Like its predecessor, 1883, the Yellowstone prequel 1923 included a haunting opening scene. Cara Dutton races through the woods to shoot down a fleeing enemy. Though fans now know the story behind this scene, it’s interesting that creator Taylor Sheridan chose this moment to introduce the series. Here’s what happens in the opening scene and why it’s so important for the Dutton family.
What happens in the opening scene of ‘1923’?
1923 begins with a flash forward to a very dark moment. A man rushes through the woods when a gunshot suddenly knocks him off his feet. Cara Dutton then emerges from the woods, holding a shotgun and bleeding from her forehead.
The man begs Cara to take her to the sheriff for justice instead, warning her that killing him will close the gates of heaven for her. “What do you know about heaven?” Cara asks. Her gun jams, and the man scrambles to load his pistol, but Cara reloads and kills him just in time. She then lifts her head and screams.
What does the opening scene mean for the Dutton family?
1923 Episode 3 gave context to this scene. Banner Creighton’s men attacked the Dutton family while on their way home from town. John was killed, and Jacob was seriously wounded. Cara picks up a shotgun and follows one of her family’s attackers into the woods, determined not to let him get away.
While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, James Badge Dale, who plays John Dutton Sr. in 1923, explained why he believed Taylor Sheridan chose this for the opening scene. “It’s just such a beautiful moment,” the actor began.
“That’s the way I look at it: is that the first three episodes are kind of a prologue. This is where the story starts. With the first scene, you see in episode one that’s the beginning of the story. Cara is willfully involving herself in the violence to end things. And that’s where we are now.”
As the premiere continues, Elsa’s voiceover reiterates this point. “Violence has always haunted this family,” she states. “It followed us from the Scottish Highlands and the slums of Dublin. It ravaged us upon the coffee ships of Ireland. Stranded us on the beaches of New Jersey. Devoured us upon the battlefields of Shiloh and Antietam. And it followed us here, lurking beneath the pines and in the rivers. And where it doesn’t follow, we hunt it down. We seek it.”
Helen Mirren comments on the opening scene in ‘1923’
Actor Helen Mirren plays the Dutton family matriarch in 1923, and she had her own thoughts on the show’s opening scene. It’s rare to see a woman onscreen with such power — “and a woman of that age as well,” Mirren said while speaking to Vanity Fair.
Mirren made it clear that Cara doesn’t exactly enjoy the violence that becomes a part of the Dutton’s lives. “Subsequently, we find out why [Cara’s] doing this terrible act,” the actor continued. “But it’s a fantastic opening for any character, really.”