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The Wildest Moments From 1923

The period drama and "Yellowstone" spin-off "1923" had a lot to live up to. Not only did it need to satisfy fans of the Kevin Costner series, but it had to follow "1883," an acclaimed Western that boasted an all-star cast that included Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Sam Elliott. However, "1923" managed to up the ante with its own group of Hollywood legends led by Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and Timothy Dalton.

Set in the titular year, "1923" reintroduces the Dutton family, who have carved their legacy into the side of the Montana mountains and are clinging to a world that is quickly passing them by. They're faced with new challenges as the modern world encroaches on the former frontier. From desperate rival ranchers like the vicious Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) to greedy tycoons like power-hungry Donald Whitfield (Dalton), it seems like everyone wants a piece of the Yellowstone ranch. Still, that is just part of the story.

Though the show's first season is just a scant eight episodes, "1923" also wove in the gripping story of Teonna (Aminah Nieves), a Native American girl who must fight back against her oppressors when she's forced into a Catholic school. We also meet Spencer Dutton (Brandon Sklenar), who must make a harrowing journey from Africa to America. Like "Yellowstone" and "1883" before it, there is no shortage of eye-popping moments in Season 1 of "1923," and now that it's over we've picked out our favorites. 

Cara's rage

Much like its predecessor "1883," the first scene in the season premiere of "1923" features one of the Dutton women already engaged in a violent confrontation. Beyond that, just like Elsa's showdown with a Lakota warrior in "1883," the scene is later revealed to be a flashback. This time it pits Helen Mirren's Cara Dutton against a member of a ruthless gang of thugs. The scene opens on an injured man limping through the woods. When he stumbles, he's shot in the back by an unseen assailant.

As the man scrambles for his pistol, the camera turns and we see Cara — a silver-haired older woman, not exactly the sort you'd expect to be a vengeful gunslinger — raising a double-barreled rifle. The man begs for his life, appealing to her virtue by saying that she doesn't want to become a murderer. When he realizes she's out of ammo, however, the two engage in a mad dash to reload their weapons, with Cara winning out and blowing him to kingdom come.

It's a bold statement for the series, letting the audience know in its opening scene that Cara is not the weak, matronly mother figure audiences might expect. She will protect her family at any cost — and may heaven have mercy on the man who would come to her doorstep looking for trouble. After all, the Dutton men aren't the only ones to be feared.

Teonna's fury

Paralleling the story of the Dutton family in the mountains of Montana is a tale of a young Native American named Teonna. A young, headstrong girl, Teonna has been torn from her family and forced into a Catholic boarding school, as was the regrettable custom of the day. However, Teonna is not willing to appease the sisters at the school, who want to take away her heritage, forbid her to speak her native language, and erase her very identity. In her very first scene, we learn right away just what kind of fierce soul Teonna possesses.

When the vicious and vile Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle) begins rapping her with a ruler for getting a question wrong, Teonna responds with an exclamation in her own tongue — only to receive more lashes. In response, Teonna lashes out herself, mercilessly beating Sister Mary bloody. This is the start of her journey to freedom, but it will not be an easy escape. First, she is taken to Father Renaud (Sebastian Roché), an even more twisted Catholic leader, who punishes Teonna by making her watch him brutalize Sister Mary further before mercilessly beating Teonna himself.

In this alarming sequence, "1923" doesn't hold back in shining a light on the real-life atrocities faced on reservations in the early 21st century, who were stripped of the right to religious and cultural expression. This includes the violence endured by countless Native American children, all in the name of religious righteousness.

A deadly leopard attack

In the premiere episode of "1923" we learn that Spencer Dutton is far from the homestead in Montana. Changed by his wartime experiences fighting in WWI, Spencer has become a big game hunter in Africa working for the Protectorate. At the climax of the opener, Spencer is brought to a camp in Nairobi where he is hired to kill a wild leopard who has been attacking British citizens.

However, Holland (Nick Boraine) — the man who hired him — doesn't tell him that there were actually two sets of leopard tracks at the camp. As a result, Spencer is unaware of the true threat. Ready for just a single leopard, he comes upon the grisly scene of the animal feasting upon the splayed body of a young woman who went out for an ill-advised midnight stroll. After killing the creature, Spencer's two African guides try to warn him of the continued danger, but it's too late. In a stunning closing shot to the first season premiere, the second leopard attacks from behind, mauling Spencer and leaving his fate dangling in a precarious cliffhanger.

In a bloody opening salvo, the leopard attack sets the stage with a terrifying jump scare from a blood-thirsty leopard. In the aftermath, a wounded Spencer — having killed the beast with his bare hands — angrily confronts Holland for not warning him, showing us just what a fearless and downright savage man Spencer really is.

Hanging the Irish

The season premiere had more than one enticing cliffhanger, with the sudden appearance of rival rancher Banner Creighton and his gang approaching Jack Dutton (Darren Mann) on horseback. They'd trespassed on the Yellowstone to allow their sheep to graze but opened fire on Jack once caught by the young cowboy. 

