beloved characters. I’ve seen the posts, the tweets, about all of it, but I’ve never been able to join in until now. I dub thee thus: The YCU™️© aka The YELLOWSTONE Cinematic Universe. Yes, it’s only on TV (so far), but it’s a universe of fictional characters inhabiting three tv shows and counting: YELLOWSTONE, 1883, and now: 1923.
From writer/actor/director Taylor Sheridan, YELLOWSTONE kicked it off, premiering in 2018 with Kevin Costner as a Montana rancher named John Dutton. 1883 was a one-season limited prequel series that followed in 2021. 1923 is a two-season sequel to 1883 but also a prequel to YELLOWSTONE, which premiered in December 2022. Now that we’ve got out of the way: I haven’t seen any of it except these first few episodes of 1923, and thankfully, we don’t need to have seen them to enjoy this outing. This new show, which stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as another generation of the Dutton family, focuses much of its time on the changing Montana landscape of the early 19th Century and the turmoil that went along with it.
Ford and Mirren are just an absolute delight to watch onscreen together. These are two of the most badass actors of modern film, now both around 80ish, and you’ll fall absolutely in love with them. Jacob (Ford) and Cara (Mirren) Dutton are two aging cattle ranchers in an era when cars were replacing horses, western cities were experiencing rapid growth, and the Great Depression was already flirting with the west years before it would hit the rest of the country. Many of the Montana ranchers want to do things like they did a half-century before: If someone wrongs you, take justice into your own hands or get none at all. In 1923, Montana had been a state for barely 24 years, but just long enough to now have laws that don’t look kindly to folks who kill their neighbors over a disagreement.
1923 has two main side plots, one potentially more interesting than the Dutton-centered stories. Native American actress Aminah Nieves portrays Teonna, a young woman who has been stolen from her family and forced to live in a Catholic boarding school on the Montana prairie. The priests and nuns that run the school display constant cruelty toward Teonna and the other indigenous women who live there. Nieves is exceptionally talented, and Teonna’s story is sad and infuriating. She’s the only focus character in 1923 that is not directly connected to the Sutton family. Nieves is listed on IMDB to be in all of this season’s eight episodes, so I hope to see a strong progression in future episodes. An additional side plot focuses on Jacob and Cara’s nephew Spencer, working overseas in sub-Saharan Africa.
1923 has just two seasons planned at eigh-episodes each. It’s Ford’s first TV series and Mirren’s biggest TV role since PRIME SUSPECT. It feels weird to come into a universe three shows in, and in the middle at that. But I’m glad to be a part of the YELLOWSTONE family, at last.
1923 streams new episodes every Sunday on Paramount+.