Harrison Ford’s Yellowstone Prequel Better Than Original Series? First Reviews Are In

Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren's new Yellowstone prequel, 1923, is getting high marks from critics.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

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Harrison Ford’s highly anticipated prequel to Paramount Network’s Yellowstone dropped over the weekend, and the first reviews are starting to be posted online. Overall, the consensus is that 1923 is a worthy addition to the growing Yellowstone franchise created by Taylor Sheridan. The series, starring Ford and Helen Mirren, is the second prequel to the original series and follows the events of 1883, which premiered in December 2021.

While only the first episode was available for reviewers to judge (and the press will have to watch the episodes as they drop weekly, like the rest of us), 1923 is getting high praise, and it’s not only because Harrison Ford was added to the Yellowstone franchise. According to Polygon, one of the biggest reasons why the first episode of 1923 is gathering applause is because of the strong character development around Helen Mirren’s character, Cara Dutton. While the men on the ranch are busy talking in gruff voices and arguing about how to fix the challenges they’re facing, Cara, the matriarch of the family, quietly and effectively gets things done.

Each rendition of Yellowstone follows a different generation of the Dutton family as they live on the ranch the series is known for, with the two prequels showing how the events of the present-day ranch came to be. 1883, the first spin-off of Yellowstone, follows James Dutton (Tim McGraw) as the first settler and patriarch on the Montana ranch. Fast forward 40 years, Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford), James’ brother, is now the head of the family, and he runs the Yellowstone Ranch with his wife, Cara.

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Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in a promotional image for 1923

In their review, IGN agrees that 1923 has strong writing, and that’s one of the major reasons why the premiere was so well-received. They also suggest that another reason why the Yellowstone franchise does so well and has a history of breaking records is because of the high production value and financial ability to cast major stars in a television series. Both Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren are household names and by casting them in the Yellowstone spin-off, Paramount is able to draw in multi-generational audiences who tune in to watch their favorite actors but stay for the compelling story.

Film review site JoBlo believes that Sheridan, Mirren, Harrison Ford, and the rest of the team did a “great job” balancing three different storylines in the Yellowstone spinoff, though they did complain that with so much going on, it is difficult to understand what 1923 will actually be about.

What we know so far is that Jacob will do his best to keep his family’s legacy alive while his wife Cara helps quietly support him in the background; meanwhile, Cara and Jacob’s nephew, Spencer (Brandon Sklenar), is away hunting lions in Africa while dealing with the trauma of fighting in WWI. A third subplot follows someone who is not a part of the Dutton family or the ranch, Teonna (Aminah Nieves), a Native American teen at a residential school run by the sadistic Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle). How the three plots will come together and how they will contribute to the overall franchise we will have to see unfold over the eight-episode series.