When the second episode opens, Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) hears the gunfire and comes racing to his nephew's aid, surrounding Banner and his men. He pistol-whips the Irishman, and reminds him about what he said would happen if he trespassed on his ranch. Jacob Dutton isn't ready to kill them in cold blood, and in one of the most eye-opening scenes of the series, he coldly strings up Banner and his men by the neck while seated on horseback with their hands bound behind their backs. Should their horses run, they'll be hung to death. In a stark statement on what it means to cross him, Jacob rides off, leaving the men to their fate. 

Unfortunately for the Duttons, while most of the men don't survive the night, Banner manages to work himself free and plot his revenge. A chilling, jaw-dropping show of force from the grizzled elder Dutton, Jacob's hanging of Banner and his men shows just how unforgiving he is when someone seeks to take anything — even grass — from his ranch. However, it also sparks a bloody feud that defines the series, turning a bitter Irishman into a vengeful villain.

Alex runs away with Spencer

Not every one of the wildest moments in "1923" is a guns-blazing shootout or a narrow escape from the jaws of death. Some are just thrilling moments of human drama, and in Episode 3 we get just that with a dramatic escape that will alter the fates of the Dutton family in an unexpected way. It all begins at an estate in Africa where Spencer is waiting for his next hunt. There he meets a young, repressed Englishwoman named Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer) who is there for her pending nuptials.

Alex is urged by her girlfriends to talk to the mysterious American hunter Spencer Dutton, who we then learn is quite famous as a renowned war hero who now hunts man-eaters. We also learn that Alex isn't so happy about being wed to her husband-to-be. In the episode's closing moments, she runs from her wedding party — and her fiancé — straight into the car of Spencer Dutton, who is off to Tanganyika to hunt a spotted hyena tormenting railroad workers.

While Spencer warns her that where he's going isn't safe — and seriously suggests that a life with him isn't a life she wants — Alex is intent on trading in her prim and proper English life for something more exciting. It's a heel turn for the story and one that will have serious repercussions for everyone, though at the moment it's just a wild change of heart that stuns friends, family, and audiences too. 

Elephants and lions, oh my

It's wild life for Spencer Dutton, who is a soldier-of-fortune hired by the Protectorate, which needs a capable man to take down the deadly beasts that threaten their citizens on the African plains. Following his adventure in Nairobi, Spencer is now accompanied by Alexandra. However, as she is used to a high-class life in London, she's unprepared for the hazards they face, and her first test comes when they're attacked by one of the mightiest creatures in the land. 

While heading to his next job, Spencer takes Alex by car across the dusty landscape, and they suddenly find themselves in the crosshairs of a wild elephant. Their early 20th-century automobile isn't quite fast enough to outrun the giant, nor is it tough enough to withstand the beating that the elephant delivers. Before they know it their car is toppled, and Spencer is forced to kill the majestic creature to stay alive. With their transportation beyond repair, things go from bad to worse as they're lost in the wilderness and must hide in a tree as night approaches while a pride of lions seeks to make them their next meal.

Thankfully, a group of fellow hunters manage to rescue them, but not before Spencer is forced to spend the night picking off lions below as his ammo runs low. A true nail-biter, the experience troubles Alex as she now realizes what a life with Spencer will really be like.

Assault on the Duttons

What would a "Yellowstone" spin-off be without a violent coordinated attack on the Dutton family? Audiences have seen assassination attempts on the family more than once, on both "Yellowstone" and "1883," and in the climax of Episode 3 of "1923," titled "The War Has Come Home," we get another one led by Banner Creighton, who has survived Jacob's hanging and come looking for blood.

It starts with Jacob leading his family on a trip into the city, but on the way back they're surrounded by Creighton's men, sparking a violent shootout. Young Jack's wife-to-be Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) is struck down by a bullet, and Jacob and Cara arm up with rifles while taking cover behind a log. However, Banner has a surprise in store for the Duttons, arriving in an automobile and brandishing a Tommy gun — the weapon of choice of the most dangerous gangsters of the day — which is a threat unlike any that Jacob has ever had to contend with.

Banner unleashes a hail of bullets that strikes Jacob down. Riddled with bullets and bleeding from his chest and mouth, the episode ends on the question of whether Jacob will live to see another day. Though it will be a long recovery, Jacob does survive, but the encounter has serious consequences for the Dutton legacy. His nephew John is killed, and Jacob's wounds leave him so badly injured that the family may need a new leader.

Teonnah's nighttime escape

Teonnah's trouble at the Catholic boarding school only gets worse after her attack on Sister Mary. Repeated attempts to "tame" her led to other nuns abusing her in a series of shockingly vile events. Teonna's struggle for independence reaches its boiling point after a particularly painful and brutal session with Sister Mary leaves her body bloodied, and she realizes her only way to escape this hell is through violence.

Finally ready to make her move in Episode 4, "War and the Turquoise Tide," Teonna stays awake one night in the dormitory and applies the grease from a pipe to her face as a form of war paint. After unsuccessfully attempting to cajole her friend into joining her, Teonna begins packing a pillow case with several bibles. However, she has no intention of studying the Christian religion after her escape. Instead, she uses the sack of books to beat Sister Mary over the head while she sleeps. 

