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James And John Dutton's Relationship In Y: 1883 Explained

Paramount Network's new "Yellowstone" prequel series, "1883," has finally arrived, bringing with it all the gritty brutality that makes its parent show so captivating and transferring the ruthless tone of "Yellowstone" from the present day to the Old West. "Yellowstone," of course, follows John Dutton (Kevin Costner), the patriarch of the Dutton family and owner of the show's titular ranch, as he fights tooth and nail to keep it from being taken from his family. As the show has progressed, viewers have learned that the Duttons will, indeed, do anything to protect their family legacy.

"1883," meanwhile, begins before said legacy was even created. The prequel series follows the first Duttons to ever enter Montana as they flee from poverty in the hopes of making a fortune out on the frontier. Leading the pack is James Dutton (Tim Mcgraw), who might be an even more brutal man than Costner's John. 

The first episode of "1883" sees James gunning down a group of highwaymen all by himself and later shooting a pickpocket in full view of numerous witnesses. The character fully embraces the lawlessness and unforgiving nature of the Old West, which is something that his descendant, John Dutton, tries to emulate in his own story, though, murder is a bit harder to get away with in the present day. 

That said, their reckless brutality makes it clear that both characters are definitely cut from the same cloth, so what is their relationship, exactly?

James is a man with quite a few stories to tell

As it turns out, Tim McGraw's James is not just an ancestor of Kevin Costner's John Dutton, but actually John's great-grandfather. James' son (who appears in "1883") was the first John Dutton, while the one viewers know in "Yellowstone" is actually John Dutton III (via Yellowstone Wiki). As crazy as it might seem, the two men are only removed from each other by three generations. What's even crazier is that, considering it's still unclear when exactly James Dutton died, it's very possible John Dutton III's father might have actually met the grizzled old cowboy who is featured so prominently in "1883."

Taking all this into account, it will be important to monitor the parallels that emerge between John and James as more episodes of "1883" are released. After all, based on everything we've seen in "Yellowstone," it certainly seems like violence and toughness might simply run in the Dutton family. Costner's John is a formidable man in his own right, but he wasn't the first member of the Dutton family to embrace the ruthlessness of the West.

"1883" proves that McGraw's James started doing that long before John Dutton III ever did. As the "Yellowstone" prequel continues telling its story too, fans will get to see just how much James is ultimately changed by his fateful journey into the Wild West.