The Dutton family tree is slowly becoming clearer in 1923. While the Taylor Sheridan series has kept things confusing (actors throughout the Yellowstone franchise can’t even figure out how their characters are related), 1923 Episode 3’s shocking ending seems to have cleared things up about the family lineage. But the answers could lie in 1923 Episode 5, premiering Sunday, February 5 on Paramount+, or beyond. And with the series possibly spanning two seasons, the wait could be even longer.
1923 Episode 3 saw the bitter end of James Badge Dale‘s John Dutton, Sr., who until now was presumed to be the great-grandfather of Kevin Costner‘s John Dutton III. His death throws that into question, and Dale told TV Insider he’s just as confused by it as we are, saying he has “no idea” who John, Sr. is to John III. “If someone figures it out, they can let me know.”
“We would talk about this all the time on set, and we couldn’t figure it out,” he said. “I know Luke Grimes [Kayce Dutton in Yellowstone], and he would call me and be like, ‘I don’t know how we’re related either.’ We were trying to figure it out. I think Taylor probably has a few more curveballs planned.”
Brandon Sklenar, who plays John’s brother Spencer in 1923, told us in a separate interview that there’s “a lot to be learned” about these Dutton brothers when Spencer returns to Montana. He and Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer) will begin their perilous journey back to the ranch in Episode 5, prompted by his brother’s murder. And while we won’t see these Dutton siblings reunited, Sklenar teased there’s still plenty to be revealed about them both.
“There’s a lot that will be learned as the series unfolds,” he said. “Everybody’s got a long road ahead of them, and there’s a lot to be discovered.”
John’s death itself was a curveball that made the narration in 1923 Episode 1 make sense. The second scene of the prequel’s premiere features narration from the grave from 1883‘s Elsa Dutton(Isabel May). Her words reveal a lot about the fate of her two younger brothers, John and Spencer (Dale and Sklenar in 1923).
Elsa, John, and Spencer are the children of James and Margaret Dutton (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill‘s characters in 1883). In her 1923 narration, Elsa said that of her parents’ three children, “only one would live to see their own children grown. Only one would carry the fate of this family through the depression and every other hell the 20th century hurled at them.”
The voiceover came as viewers watched Spencer walk through an African landscape carrying a dead lion with his hunting partners. This was the first hint that it would be Spencer to carry on the family name. And now that Elsa and John, Sr. are both dead, it seems even more likely.
But John’s son, Jack (Darren Mann), could also carry on the line. Who made John a Sr.? Here, we break down the possibilities.
Who is John Dutton III’s father?
The birth of the second John Dutton could likely be seen in 1923. Initially, we theorized that Emma Dutton (Marley Shelton) would reveal she’s pregnant after John’s death or that we’d learn Jack is a nickname for John and Mann’s young cowboy is actually a Jr.
Then we remembered one key thing: John III’s father was not John, Jr. He was John II (played by Dabney Coleman in Yellowstone Season 2). A junior is named after their parent, but a “II” could be a niece/nephew, grandchild, etc. of someone in the family.
One confusing aspect is why Dale’s John was given the “Sr.” when 1923 got started in the first place. If there is no John II yet, how is there a Sr.? 1923‘s character descriptions ahead of the show’s release named him as such — we don’t hear Dale’s character referred to as John Sr. in the series’ first four episodes. And the only name listed for Mann’s character was Jack Dutton, with no hint of John being his given name.
The series including “Sr.” at the end of John’s name does imply that John II will be part of 1923 at some point. And with this confusion surrounding it, it seems the reveal could be a major plot point.
Who is John Dutton II’s father?
Should the birth of John II be part of this prequel, it seems most likely that Spencer or Jack, who are both currently in the throes of passionate romances, will have a son and name him John Dutton II after the late John. If Spencer is John II’s father, that would make him John III’s grandfather. If Jack is John II’s father, that would make John, Sr. the great-grandfather of John III.
The shootout that killed John, Sr. injured Jack and his fiancée, Elizabeth Strafford (Michelle Randolph), but it didn’t seem fatal (and despite his many wounds, we really doubt Harrison Ford‘s Jacob Dutton is going to die anytime soon), but we don’t yet know if Elizabeth’s gunshot wound will affect her ability to conceive (the wound was in her abdomen).
Helen Mirren‘s Cara Dutton wrote to Spencer urging him to return to Montana from Africa following his brother’s murder. If/when he comes home, he’ll probably have his new fiancée, Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer), on his arm. Either of these marriages could result in the birth of John II.
Elsa’s narration says it will be one of James and Margaret’s children who continues the family legacy through the years. While it seems most likely that it will be Spencer now, it’s not impossible that she could have been referencing John, Sr.’s son. But given how 1923 is positioning Spencer as more of a major character than Jack, our money is on Spencer being John III’s grandfather.
1923, Sundays, Paramount+