Multiple cliffhangers in the midst of a sprawling 16-episode first season torn in two weren’t what I had on my 1923 BINGO card.
Yet 1923 Season 1 Episode 8 ran for 68 minutes without making a dent in the story.
I certainly couldn’t have been alone in hoping that the 1923 Season 1 finale would end with Spencer reuniting with his family on the Yellowstone.
With the way this story is going, he’ll arrive at the end of 1923 Season 2 Episode 16, followed by an epilogue about their fate (it doesn’t really matter since the Yellowstone is in the Dutton family’s hands a century later) or teasing a prologue before the next iteration of the family saga.
Either way, this abrupt end leaves a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth.
I’m delighted that Teonna has a sliver of happiness in Pete. But I am not thrilled that she, too, is still on the road to wherever she’ll eventually land.
If it’s truly the Cherokee reservation and the Marshalls and the despicable Father Renaud are there waiting for them, what’s the point? Just like the Dutton’s place in the future is cemented with Yellowstone, so is the Rainwater legacy.
And suppose Teonna isn’t Thomas Rainwater’s ancestor. In that case, the story is even less interesting and more pointless other than what it has to say about how poorly the Native Americans were treated.
I’ve said it before. That’s a story worth telling, but it deserved its own spinoff, especially if the two stories shall never meet during 1923. As Teonna is heading toward Wyoming and away from Montana, it’s a safe bet this is a generation of Duttons and Rainwaters with no interactions other than a similar mindset.
They’ve been trying to kill me since they took me. I don’t believe in later. I believe in right now.
Another story that didn’t need to be told in this particular episode? Zane’s. He’s been barely a blip on the radar for the entire season, and suddenly he’s enjoying his happy family and getting laid.
When he asked for the night off, I expected him to be murdered. It’s a trope I could use less of in television — getting to know someone only to cast them away.
In this case, it wasn’t a full castaway, but it was just enough to make Zane less able to fight the Dutton cause. All because he fell in love with and married an Asian woman.
It’s gross that miscegenation was a word, let alone outlawed. But it’s unfair that we didn’t have the opportunity to get to know Zane’s family naturally during the season so that a scene like this would have more impact.
Just like losing John Sr. and Emma rolled off our shoulders, their fate doesn’t carry any weight if we don’t know the characters.
Sure, what’s happening to Zane and Alice and their seemingly adorable kids sucks, but it sucks more for us because his attention will be needed somewhere other than the Yellowstone.
Instead of getting to know Zane and his family, we were getting to know Whitfield. Oh, that’s been joyful. Why is it more interesting to learn how evil someone is for an extended period of time than how much Zane had to lose?
I find it far more interesting that Zane married someone unexpected and kept it under the radar and that he has such a lovely family but still spends the preponderance of his time with the Duttons. Just because he’s not one of the two largest landowners in Montana doesn’t make his story less viable.
By contrast, I would have preferred that Whitfield not be drawn with cartoon villainy. I mean, come on. Casting Timothy Dalton is about as close as you can get to having a living and breathing Snidely Whiplash on the scene.
Sure, he’s using belts now, but how long before he’s tying Lindy and Christy to railroad tracks?
There’s nothing all that fascinating about a corrupt man who would corrupt others to get his rocks off. He has no redeeming qualities. It would have been shocking if he had been portrayed differently throughout the season, only to reveal his true nature when everyone least expected it.
Instead, it was a real head-scratcher why Cara, who has a keen sense of character, asked if he had no sense of decency and wondered what they had done to warrant his behavior. Does she not listen to her husband when he talks?
It was only a couple of episodes ago when he explained how people were gobbling up land on all sides of them, that they were and would always be a target, and that the gentrification of the west wouldn’t do them any favors.
It’s more likely her awareness of her fellow man was swept under the rug to make the scene work.
Whitfield: As I’m sure you’re aware, if I’m not repaid by the end of the year, the deed reverts to me.
Cara: We have done no harm to you. Why would you do this to us?
Whitfield: Because I can. I’m a businessman. The word decent doesn’t apply to me.
Her question allowed Whitfield to speak on behalf of big business even in the 21st Century. Business isn’t decent. It’s all about money, and the two don’t often mesh.