Finally killing Sister Mary by suffocating her with a rag, Teonna speaks to her abuser in defiance in her native tongue. "Know this is my language, know these are the words of this land." To see a young girl in such a disturbingly violent act of rebellion is unsettling, to say the least, and these actions show just how far Teona is willing to go to be free of her oppressors.

Tugboat disaster

If you thought the troubles for Spencer and Alex were over after escaping an elephant attack and a bloodthirsty pack of hungry lions, think again. In fact, their hardships are only just beginning. At least now they have each other. However, once they read the letters from Spencer's Aunt Cara, who is desperate for her nephew to return home to save their family from its enemies, they embark on an epic journey across the world.

Spencer quickly finds passage as a deckhand on a lonely tugboat captained by a weary old man, but when the captain falls ill and dies in his sleep, Spencer and Alex suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives in the open sea. When they find themselves unable to navigate, their little tugboat collides with an abandoned ghost ship and it's a bone-rattling disaster as their vessel capsizes, with Alex trapped beneath the waves. Though Spencer is able to save her, they now face starvation or worse as they must cling to the bottom of the upturned tugboat's rusted hull while sharks encircle them.

As the sun beats down upon them and the danger rises, we're not sure how they'll survive their latest calamity. Thankfully, Spencer radioed for help before the crash, just after the captain had died. Right before their hope truly gives way to despair, they're rescued by a passing ship.

Confrontation off the reservation

Having fled the Catholic boarding school, Teonna finds herself alone on the plains, at the mercy of nature, and far from the reservation. Thanks to a bit of luck she is soon discovered by Hank (Michael Greyeyes), a friendly face who helps hide her from the clergymen that Father Renaud has sent to pursue her. Hank gives Teonna a new name and dresses her in men's clothing, hoping to throw off anyone who is hunting them. Still, when the clergymen come across their camp, they're not fooled for long, and it leads to another savage fight for survival.

Under attack by the clergymen, Teonna is caught in a bitter struggle, gouging one of her pursuers' eyes out in a brutal hand-to-hand melee that will test the steeliest of stomachs. When Teonna is knocked unconscious, one of the clergymen is ready to take out God's wrath on her when Hank emerges and fires his rifle into the man's back. However, when he tries to bring Teonna to safety, Hank is gunned down by one of the clergymen clinging to life, forcing Teonna to do the unthinkable — smashing the man's skull with a rock, leaving her all alone once more.

Once again, "1923" shows us the visceral barbarity of the American West in the early 20th century. Here, even after the rise of so-called "modern civilization" Native Americans are hunted, brutalized, and killed for not doing as they were told.

Zane's family nightmare

Throughout the first season of "1923," the character of Zane (Brian Geraghty) is mostly a supporting player. Following the death of John Dutton at the hands of Banner Creighton, Zane steps up to lead the cowboys but still rarely gets more than a handful of stray lines of dialogue here or there. All of that changes in the season finale when Zane gets his own story in one of the most appalling moments of the series.

We learn that Zane is married to a Chinese immigrant named Alice (Joy Osmanski). They have two children together and, by all accounts, are a loving, deeply committed couple and family. However, the treacherous Clyde (Brian Konowal) — who is secretly working for Donald Whitfield — comes to spy on Zane's home. After tipping off authorities, local police arrive at his doorstep, charging Alice with the crime of miscegenation, a long-repealed law that prohibited marriage and intermingling between races. Sadly, this law still wasn't uncommon in the early part of the 20th century, and in an unnerving scene that will leave mouths agape, racist police officers arrest Alice and beat Zane bloody.

As a late-season plot point that seems to come out of nowhere, we're still not sure where this story is headed. But it raises important issues such as racism and mistreatment of immigrants while adding a new layer to the Dutton saga — one that is sure to have ramifications for Season 2.

The duel on the deck

Like any good series, "1923" saves its craziest moment for the season finale. While audiences may have expected the big climax to feature an all-out war between Banner Creighton and Jacob Dutton, with another fiery shootout culminating in the deaths of some major characters, "Nothing Left to Lose" throws us a curveball. Instead of Jacob Dutton's war coming to a crescendo in a season-ending cliffhanger, it's Spencer Dutton who sees the most dramatic moment as he's forced to confront his new wife's ex-lover with jaw-dropping consequences.

The scene is set when Spencer and Alex board the RMS Majestic for the next leg of their journey to the United States, and they discover that Alex's former fiancé Arthur (Rafe Soule), the Earl of Sussex, will be aboard as well. Despite Spencer and Alex's attempts to avoid a confrontation, Arthur is so driven mad by jealousy that he challenges Spencer to a duel on the deck of the ship. While Arthur may be an expert fencing champion, he's still no match for Spencer, who shows plenty of mercy by simply bloodying his nose. 

However, when Arthur raises a pistol, Spencer is forced to make a desperate life-saving move and hurl him over the side of the ship. As a result, Arthur's father — a prince in the royal line of succession — orders the ship's captain to have Spencer charged with murder, removed from the ship, and separated from Alex.