New "Yellowstone" series 1923 doesn't shy from brutal Indigenous history

by Charles Gerian

“Man doesn’t own the grass! The mountain owns the grass, God owns the grass! And you’re not God, Jacob Dutton.”

Taylor Sheridan’s Dutton dynasty expanded this weekend with the premiere of 1923 on Paramount+ and delivered an incredible hour of television setting up a series that very likely could end up being better than it’s predecessor 1883.

In the early 1920s we meet Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) who was brought to Montana to tame the land that the early Dutton settlers- his brother’s (Tim McGraw) family- could not. We meet his wife Cara (Helen Mirren) and his nephews including the world-weary WWI veteran Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and John Dutton Sr (James Badge Dale) as well as Sr.’s son Jack, the young romantic cowboy-to-be.

Jacob finds himself at the center of a range war the sheep ranchers are running out of grass and trespassing onto the Dutton land (and other neighboring lands) to feed their stock.

The only problem is that with a drought and a plague of locusts, the cows need the grass just as bad and there isn’t enough to go around. With a range war brewing, Jacon and the other cattlemen devise a risky plan: they need to bring their herds together and move up into the mountains to greener pastures (literally).

On another continent, Spencer Dutton is big game hunting in Africa and having flashbacks of World War I. His story has not linked with our central conflict in Montana yet, but I have a good feeling it will.

Amidst the ranching woes, 1923 takes it’s biggest and boldest narrative break from African game hunting to an Indian boarding school in Montana where a young Native American woman Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves), seemingly a great ancestor of “Yellowstone” mainstay Thomas Rainwater, is being harassed by her teacher, a nun.

The nun takes the disobedient Teonna to see the head master Father Renaud (Sebastian Roche aka Balthazar or Mikael for all you Supernatural / Vampire Diaries fans) who doles out horrific punishment for both, creating a seemingly shared trauma bond between Sister Alice and Teonna. The Native American “reeducation school” is a subplot that should hit home around here, and paints a grim picture of what these (very real) institutes were like.

Teonna’s subplot is incredible but the relation to the core Dutton story is unclear yet. 1923 is readying up to be the next great American series, much like how 1883 was, and it is abundantly clear that the main “Yellowstone” series in almost an afterthought to Taylor Sheridan who puts so much effort into his spinoffs it is astounding.

However, this weeks’s “Yellowstone” was actually phenomenal, and the midseason finale is in two weeks. Season 5 so far has been a mixed bag, but with Rip assembling his own “suicide squad” on a mission to Texas and Jamie becoming an unhinged terror, it seems that the main series has a chance to finally be as good as it was in Season 3 again.

“1923” is now streaming on Paramount+ “Yellowstone” airs Sundays on The Paramount Network.