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1923 Star Brandon Sklenar Weighs In on the Finale's Massive Heartbreak

He says it will be 'scary' when Spencer finally makes it home to his family

Lauren Piester

[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of 1923. Read at your own risk!]

If you're simply furious about the first season finale of 1923, just know that there was at least one other person on earth who was shouting "What the f–k?!" throughout the entire episode. Everything is Very Bad, thanks partly to the real-life badness of the 1920s and partly to the Yellowstone universe's love of unending torture. Not a single thing is going right in any storyline unless you consider it a glimmer of hope that Teonna (Aminah Nieves) was found by her father (Michael Spears) almost immediately after losing her friend Hank (Michael Greyeyes). He's guiding her to safety, but is safety even a thing? Father Renaud (Sebastian Roche) is on the hunt alongside a cop, and he is beyond pissed. 

Back on the ranch, Liz (Michelle Randolph) had a miscarriage, Jacob (Harrison Ford) can't feel his hands, and Zane (Brian Geraghty) was beaten by police, who also took his wife for the crime of interracial marriage. Creighton (Jerome Flynn) was released from jail immediately because of a technicality (and potential murder charges against Jacob), and now Whitfield (Timothy Dalton) has Jacob owing him property taxes. If the Duttons can't pay by the end of the year, he owns the ranch. Plus, the cattle have no hay! 

And then there's the most infuriating storyline of all. Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and Alex (Julia Schlaepfer) were just trying to mind their business and get to Montana. That wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for Alex's sniveling ex-fiance, the son of some sort of British lord. Alex and Spencer obviously ended up sharing a ship with her ex from Sicily to London, and Alex made the two of them dress up to go to dinner. The ex, who is as sniveling a man as there has ever been, believed the couple is trying to rub their happiness in his face, and he challenged Spencer to a duel. His father highly discouraged that, but did the little rat listen? Absolutely not. He took extra offense when Spencer refused, and eventually, Spencer was sort of forced to say yes. Then of course, little rat man (I've forgotten his name) tried to take the duel from sword to pistol, so Spencer simply threw him off the boat. Spencer, of course, was immediately taken to the brig, and Alex was locked in her room. Her friend, who was still traveling with the ex-fiance, had to beg the ship's captain to not press charges against Spencer because it was self-defense, and the captain agreed. But the earl wanted Spencer off the ship and questioned his marriage to Alex, so Spencer was carried away on a dinghy and Alex was left screaming on the deck, echoing the screams that emanated from a certain writer's living room. 

Unfortunately for star Brandon Sklenar, he was the only person made available to answer to these crimes against me personally, but he was also able to offer some words of Dutton wisdom as we begin the arduous wait for Season 2. 

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

So at what point did you realize that this role would have you on the road all season long? 
Sklenar: Not until I was in Africa. We got the last couple of episodes and we were in Africa, and that's when we found out. And that finale episode, Julia and I read it on a plane somewhere in Africa. And were both just gutted. 

What was it like to film that goodbye, knowing it was the end of the season?
Sklenar: It just adds to the feeling of it all, when you're already at that point, been filming for three or four months or so. You're so immersed in it and the emotions of the character, and we would have moments, like filming that duel scene and where he gets arrested and taken to the brig. We would have moments were Julia and I would step out of it, look at each other, and go, "Man, this is brutal. This is really sad." It was emotional, and we also ended the season filming that, so that was the last thing we shot for the whole season. It was really emotionally involved. 

What does it do to him, being ripped away from her like that? What is his mental state at this point? 
Sklenar: Oh, completely fractured. Yeah, the effect that it has on him is tremendous, and it changes him. And when we see him again—I don't know where it is or how it's gonna go down, but I do know that he's going to be a different Spencer, a different kind of guy, because the amount of guilt and shame that he's already dealing with from the war and not having seen his family for so long…He's already processing all that, and now he ultimately blames himself for what went down. Arthur's dead, he may never see Alex again. He's now even further from [his family]. He doesn't know how he's going to get there. He's thinking that by the time he gets there, they could all be dead. Alex could be dead. He's literally lost everything, and he's fueled by his guilt and shame and anger, and that's about it. So he's in a place, for sure.

1923, Brandon Sklenar, Julia Schlaepfer

1923, Brandon Sklenar, Julia Schlaepfer


So in your mind, what's his first move in Season 2? 
Sklenar: It's tough to say because I don't know where he's going. It's going to be the choice of does he go to find her, or does he go home? He has a really tough decision to make. Does he put his efforts into [finding Alex], or does he go home and trust that she's going to do everything she can to find him and hope that she does somehow? But he's also accepting of the fact that those things might not happen. 

Did he see that Alex had the letters, so she has the address? Does he at least have that hope? 
You know, what's so tragic about that last bit is that they can't hear each other at all. He yells that he loves her, she doesn't hear it. She yells that she loves him, and he doesn't hear it. But he does come to the realization, if not in that moment but shortly after, that she does have his letters and she will have his address. So I think he's just clinging to hope that she's going to find him.

Paired with Cara's voiceover saying Spencer is the family's only hope, it was just heartbreaking. What's it like for you to watch those other storylines, especially knowing you're the one who's supposed to come in and save them? 
Sklenar: I mean, I'm in the same boat as the audience when I'm watching that. I just want them to get home, like come on. Get there already, man! And Teonna's storyline? I'm very, very curious to see where that's going. Aminah does such a phenomenal job playing Teonna and I'm so anxious to see how that links up with everything else, and how it ties together. I know it will be epic. 

Do you almost feel like you're on a different show from everybody else sometimes? 
Sklenar: No, because we spent a lot of time together before we started filming. We spent months together, and we're all very close, and even though Julia and I were away for months doing our thing, everyone kept in touch and very much feel a part of the same family. I can't wait to be back there, and to be in Montana working with them. I'm very excited about it. 

So is that what you're envisioning in Season 2? You see Spencer making it home? 
Sklenar: I feel like he has to. He has to, just to realize his mission and his purpose. It's built up in such a way that he really is this figure that's going to help them and save them and save the ranch. He has to. I'm hoping that it happens. 

And do you think Spencer can do what everybody is hoping he can do?
Sklenar: Oh, yeah. Definitely. He's incredibly capable, especially now…I mean, that level of pain he's carrying. It can either kill you or it can be a superpower, and I think he's leaning more towards a superpower. The strength that gives him is going to be scary to watch, I think.

The full first season of 1923 is now streaming on Paramount+.