Before a brief hiatus, 1923 Season 1 Episode 4 shows us how the second half of the season will unfold.
The story at the Yellowstone and the story in Africa have not been in the same time frame.
The past of the Yellowstone and the present in Africa have finally converged. Maybe.
There’s no doubt that Spencer and Alex will return to Montana. We don’t know whether we’ll see the months-long gap in the time it took for Spencer to receive and read the letter and for them to return play out on the Yellowstone.
It could go either way. With the looming threat Banner has brought to the Yellowstone and financial backing from local robber baron Donald Westfield, a lot could happen in that length of time.
On the other hand, Cara has already set out before Banner how excited she is for him to meet her nephew.
Banner: You don’t have the army for this fight or the money. I have both.
Cara: I cannot wait for you to meet my nephew.
Banner: We’ve met. The boy doesna impress.
Cara: Not that one.
We are, too, Cara. We are, too.
The death and destruction at Banner’s hands didn’t end with the Duttons. It wasn’t said outright that Banner stole the Duttons’ cattle, but didn’t it seem as if it was implied?
The menacing way Cara addressed the livestock committee made it seem like he had a hand in it, even if he was down to three men.
Jacob, so far, is surviving. He’s talking. He’s helping Cara plan for the near future and likely for the far future, as well.
Cara: This is your home now if you choose it.
Elizabeth: I choose it.
Cara: I suppose you don’t have much to discuss after all.
They’re really in dire straights. One of the family’s closest allies, Elizabeth’s father, was killed, along with two other men, during the cattle raid. If it wasn’t Banner’s doing, it shows how incredibly violent those formative years in the American west really were.
If Elizabeth, who Cara and Emma once worried might be too soft for the life they lead on the ranch, wasn’t turned off by the spate of violence, she’s in it for the long haul. Her mother, not so much.
Mrs. Stafford isn’t made of the sterner stuff like Cara and Emma. Cara, who single-handedly cleaned buckets of blood from her kitchen, and Emma, who drove her husband to the family cemetery and began digging his grave, don’t have time for frivolity.
Their lovely day in Boseman feels like a million years ago when it was only yesterday.
Weighing heaviest on Cara’s mind is what Jacob put there — if anyone knows his state, they’ll come around to finish the job Banner started. Banner is already on that path, and he’s not even confident that Jacob is dead.
It was ballsy of him to take his plan to take the Yellowstone from the Duttons to an outside investor, but Banner is a dreamer. He’d never admit it, and it sure doesn’t show in how he deals with the practicality of grazing his sheep on other men’s land, but he’s got his head in the clouds.
It’s bad enough attacking the so-called king of Montana, but it’s another to take another high-powered individual’s money when he can’t promise delivery.
Banner is the 1923 version of the Beck brothers. Nothing good can come of his modest attempts to take what the Duttons have created, but his greedy ass will still try.
The Livestock Commission policing Montana has been bred with Dutton blood, so it’s no wonder John did it and Kayce after him. I wonder if there has been a single year gone by when a Dutton wasn’t at its helm during its hundred years in existence.
The beauty of its development is in Cara flying by the seat of her skirt to will it into being. She had Jacob’s support for running the meeting, but she ran so much farther, proving again why the Dutton women are forces of nature.
It seems unlikely they’ll just hunker down at the Yellowstone while waiting for Spencer to return. They haven’t heard from him in years, but they’re still certain his family ties and love for the land will lure him back when he’s needed the most.
Maybe Banner will spend his time amassing that army he promised, and we’ll have a time jump when the show returns in February. It would make the most sense.
Spencer had never read the letters from Cara because he didn’t trust himself on the fields of war if he turned on his feelings again. The emotional tug-of-war could have been a death sentence.
However, Spencer has opened his heart again, and Alex refuses to share him with his demons. Her plan of attack was simple. She wanted to bring him back to the land of the living by discovering what his family had been up to in his absence.
There’s something so magical about letter writing, and Cara has a gift for it. Each new letter evoked a torrent of emotions, and Alex was introduced to Spencer’s family so entirely that she couldn’t wait to meet them.
It dawned on me that the stack of letters would be complete, including Cara’s letter from 1923 Season 1 Episode 3, but it was such a beautifully filmed sequence that by the time they arrived there, I had already forgotten.
Spencer had already felt more that night for more people than he’d allowed himself in years. He was fully open and unafraid to show Alex how deeply he could feel, which says so much about their love.
Are any of us ready for this chapter of their burgeoning relationship to end? I’m not. The African scenes have been some of the very best on TV this year. Stunning, trilling, and brimming with possibilities, every minute was a genuine pleasure to watch.
Spencer promised their lives would never be dull, and taking Alex home keeps that guarantee. Spencer was right. His family will love her, and she will love them right back.
She didn’t have strong females in her life. She had to break away from the social mores she was born into in the same way Elizabeth did by choosing to marry Jack. There is a possibility of a grand friendship on the horizon with the two headstrong women.
The only thing we know for sure is that the Duttons will retain ownership of the ranch and that someone (right now, we think it’s Jack and Elizabeth, especially since John’s daughter is named Beth) will give birth to John’s father and the family we know will be born.
But the way this story is told reveals many things at unexpected intervals. I can’t wait to see what’s next, but we’ll have to wait until February to get on with the show.
What do you think is coming for the 1923 Dutton family? I’d love to hear from you!
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.