[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for the 1923 Season 1 Episode 8 finale, “Nothing Left to Loose.”]
Spencer and Alex are geographically closer to Montana than they have been all season long in the 1923 finale, but as the Season 1 ender revealed, they’re nowhere near reaching their final destination.
Season 1 Episode 8 brought the Yellowstone prequel’s debut season to a close on Sunday, February 26 on Paramount+. And while there were no deaths in the episode, there were certainly no happy endings.
In Montana, Jacob (Harrison Ford) and Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren) were struggling to find the money to buy enough hay to feed their cattle through the winter. Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) was released from prison without bail. Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) experienced a miscarriage. Zane’s (Brian Geraghty) wife was arrested for marrying and having children with a white man. Teonna (Aminah Nieves) was found by her father (Michael Spears) and Pete (Cole Brings Plenty), but she’s still being hunted.
In a final gut-punch moment after further abusing the prostitutes in Banner’s home, Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton) paid the property tax on the Dutton ranch, putting Jacob in his debt. If Jacob doesn’t pay Donald back in time, the businessman gets the ranch.
Suffice it to say Spencer’s (Brandon Sklenar) return is more needed than ever. He and Alex (Julia Schlaepfer) were just a three-week cruise away from reaching a U.S. port in the finale, but Alex’s past came knocking when ex-fiancé Arthur (Rafe Soule) and his family ended up on the same ship. Sklenar told TV Insider ahead of the finale that the English royal (the Earl of Sussex, we learned in the episode) would make “his dislike for Spencer known.” And oh, did he.
The slighted Arthur challenged Spencer to a duel after a tense ballroom scuffle. Spencer warned that he kills for a living and therefore wouldn’t lose, but made it clear that he did not want to fight. He was left with no option after Arthur publicly insulted Alex. And on the ship’s deck, the Earl made his contemptible nature all the more clear when breaking the rules of the duel and pulling a pistol on Spencer, who was unarmed with his back turned. Spencer threw him overboard. Arthur survived, but his father (also named Arthur, played by Bruce Davison), demanded Spencer be arrested and Alex confined to her room.
Alex’s friend helped her escape confinement, but she didn’t have enough time to jump into the dingy taking the handcuffed Spencer to shore. They cried out their “I love yous,” Alex said she’d meet him in Montana, and their final scene ended with the newlyweds heartbreakingly separated.
Here, Sklenar breaks down the emotional finale to TV Insider, explaining how all of these heartbreaking endings set up “a massive shift in tone” for Season 2.
I can’t believe they’re separated! What was your reaction when you first read those final ship scenes?
Brandon Sklenar: Oh, it was heartbreaking. I got chills just reading it because they’ve been through so much together. To have that final moment where the audience for the first time sees them say that they love each other — they finally say it, and it’s just so heartbreaking that they can’t hear each other say it. It’s brutal. It’s so brutal.
Even when we were filming it, I had moments where I was removed from myself as the actor, and then also as the character where I was just, you know, the hairs on my arms would stand up and I would just go, “Man, this is just so heartbreaking and so tragic.” To be honest, that’s what Taylor does best [laughs]. It’s a brutal way to end it. This first part, at least.
It is so sad! There’s no happy ending whatsoever in this finale. It’s all just a very sinking feeling, from the Montana cast to you and Julia. It packs a punch.
Yeah, it really does. It really does.
When during this process did you learn about the plot of the finale?
I think we had started shooting when we learned about the finale, but it was pretty soon after we started filming that we got [the script]. Universally, everyone was just gutted by it. Not just our storyline, but the entire episode is just heavy. It’s really heavy, and it’s a big tonal shift. And I think if anything, it’s just setting up the shift that is gonna be Part 2. Cause it’s gonna be a massive shift, I think, in the tone of the show.
Has the ball started rolling on Season 2 production?
I know [Taylor Sheridan] is in his process right now and writing it. Beyond that, I don’t know. Everyone is speculating. I saw our director yesterday for lunch, Ben Richardson. Him and I were both shooting theories out and where we think it’s gonna go and where we hope it goes. I’m excited. I can’t wait to read it, hopefully soon.
I think we’re meant to start [filming] at the end of summer.
Do you have any idea of when Season 2 could come out?
I don’t know when they’re gonna put it out. Your guess this gives mine. It could possibly be on the same timeline as this season, could be sooner.
You all shoot on location too, so weather plays a huge part in that.
Yeah. I know we’re trying to avoid the negative 20-degree Montana winter as much as possible.
I would love for you to rank your favorite Spencer and Alex moments — romantic, or just favorite moments in general. Maybe your top five?
Top five? Oh, man. Not in any particular order, but I would have to say all the Stanley Hotel stuff in Episode 2. Those initial meeting scenes are really beautiful, and I just love the feel of those scenes. Zanzibar. The beach and Zanzibar is really something. The boat, the swimming — all the shipwreck bits. There’s such a shift in their relationship at that point, and what comes afterwards with them getting married, which would also be on the list.
The end of Episode 6 is just so beautiful. It’s the most absolute that we ever see them, in terms of them being comfortable and expressive and just fully in love and not having any imminent death or danger [laughs]. It’s the most at peace that we see them, and that has its own tone and its own vibe. I just really love that. I love that episode and I I love that.
Imagine that, Taylor Sheridan, a peaceful moment.
Yeah, you earn them! You earn them, and you want them. And when they come, you’re grateful for them. As the actor portraying the character as well, you can feel it. You can feel it when you get that breath. It’s nice. Is that four?
That’s four. I do have to say, my favorite moment of theirs throughout the whole season is that scene when they’re at the front of the ship after they get married. It was so cinematic and beautiful. I loved it.
That’s really nice. That’s a good one.
Do you have one more?
I love the waltz scene in Episode 8. That whole waltz scene — that was my favorite thing to film in the whole thing.
It hit that Gatsby feel. It’s also, for Spencer, the visual arc and the internal arc of the character throughout the season. It’s the most realized that he is as a man. He’s showing up for her. She’s feeling very uncomfortable with Arthur, she’s seasick, and now he’s in this space where he’s able to just able to hold space for her, provide her comfort, and be this strong, quiet rock for her in those moments.
He’s taken the effort to put himself together and to show up for her. And he’s waltzing! It’s visually just so stunning. I remember walking on that set, and we were all like, “Damn, this is something special. This is a special set.”
It was really pretty to look at. And her dress in that scene, oh my God.
Oh, yeah. It was so nice.
I thought that you both would make it to Montana by the end of the season, but I think I was kidding myself with that. With a whole season down now, how do you feel about Julia as your co-star?
Oh, she’s amazing. She’s a lovely person. We got really lucky that we got along really well and were able to have a really great working relationship with these characters. And we had fun doing it. I think she killed it, and it’s a joy to watch her. I’m grateful that it worked out the way it did, because it doesn’t always happen that way.
For sure. And hopefully, we’ll get to see you do scenes with Harrison and Helen next season.
I’m hoping so myself. I’m looking forward to it.
Was all your time together just at Cowboy Camp then?
Yeah, Cowboy Camp and the prep process and the premieres. The time I’ve had with them has been amazing. They’re just the best. They’re the best people, and they happen to be legends at what I do. So it’s a treat. It’s a real treat.
1923, Season 1 Streaming Now, Paramount+