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1923 Premiere Cliffhangers Leave Two Duttons in Mortal Danger

Stars Darren Mann, Michelle Randolph, James Badge Dale and Marley Shelton tease what comes next

Lauren Piester

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the series premiere of 1923. Read at your own risk!] 

There's a whole lot going on in 1923, and it almost feels like a trick, because it's hard to decide what to be most worried about. Will Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar) be eaten by a leopard in Africa? Did Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) just get shot in the face by an angry sheep farmer right before his wedding? Will Teonna (Aminah Nieves), who currently has no connection to the Duttons as far as we know, escape that wretched house of horrors filled with nuns? It's chaos, but it's hard not to immediately be along for what's sure to be an exciting ride. While we can't yet answer any of the burning questions posed by the multiple cliffhangers, TV Guide did get a chance to talk to stars Darren Mann, Michelle Randolph, James Badge Dale and Marley Shelton to get more information about the Dutton family dynamics at play in this whole new century. The world, as Mann explains, is now far bigger than it was in 1883, but that doesn't mean it's any less dangerous. 

Jack and Liz

Early on in the episode, we learn that Jack is set to marry Liz next Wednesday, but the wedding will have to be postponed due to an urgent issue with the cattle that requires all the cowboys to take them somewhere for a week. Liz was furious until Aunt Cara (Helen Mirren) explained to her that this is the life of a rancher's wife, so Jack headed off with the cattle, only to then be shot at by a local sheep herder who was illegally using Dutton grazing land. That cliffhanger leaves Jack and Liz's future in the balance, but Mann and Randolph almost make it seem like he makes it out alive. Randolph, or one, thinks their happiness can last. 

"It's up to the characters if they want to look at things positively," she says. "As you experience hardships in life, you can let it harden or you can be resilient and stay hopeful. And I think in the show, Jack and Elizabeth have a really strong foundation between the two of them." 

Mann adds that while he doesn't think creator Taylor Sheridan will shy away from being "raw and real," "the nice thing with Jack and Liz is that they've got such a cool, wholesome, beautiful young relationship that's going to be a fun journey for the fans to go on with them." 

And yes, we should all be worried constantly about Duttons not surviving, but Mann and Randolph agree that Jack and Liz are "the hope of the show," so maybe his death is not so imminent. 

Helen Mirren, 1923

Helen Mirren, 1923

Emerson Miller/Paramount+

John Sr. and Emma Dutton 

The elder child of the late James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret (Faith Hill) from 1883 and his wife don't exactly take center stage in this premiere, but they're a central part of the Dutton family. John is right hand man to his uncle Jacob (Harrison Ford), and Emma seems to fill a similar role next to Cara. Their relationship as a couple isn't entirely clear yet, and they laughed when asked if the pair is happy. 

"What a loaded question," Shelton says. "But I think we are. We are devoted to each other, to family life, to the Dutton way of life. I think we are devoted to the way of the ranch and all that encompasses and preserving that tradition and the legacy of the Dutton ranch. I think we're very stoic, but it's a necessity to be stoic because of what we're up against. We're a little bit hard bitten. We use words sparingly, but there's a lot of love there I think." 

"And we're always trying to learn about each other," Dale adds. "We're trying to explore each other and that, as actors, keeps us interested, and I think that's the important thing when you're shooting these scenes." 

Their son, meanwhile, is basically the opposite of his stoic parents. "He's sort of this lightning in a bottle wild card," Shelton says. "He has this optimism and fearlessness that kind of clashes with our more conservative traditionalism, and I think that throughline through this story comes up a lot, this new generation, new way of life, vs. the traditional, tried and true. That feeds into our family dynamic a lot as well."

What the 1923 Premiere Tells Us About the Dutton Family Tree and the Family's Future

Brandon Sklenar, 1923

Brandon Sklenar, 1923


Spencer Dutton 

Spencer, the much younger brother of John Dutton Sr, was so traumatized in WWI that he moved to Africa to hunt down murderous animals, instead of returning to his family's ranch. When we meet him in the premiere, he's hunting a leopard that is terrorizing a camp of tourists. We watch one leopard devour a woman who had sort of flirted with Spencer and gasped at him drinking coffee in the evening, and then, at the very end of the episode, a second leopard lept right at Spencer. Did that leopard eat him? We'll have to wait until episode two to find out. 

"I think it's interesting how different people deal with trauma," Dale says of his onscreen brother. "I think that's a lot of this storyline for every character involved. How are they dealing with this? Because some people aren't gonna make it, and who can come out on the other side of it, and are they okay when they come out on the other side of it?" 

Based on the way Shelton and Dale speak about a potential brotherly reunion, it doesn't seem like it's happening any time soon. (Or ever, if Spencer was eaten by a leopard.)

"I'm curious to see, if you and Spencer reunite, what your relationship is like as brothers," says Shelton. 

"I'll call him right now. I'll ask him," Dale jokes. "He's the best guy, and he's so good in this." 

It seems unlikely that all of those scenes in Africa would have been worth shooting if Spencer's just going to die, but we know someone is. The late Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) made that clear in her ghostly voiceover when she said, "My father had three children. Only one would live to see their own children grown. Only one would carry the fate of this family through the depression and every other hell the 20th century hurled at them." We can't forget that Elsa basically spoiled her own death at the beginning of 1883, and the beginning of this premiere showed a desperate Cara toting a gun through the wilderness and shooting a man. Clearly, her family is no longer all intact, but how many of them have now been buried alongside Elsa in that family cemetery? We'll soon find out, whether we want to or not.

1923 continues Sundays on Paramount+.