1923 episode 8 recap: the Duttons take it on the chin in season finale

Michelle Randolph and Darren Mann in bed in 1923
Michelle Randolph and Darren Mann in 1923 (Image credit: hristopher Saunders/Paramount+)

NOTE: this post contains spoilers for 1923 episode 8, "Nothing Left to Lose."

Let's start off with a huge sigh of relief — there was no miscommunication between Taylor Sheridan and Paramount Plus this time around. The 1923 season 1 finale did not pull an 1883 and wrap up its entire storyline despite a season 2 renewal. So the story of the Duttons in the early 20th century is set to continue, but before that, they really took the "L" in episode 8.

The episode begins with Marshals investigating at the Native American school where Teonna (Aminah Nieves) escaped. They decide to track her and insist that Father Renaud (Sebastian Roché) come too to help identify her.

Teonna is recovering from her attack, which unfortunately ended with Hank (Michael Greyeyes) dying from the gunshot wound he took. Thankfully, help arrives in Teonna's father (Michael Spears) and Pete (Cole Brings Plenty), who take her away.

Camping at night, Teonna's father says they'll go south to a Comanche reservation where they can hide out. He spots Teonna and Pete sharing some glances, but warns them against falling in love while people are trying to kill them. Teonna rebuffs him, saying they've been trying to kill her since they took her to that school, so she chooses to not hold anything back. Teonna's journey this season has taken its toll, as even in a nice moment with Pete, she can't help but break down and cry.

In Bozeman, Jacob (Harrison Ford), Jack (Darren Mann) and Zane (Brian Geraghty) attend Banner Creighton's (Jerome Flynn) arraignment. It doesn't go as they hope, as Whitfield's lawyer convinces the judge to release Creighton without bail. Creighton can't help himself but to chide the Duttons and a fight nearly breaks out.

Later, Creighton is at Whitfield's (Timothy Dalton), vowing revenge against the Duttons. Whitfield tries to calm him, explaining violence will not solve his issue. The revenge he wants can be taken with a pen: stealing the land from the Duttons to create generational wealth for Creighton and his family. That is the kind of power that Whitfield is after.

We see just how obsessed Whitfield is with power as he is still paying the prostitutes we first meet in episode 7. The two ladies reluctantly do as Whitfield bids them, beating one another with a belt. Whitfield explains he doesn't derive pleasure from their pain, but in the power they are exerting over the other through this act. As they grasp that, he gets even more into it. We're getting a much clearer picture of just how much a monster Whitfield is, and how fiendishly good Dalton's performance is.

Timothy Dalton in 1923

Timothy Dalton in 1923 (Image credit: hristopher Saunders/Paramount+)

The Duttons, meanwhile, have little power. Jacob goes to the bank to try and get a loan to buy hay for the herd during winter, but the bank denies him, saying cattle is not a good investment. He then denies their suggestion of taking on a mortgage.

Elsewhere, Zane gets some time to go see his family, a wife, who is Chinese, and two children. Their reunion is a nice scene, but it doesn't last long. Whitfield's spy, Clyde (Brian Konowal), follows Zane and sees he has a mixed race family, which is against the law of Montana at that time. Later, officers come and arrest Zane's wife and beat him up.

Things aren't going much better for Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and Alex (Julia Schlaepfer). Though they are boarding a ship to London, it just so happens to be the same one her ex-fiancé Arthur (Rafe Soule) is on. Alex is ready to stay hidden in their cabin for the three-week journey, but Spencer convinces her to get some fresh air. On deck, they bump into Alex's old friend Jennifer (Jo Ellen Pellman), who tells her Arthur has been distraught since she left him and her family is very displeased. Alex doesn't care. She reveals she and Spencer are married and the only thing she cares about is making the most of her new family. Jennifer admits she is happy for her.

Rejuvenated, Alex no longer wants to hide and instead they dress to the nines to have dinner in the main hall. Arthur is also there, and despite the urging from his father to let it go, can't let Spencer and Alex be. He eventually challenges Spencer to a duel. Spencer refuses until Arthur insults Alex. 

It's not much of a fight, as Spencer quickly overpowers Arthur. The young Brit, however, refuses to yield and charges Spencer with a pistol drawn. Spencer reacts and throws him overboard. The captain arrives just then, arresting Spencer and ordering Alex detained in her cabin.

At the Yellowstone, Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) is not feeling well and takes a bath. However, she soon notices she is bleeding. She has a miscarriage. Feeling like a failure at what is supposed to be her one purpose, Jack comforts Elizabeth by saying Cara (Helen Mirren) never had children, but found purpose in raising him and running the ranch. If they can't have children, they'll find purpose elsewhere.

Making matters worse, Whitfield arrives at the ranch with a trojan horse. He tells Jacob and Cara he has made the first payment on their property tax for them. What that means though is if they can't pay him back by the end of the year, the deed for the ranch will revert to Whitfield.

Aminah Nieves in 1923

Aminah Nieves in 1923 (Image credit: Emmerson Miller/Paramount +)

Teonna's storyline for the season is wrapped up as she, her father and Pete ride out onto the plains for their long journey to Comanche reservation. However, the Marshal and his men are able to suss out where they are heading, and plan to be waiting for them when they get there.

Back on the boat, thanks to Jennifer speaking up about what really happened, Spencer is not being charged with murder, but he is being removed from the boat at the nearest port by order of Arthur's father, a member of the royal family (the Earl of Sussex). The Earl also calls into question the legitimacy of Spencer and Alex's marriage, meaning she isn't allowed to go with him. Jennifer helps get Alex out of her room to try and fix this, but she arrives too late, as Spencer is being rowed away on a dinghy. Distraught, they shout their love to each other and Alex promises she will find him in Montana.

1923 season 1 was a sprawling epic and a blast to watch. We've quickly grown to love these characters and can't wait to see how the story continues with 1923 season 2.

Watch all episodes of 1923 season 1 right now exclusively on Paramount Plus.

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Michael Balderston

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 Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.