Blu-ray TV review: ‘1923: A Yellowstone Origin Story, Season One’
Another prequel to Paramount’s “Yellowstone” franchise delivered yet another emotional gut punch for fans consumed by its American West mythology.
Creator Taylor Sheridan made his mark of pain by debuting the series “1883” in 2021 that piled on the death and suffering with a frontier look at the Dutton family, and now 1923: Season One (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, rated TV-MA, 2.00:1 aspect ratio, 465 minutes, $31.99) continues the tradition.
Set in and around Bozeman, Montana — a town on the verge of urbanization and where automobiles are now challenging horses for the dominant transportation mode — the story introduces Jacob (Harrison Ford) and Cara Dutton (Helen Mirren).
The childless, married couple moved to the U.S. from Ireland to take over the sprawling Yellowstone ranch after the passing of Jacob’s brother John and sister-in-law Margaret and adopted their remaining children John Sr. (James Badge Dale) and Spencer (Brandon Sklenar).
Now, the patriarch of the clan, Jacob must protect his livestock and the Dutton property from drought, a rich perverted mineral baron (played devilishly evil by Timothy Dalton) and a villainous sheep herder (“Game of Thrones” Jerome Flynn) out to steal the land and ranch.
Intertwined within this main plot, and equally intriguing, are a pair of narratives twinged in history.
First, a British socialite (Julia Schlaepfer) engaged to a member of the royal family runs off with a World War I veteran turned big game hunter in Africa, who happens to be an all-grown-up Spencer Dutton. What could possibly go wrong?
Next, a rebellious American Indian named Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves) escapes from the horrors of an indoctrinating Roman Catholic girls boarding school after murdering two nuns to reunite with her Crow people. What could possibly go right?
Of course, Mr. Ford shines as the crusty father figure, but Ms. Mirren steals the show as the determined Dutton matriarch of the family as she’s willing to step up and fight off any challenge.
Viewers get all eight episodes on a three-disc Blu-ray set and will be equally impressed by the incredible high definition, full screen visuals spotlighting the plains and mountainous regions of Montana and the steamy, wildlife-rich Serengeti in Africa.
Most depressing beyond despair is the cliffhanger and various subplots beckoning for the second season. Heck, even “1883” offered a door slammed shut, although resolved in the cruelest way possible.
Best extras: Paramount does a great job of informing viewers of the history and production behind the show with a selection of featurettes.
First, each episode gets a roughly seven-minute wrap-up called “Behind the Story” featuring on-set, behind-the-scenes discussions with the cast and crew.
Next, a generous 47-minute segment offers an overview of the entire series with more interviews as well as diving into the characters, locations, costuming, production design, set decoration, horseback work, weaponry and the continuity in the franchise, but, be forewarned, it has some crossover with the “Behind the Story” segments.
Most informative of the bunch is a 15-minute, comprehensive look behind the editing process with Chad Galster as he explains the process of compiling footage and assembling the episodes.
The editor explores the use of director Ben Richardson’s five-camera dailies; a breakdown of specific scenes such as a lion attack in Africa and a World War I flashback; the use of computer-generated effects; and creating a template for the sound editor.
Rounding out the extras are a 14-minute backgrounder on the saga of indigenous American Teonna Rainwater explained by Ms. Nieves and a 17-minute promotional primer to the series hosted by “1883” actor Lamonica Garret (Thomas) with plenty of cast interviews.