"Intense Survival Stories"
What You Need To Know:
Episodes 2 and 3 of 1923 match the premiere episode for grand excitement and drama. They have superb performances, excellent writing, expanding character arcs, and breathtaking cinematography. However, their moral, pro-family elements, which include two positive references to God, are marred by some immoral behavior. This negative content includes strong foul language, a bedroom scene with brief explicit nudity, brief drunkenness, intense violence, and a brief depiction of a Catholic nun’s perverse behavior. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for these two 1923 episodes.
Episodes 2 and 3 of 1923 on Paramount+ tell two intense survival stories where the Dutton family, led by Jacob and Cara, and their cowboys face off against Scottish sheepherders trespassing on their land, and where Jacob’s nephew, Spencer, a hunter in Africa who kills man-eating animals, falls in love with a pretty British woman and takes her with him on one of his jobs. Episodes 2 and 3 of 1923 match the premiere episode for excitement and drama, with superb performances, expanding character arcs and breathtaking cinematography, but they have a mixed worldview with pagan and moral values marred by some strong foul language, intense violence and an unnecessary bedroom scene in a hotel.
Episode Two, titled “Nature’s Empty Throne,” follows up on the cliffhanger closing shot of Spencer’s battle with a huge African leopard from the pilot episode. Spencer, who was raised by Jacob and Cara when his parents were killed, fights off the leopard, but a second leopard suddenly attacks and kills Spencer’s best native guide and friend.
This tragedy is followed by comedy, as Spencer, Jacob’s youngest adopted son, is sent to Tanzania, to hunt a man-killing hyena in the Serengeti, but not before comically rescuing a young British woman named Alexandra from an arranged marriage. “Find someone who loves you,” she shouts to her former fiancé as Spencer and a driver whisk her away in a fancy white car. Spencer agrees to let Alex come with him, but the decision puts her life in danger.
Back in Montana, Teonna the American Indian continues to suffer at the hands of the nuns and sadistic priest of the government-funded Catholic boarding school while desperately seeking a means of escape. Her grandmother tries to transfer her to a nearby Baptist day school on the Reservation but runs into red tape form the officious federal bureaucrat who runs the boarding school program for Indian children.
Meanwhile, a long drought has hit the area. So, Jacob, his eldest nephew, John, John’s son, Jack, and their cowboys push the Dutton cattle up into the mountains to graze them there on the family’s land. However, the Scottish sheepherder, Banner, and his men have beaten them to the grass with his men. They shot Jack’s horse dead and are about to kill Jack when Jacob, John and their men ride to the rescue. After Banner and his men surrender, Jacob decides to send a message that will have dire consequences for everyone involved.
Jacob, John, Jack, and all but three cowboys return to the ranch to their wives, and, in Jacks case, to his fiancée. The family decides to travel to Bozeman city to celebrate the end of the cattle drive. In the city, the women are treated to all the salesmanship chicanery of the rapidly modernizing age. However, the next morning, they must face the violent consequences to Jacob’s decision to send a message to the Scottish interlopers and any other man who tries to take his land.
These sophomore and junior episodes push the compelling story forward, achieve good character development, and leave viewers anticipating the next episode. Production values are very high with series creator Taylor Sheridan’s stellar writing staying strong, character arcs moving steadily forward, and cinematography reaching new heights with superb shots of Montana mountain ranges and passes, juxtaposed with shots of African thorn trees and animals on the Serengeti plain. Not counting the objectionable content in the two episodes, the story remains riveting, with very little wasted space and taut editing that makes every scene count. Also, viewers begin to get a deeper sense of the time and setting of the series, now a hundred years in the past, when the wounds of the Great War were still raw, and, as Jacob says of ranching, life in general is always tough because, “Easy wasn’t in the job description.”
Episodes Two and Three of 1923 have a mixed worldview where pagan attitudes and behavior are mixed with moral ones. For example, Jacob sees the world as dog eat dog because men are too greedy and too lazy to build their own life but are always ready to steal the life and land of other men. However, Jacob Dutton has a strong marriage with Cara while John has a strong marriage with his wife, Emma. Also, Episode Two has two positive references to God, which contrasts with the poor example set by the Catholic priest and nuns. Finally, swift justice is meted out to the Scottish sheepherders who moved their neighbor’s landmark (see Deuteronomy 19:14) and to the man who was about to shoot Jack dead. The show’s narrative also demonstrates, though, the results of a cycle of violence which has no higher arbitration than two men opposed to each other.
The third episode wisely casts doubt on the so-called progress of the early 20th Century in conversations between Cara and Jacob, where the two are shown to have a very strong marital relationship and much of the modern world’s commercial development is critiqued, including washing machines, refrigerators and razors for women. For example, Cara thinks greed has led businesspeople to convince women they need to shave their legs. Also, John, her eldest adopted nephew, tells an electricity, washing machine and refrigerator salesman that, if people buy electricity and rent appliances from him, they’ll be working for him, not working for themselves.
However, Episodes Two and Three of 1923 are marred by strong foul language, a bedroom scene with brief explicit nudity, brief drunkenness, intense violence, and a depiction of a nun’s perverse lesbian feelings. Though the bad treatment of Indians in the Catholic boarding school reflects badly on Roman Catholics, it was a sad but true part of the boarding school program for Indians in the Midwest that was administered by the federal government and often operated by churches. That said, the Indian grandmother in the series seems to have a positive attitude toward the Baptist day school on the reservation.
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