1923 review: Yellowstone spin-off brings Harrison Ford to television, grumpy

A good character introduction is one of the best weapons in a TV show’s arsenal. It’s the fastest way to turn viewers into daredevils because it’s easy to forgive many if a show introduces you to someone you think is incredibly cool (which is why me and a lot of other adult adults still love dragonball). 1923the second Yellowstone prequel series after last year’s 1883, has a lot to offer in this regard. It stars Harrison Ford, for his part — the easiest way to get baby boomers and their families to stop what they’re doing and pay attention. And it also helps that creator Taylor Sheridan is pretty good at showcasing cowboys, because 1923The predecessors excel in memorable openings built around their leading men.

1923 is not. Instead, he builds his splashy finish around his female lead.

Helen Mirren is 1923The other big gun from , a legendary actor on par with Ford who will resonate with both older viewers and be enjoyed by younger ones – a clever power play by one of TV’s most popular TV franchises. right now. She’s also, unfortunately, the only bright spot in the former, a quiet force of nature who watches men talk about doing things while she goes about doing them; 1923The first scene shows, as matriarch Cara Dutton, confronting and killing a suspected thief. It’s an act of violence that, above all, no one sees – because when men are watching, Cara will have to act more subtly.

Cara Dutton, holding a shotgun downward, screams skyward in agony in the prequel to Yellowstone 1923.

Photo: Emerson Miller/Paramount Plus

In its dazzling success, Yellowstone became a franchise about the Dutton family, chronicling the powerful ranchers of Montana and their various conflicts with those around them. So far, its spinoffs each focus on a different generation of Duttons – 1883 followed James Dutton (Tim McGraw), the first Dutton patriarch to settle in Montana and establish the Yellowstone Ranch for which the franchise is named.

1923 leaps forward 40 years to Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford), current head of the Dutton family and the Yellowstone Ranch, who is currently trying to settle a dispute between ranchers and herdsmen after a difficult season that leaves the two herds with little to graze. It’s not terribly gripping and mostly consists of scenes where Harrison Ford intimidates outraged farmers with his gruff voice and a six-shot. This is a disadvantage compared to how 1923 presents his wife, Cara, or the manners 1883 and Yellowstone properly speaking their principal men.

You can forget a lot of things that happen in 90 minutes Yellowstone driver, but it’s hard to shake the first moments when John Dutton III (Kevin Costner) calms a horse in a horrific crash before pulling him out of his misery. Or 1883The dual introductions of Pinkerton agent Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott) and James Dutton, the former with a moment of terrible loss, and the latter single-handedly fending off a gang of bandits who should have put him to death.

A line of cowboys ride their horses along a ridge against the setting sun in a beautiful shot from the 1923 Yellowstone prequel.

Photo: Emerson Miller/Paramount Plus

None of 1923 is therefore immediately indelible after the credits of its title. In fact, not much is about the Yellowstone Ranch. A subplot follows Teonna (Aminah Nieves), a young woman at a Montana school for American Indians run by the taciturn Father Renaud (Sebastian Roché). Another features Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar), Jacob’s nephew separated from the family after his service in World War I, currently working as a hunter and guardian of the wealthy on the African savannah. It’s unclear how either plot will play out in the things brewing around Yellowstone Ranch – Spencer’s story feels like a change of pace for the franchise, a diversion before the prodigal son returns to the home. Teonna is more significantly remote – although collision between Native Americans and settlers/ranchers like the Duttons is a regular feature of Yellowstone and its fallout.

With a two-season order in place, 1923 is content to take its time – main antagonist Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton) doesn’t even show up in the first hour, despite his prominent placement in the show’s trailers. Every time this happens, 1923 could turn up the heat – currently he’s not doing much to establish his own identity outside of his period.

This period is perhaps the most compelling thing about 1923, a time in American history when the Wild West of legend was long gone and settlers had to decide how they would live (or not) with the people and land around them. The show is not a radical departure from the Yellowstone franchise – in these shows, Sheridan builds a sprawling libertarian opera house, one where owning land is the highest ideal a man can achieve, and seizing that American destiny makes him a target of those with less ambition. These are men who impose order in a world beyond their control and who most often react to change with violence. And at this point in history, change is coming: the gap between America’s nascent frontier and its cities is at its widest, and the impending disaster of the Great Depression, famine and another world war looms just ahead. Currently, Cara Dutton is the only character in 1923 who seems ready to survive him.

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