NOTE: this post contains spoilers for 1923 episode 4, "War and the Turquoise Tide."
The women of the Dutton family have always been fantastic characters, from Margaret (Faith Hill) and Elsa (Isabel May) of 1883 to Beth (Kelly Reilly) in Yellowstone. To absolutely no one's surprise, Helen Mirren's Cara Dutton in 1923 is no different, but that doesn't mean her performance is any less of a delight to watch. And in 1923 episode 4, Cara takes center stage.
In the aftermath of Banner (Jerome Flynn) and the sheepherder's attack on the Duttons in episode 3, Cara battles her pain as she cleans the bloodied kitchen. Thankfully, as she tells Zane (Brian Geraghty), Jacob (Harrison Ford) survived the night, while Jack (Darren Mann) and Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) are also recovering from their wounds. Cara asks Zane to send her letter to Spencer (Brandon Sklenar).
As we saw in the last episode, John (James Badge Dale) did not survive, and as the episode starts, Emma (Marley Shelton) is still asleep in the wagon. She decides to take John's body to the family cemetery, where she can lay him to rest with James, Margaret and Elsa.
Across the ocean, Spencer is finding some peace, as he and Alex (Julia Schlaepfer) enjoy what we're guessing is their honeymoon in a secluded African cove. When they're not consummating their new marital bliss, they peel more of the layers back on each other. Alex reveals she had a brother she lost in the war, while Spencer says he lost his soul, but he is slowly getting it back, and Alex is the medicine.
Banner is not done going after the Duttons, though his numbers are depleted after the attack. Instead of building an army back up, he plans to buy one. He visits Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton), telling him that Jacob and John Dutton are dead (he's half right) and that in six months he'll control the Yellowstone. If Whitfield helps him, Banner says he'll give him mining rights to the Yellowstone land. Whitfield isn't as confident in Banner's position, calling him just an assassin, but he can't pass up this opportunity, agreeing to give him the money to buy soldiers. With his newly formed posse, Banner steals the cattle the cowboys took up the mountains in the previous episodes.
One other casualty of Banner's raid in episode 3 was Elizabeth's father. As a result, her mother arrives at the Yellowstone, planning to take her back east. Jack stands up to Mrs. Strafford though and Elizabeth tells her mother that she is not leaving. With Cara's support, Mrs. Strafford leaves her daughter, now officially a member of the Dutton family.
That mood is quickly soured though when Zane tells them about the stolen cattle. Jack wants to get revenge against Banner, but Cara says she needs to think. She goes to Jacob's bedside, asking God for guidance, but it is Jacob, finally awake, who tells her to let the cattle go and wait until Spencer arrives to make their move. He also tells her to go to the upcoming Livestock Commission meeting in his place, but telling everyone he is hunting the cattle thieves.
We then check in with Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves), where she protects one of her friends by beating up another abusive nun. Of course, Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle) does not stand for this and gives Teonna her worst beating yet, forcing her to beg to be saved by their teachings. But Teonna has no intention of doing that, as she dons war paint, puts a bunch of bibles into a pillow sack and beats Sister Mary to death with them, escaping and heading home.
At the Livestock Commission meeting, Cara does as she was instructed by Jacob, but adds one bit of her own — getting the members to vote and approve the commission creating its own police force, forging Jacob's signature to get the official OK. Banner, believing Jacob is dead, confronts her, calling her a liar. Cara spits in his face and tells him that his fight is with her now, and she has no plans to just shoot him. She also teases Spencer's arrival, which actually seems to have Banner a bit worried.
Back in Africa, Alex finds a batch of unopened letters from Cara to Spencer. He tells her he believed letters were a window out of the insanity of war, but hoping for a letter could get you killed, so he never read them. Alex says she won't share Spencer, even with his demons, so she suggests they read them all. Some emotional, some fun, she learns about the Dutton family and it seems to do some good for Spencer. They get to the last letter, the one that Cara sent telling him to come home. Spencer asks when it was written, Alex says three months ago.
With three months already gone and a long journey still ahead of them, what will Spencer find when he does finally make it back to Montana? However things are going, we know the Duttons will hold their ground. As Elsa (still providing the occasional narration) says, "My family does not hope. We fight for what we believe until we have it, or we are destroyed by the pursuit."
New episodes of 1923 premiere on Paramount Plus Sundays in the US and Mondays in the UK.
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Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).
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