Yellowstone, the smash hit Kevin Costner TV series about modern Montana rancher John Dutton’s feisty clan, already spun off one prequel, 1883, starring Faith Hill and her real-life husband, Tim McGraw, as John’s great-grandparents. Now Harrison Ford, 80, and Helen Mirren, 77, portray Jacob — the brother of McGraw’s character — and Cara Dutton, the great-great-uncle and great-great-aunt of Costner’s Yellowstone character. Here’s what happened in the debut episode on Paramount+ Dec. 18, along with hints at what’s coming up next.
What’s going on in Montana in 1923?
People are still reeling from World War I and its Spanish flu pandemic aftermath. Horses share the dusty streets with newfangled horseless carriages. Long before the Great Depression hit the nation, a 1920 depression strikes Montana. Electricity is coming, and Prohibition is rearing its ugly head. You think Duttons are fierce? Try suffragettes who’d like to burn down every barroom and squash sin like a bug. Montana was the first state to repeal Prohibition in 1926. Cowboys like their drink!
What’s worrying Ford’s Jacob Dutton?
All of the above, plus cattle thieves, drought, locusts and a dastardly, mustachioed East Coast interloper, Donald Whitfield (former 007 Timothy Dalton), who says, “I want the whole valley!”
Any other enemies for Jacob?
The irascible Scots whose sheep graze on Dutton land, eating his cattle’s grass. “Stealin’ grass?” snaps a sheepherder (Game of Thrones’ Jerome Flynn). “Man doesn’t own the grass; the mountains own the grass. God owns the grass. And you’re no God, Jacob Dutton!” Wearing the cowboy version of Indiana Jones’ heroic hat, Ford — in his first TV series — snarls, “Graze on another man’s lease again and I’ll have your whole flock, and I’m a man of my word!” Age has only improved Harrison Ford’s snarling ability.
Jacob’s cattle are dying fast in the lowlands — what can he do?
“I’ve got the ground,” he says, referring to his grasslands up on the mountain. “It’s high. Bears and wolves will be plaguing us; we’ll have to sit with them all summer. I say let’s push the herds together, take them up there and sit with them till the fall.”