Can you imagine being stuck on a cruise ship with your ex-lover for three weeks? Because that’s where we were, unexpectedly, heading in the season 1 finale of Paramount’s Yellowstone prequel, 1923.
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When we left last week, Alexandra had just encountered her jilted fiance and his family over a rosé-fueled bistro meal in Italy as the couple prepared to board a luxurious ocean liner for their final passage to the U.S.
Well, as it turns out, snotty-nosed Arthur and his aristocratic family will be joining the sailing. The crew and passengers of the luxury vessel are inevitably in for a wild ride, as Alexandra and Arthur will be forced to come to terms with their shared past and present. But things come to a head rather quickly when Arthur foolishly demands a duel with Spencer—a battle that Spencer, in his defense, tries to excuse himself from.
After Spencer, predictably, “wins” the duel (let’s be honest, it’s never that easy for Spencer and Alex), Arthur draws a pistol, prompting Spencer to tackle him, sending him flying over the ship’s railing.
Bye, bye Arthur, but bye, bye Spencer and Alex as well. Spencer is exiled from the ship, while a distraught Alex escapes from her locked cabin, vowing to meet Spencer in Montana, but not before landing a well-timed punch to the face of Arthur’s father.
Three boat rides in, however many sharks fended off, leopards killed, and we are still… well, 5,000 miles from home at the time when the Duttons need Spencer more than ever.
Finding love in the chaos
Teonna, taking refuge in an old mine, is finally reunited with her father, thanks to Pete. The newly-formed trio leaves their camp, planning to head south where they believe they can blend in with a Comanche tribe. Still, Teonna’s father wants to make sure anyone who comes along next knows precisely what has happened here, scrawling “Child Killer” in blood on the chests of the two deceased priests while Hank’s body is wrapped neatly in animal hides.
Teonna and Pete later cozy up together at the fire, much to her father’s chagrin.
“All your focus should be on surviving,” he tells her. “Fall in love later.”
But Teonna’s tired, and honestly, we can’t blame her. “They’ve been trying to kill me since they took me. I don’t believe in later; I believe in right now,” she retorts before later falling asleep in tears in Pete’s arms.
Like Spencer and Alexandra, their journey is far from over, too—law enforcement discovers the camp and, rightfully, predicts they’ll be heading south, gaining a terrifying edge over them by swapping their horses for a train.
The struggle for Yellowstone
In the Dutton camp, Banner has his day in court, causing predictable mayhem and a scuffle in the courtroom when he again promises revenge against Jacob and his family. (Later, while whining to Whitfield over a whisky, Banner even pledges harm to Cara.) Jacob scoffs at the courthouse’s removal of hitching posts in favor of parking spots, setting us up for a conflict that will take center stage next season: industry and innovation further infringing upon the Yellowstone way of life.
Things are hard in the Dutton household: a stingy banker denies Jacob’s request for a loan to buy hay for his cattle to get them through spring, Elizabeth suffers a heartbreaking miscarriage—something alluded to last episode, and to add the ultimate insult to injury, Whitfield, who’s continued to cruelly abuse the two sex-workers we met last episode, descends on the property, telling the Dutton that they’re behind in their property taxes and he’s found a nasty loophole in the code that will allow him to retain the land’s deed should the Dutton’s not repay him.
It’s cunning and conniving and sets up season 2 perfectly: We need Spencer now more than ever, as Jacob is aging (he complains to Cara of numbness in his hands shortly before the episode ends), and finances are tough. The fate of the ranch hangs in the balance, and now we might have to wait nearly a year to tie up all those loose ends: Will Spencer ever make it home—and, if he doesn’t, can Jacob repay Whitfield to save his family’s homestead? Will Teonna ever be able to live peacefully?
This finale also sets up an interesting side plot in the story of Zane Davis, the Dutton’s beloved ranch foreman. Zane heads home for a visit with his wife, who is Chinese-American, and two adorable children, but his visit is foiled when our undercover double-agent friend alerts law enforcement, who beats and arrests Alice, his wife, for violating the state’s 1879 miscegenation law, which forbids mixed-race marriages.
Racial tension and the conflict between industry and agriculture show a changing, evolving society, something that’s sure to be at the forefront when we return for season 2.