Laws are bent in many directions in the Yellowstone universe, but it shouldn’t take too long to suss out that a banker gave away personal information and allowed a complete stranger to pay taxes he had no right to pay.
Was that even a thing? It seems unlikely, so if someone has research from the era that suggests people could swoop in and pay taxes that weren’t late in an attempt to steal their land, I’d like to see it.
As if all of that doom and gloom wasn’t enough, Elizabeth miscarried, which gives Dutton fans everywhere more to chew on when it comes to the Yellowstone family tree.
But before we jump onto that, Jack’s personality continued to shine during “Nothing Left to Lose.” He was quite enjoyable during the dinner discussion on 1923 Season 1 Episode 7, and his comforting words for Elizabeth after her miscarriage showed that it wasn’t a one-time thing.
Jack: Maybe that’s your purpose, too. Be a mother to those that ain’t got one. A teacher to those who need lessons. We choose our purpose. Word you’re lookin’ for is destiny, and if you want to give God a good laugh, you tell him what you think your destiny is.
Elizabeth: And if I can’t ever have children?
Jack: Then you can’t have children.
Elizabeth: And you’ll never be a father.
Jack: I guess it ain’t my destiny. You’re my destiny.
Elizabeth: You just said you can’t choose destiny. You chose me.
Jack: One look at you, and I had no choice at all. Destiny. Look at all the things God had to give you to choose me. Poor judgment, bad vision, terrible taste in men. We take what life gives us. It’s all we can do.
Jack was raised partly by a woman with more motherly instincts than his own mother. Cara raised Margaret and James’s sons and cared for the wounded after the war. She didn’t need to give birth to find her purpose, and Jack assures Elizabeth that if it comes to that, she won’t either.
Of course, now the question will be whether or not Elizabeth and Jack will go on to have children, especially since Alex was likely not suffering from motion sickness aboard the ship but morning sickness.
It was odd to pick up with Alex and Spencer without seeing how Arthur reacted to their presence, but that was nailed down once they were on the ship. The royal snit had his tighty whities all twisted at what he considered a slight by Spencer for stealing his woman.
It’s bad enough that men of the times (and now, really) considered women among their possessions, but add royalty to the equation, and it’s even worse. Did Arthur live under a rock? How could he be the only person in the world not aware of Spencer’s prowess for the kill?
Well, what a mess you’ve made of my family. And what an embarrassment you’ve become to yours.
If Arthur’s dad thought Alex was an embarrassment to her family, how on earth will he go on after that topside debacle that left his son, a noted swordsman, defeated with quick wit?
As if we needed another moment to pound home the perils of the powerful. The funny thing is that the Duttons are not without power. They are landowners without a mortgage, with sterling reputations. Even though they are tough and strong, they are not seen as dastardly.
So, absolute power doesn’t corrupt absolutely, only when in the hands of people who don’t work for it honorably and wield it responsibly.
Spencer and Alex didn’t need another obstacle. Being a world away from his family when they needed him the most was obstacle enough. Their love doesn’t need to be tested at every turn for them or us to know it’s the real deal.
You may question the marriage, sir, but difficult to question their sincerity.
But their fighting spirit and how the family is counting on Spencer to lead the charge against those causing them harm does give us hope that we’ve had the family line wrong, and John descends from Spencer, who more closely aligns with his departed sister Elsa and his parents, who conquered mountains to find their home in Montana.
Most of this angst that I feel would be gone if there was more than one more eight-episode season before us. But the pacing here didn’t exactly lend itself to confidence in reaching a worthy conclusion.
It seems that Taylor Sheridan’s prequels are more about the journey than the conclusion, which makes sense to a point.
After all, we know where the family is in 2023. But we still fall in love with characters of the earlier generations and would like an idea of how their immediate stories pan out.
For 1883, it was the journey to Montana. Is Spencer’s journey to Montana the 1923 finishing line, or is there another point in the story that we don’t yet know that will mark the end?
And if it’s a Dutton-related journey, how does Teonna’s story fit into it? What is her endpoint that will begin the next part of the Rainwater tale?
Hopefully, you, dear readers, can add your thoughts on the matter. Were you as frustrated as I was with this finale?
Please take a moment to drop below and leave a comment. I share my opinion in reviews. Now it’s your turn!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.