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1923 rides into its first season finale with a ton of territory to cover, from Jacob’s escalating battle with Banner and Whitfield to the aftermath of Teonna’s run-in with Renaud’s pursuing priests and, of course, Spencer and Alexandra’s continued misadventures abroad. The extended episode not only picks up this trio of primary plots, but also unravels a few fresh narrative threads, concluding the season with a bang… and many more questions. Let’s dive into the season finale and find out where its myriad cliffhangers leave our favorite 1923 friends and foes. Episode 8 doesn’t continue with last week’s Alex-and-Arthur confrontation, but rather returns to Teonna’s (Aminah Nieves) increasingly bloody tale. The law is hot on the fugitive’s trail, investigating the scene of her crimes at the boarding school. We learn her cousin, last seen being interrogated and beaten by Father Renaud (Sebastian Roche), has “passed.” But she’s not the only student to die there, as there’s an entire graveyard of Native American victims who presumably succumbed to the Catholic school’s abusive disciplinary measures. Thankfully, Teonna’s father and Hank’s son Pete catch up with her first. Before the three hit the trail, Teonna’s dad wraps Hank’s body and scrawls “CHILD KILLER” — in blood — on the bare chests of the pair of dead priests. Later that evening they set up camp, where Teonna and Pete get cozy by the fire — to her father’s dismay. He warns the couple to put their burgeoning feelings aside until they’re out of harm’s way. Tired and traumatized, Teonna’s not having it. She gives Pete a peck on the cheek before crying herself to sleep in his arms.
The trio also decide to head south, where they believe they can blend in with a Comanche tribe. But it seems their persistent pursuers are a step ahead of their plans. Now joined by Renaud in their hunt, the lawmen find the corpses of all three dead priests, and correctly conclude the fugitives will probably seek safety in the south. Worse than that, they intend to beat them to the destination, trading their horses for transport by train. Drama and danger are following the Dutton clan as well. Jacob (Harrison Ford) and his men attend Banner’s (Jerome Flynn) court hearing, where he pleads “not guilty” and, with the help of his high-priced lawyer, is released without bail. At least until more evidence against him can be discovered and presented to the judge. Banner offers an on-brand reaction to his victory, mouthing off to Jacob and his men and punching Jack (Darren Mann) in the face. Banner later meets with Whitfield (Timothy Dalton) and unleashes an f-word-filled tirade about his deadly, vengeance-fueled intentions for Jacob and his family. Whitfield calms him down, schools him on the pen being mightier than the sword, then heads upstairs to continue physically and emotionally abusing the prostitutes he’s presumably now holding prisoner.
Meanwhile, Jacob heads to the bank in town. His cattle business is continuing to struggle, so he needs a loan to help make it through the harsh winter months. But the weaselly banker (Wallace Langham) refuses him, suggesting he instead take a mortgage out on the ranch. While Jacob’s in town trying to save his livelihood, his second-cowboy-in-command Zane (Brian Geraghty) takes the opportunity to visit his wife, Alice, and two young children. The four have a lovely family dinner before the couple retire to the bedroom for, er, some dessert. While the pair are making love, Clyde (Brian Konowal) — Whitfield’s mole working as a Livestock Agent — creepily peeps in their window. This results in the authorities arriving the next morning, wielding a warrant for Zane’s wife’s arrest. Alice is Asian, and the couple’s union violates Montana’s miscegenation laws. The brutal confrontation sees a protesting Zane severely beaten in front of his kids, while Alice is forcefully taken into custody and dragged away from her family. Sadly, this heartbreaking scene represents only the first of fresh troubles surfacing for the Duttons. We also catch up with Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph,) who begins to unexpectedly bleed in the bathtub. The doctor is called and is able to help her, but she loses her baby. Devastated by the miscarriage, she questions her purpose in life, leading Jack to comfort her the best he can.
The ranch is also visited by Whitfield, seeking his first face-to-face with Jacob, who’s on the porch with Cara (Helen Mirren) pondering his old age. Flanked by a pair of Tommy gun-toting thugs, the mining mogul taunts the Dutton patriarch and his wife. Jacob’s cowboys react by pulling their pistols, prompting Cara to intervene before the bullets begin flying. Following the same advice he gave Banner earlier, Whitfield happily forgoes violence for business savvy. He hands Jacob the paid receipt for his delinquent property taxes, informing the rancher he’s taken care of his debt. If Dutton doesn’t pay him back by year’s end, the deed defaults to Whitfield. With Teonna’s and Dutton’s futures left hanging in the balance, maybe we’ll at least get a happy ending for Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer). Yeah right. The unlucky couple are not only looking at a three-week trip to London — not Montana, mind you — but they’re boarding the very same ship as Alex’s jilted fiancé, Arthur. She reacts by planning to hide in their cabin for the entire journey, but a bout of seasickness forces her out. While on deck, she meets her friend and former bridesmaid Jennifer, who doesn’t judge her, but does inform her she’s ruined her reputation in London by running off with Spencer. But this only emboldens Alex. She shows Jennifer her wedding band and decides to embrace, and even flaunt, her newfound happiness. She and Spencer get all gussied up and attend dinner in the main hall, dining and dancing in full view of Arthur and his family.
Arthur’s father (Bruce Davison) urges his jealous, seething son to stand down. But with the help of some booze and plenty of bruised pride, he can’t help himself. Over the course of a couple of hostile encounters, insults and threats fly from both sides, ultimately leading Arthur to challenge Spencer to a duel. They later draw swords on the upper deck, where Spencer effortlessly disarms Arthur and literally wipes the floor with him. Embarrassed, determined, and dumb, Arthur draws a pistol and charges at Spencer. Spencer defends himself, resulting in his attacker accidentally taking a header overboard. Unfortunately, no one sees the gun, save for Alex and Jennifer. The former begs the latter to come to Spencer’s aid, but he’s quickly arrested and escorted to the brig, while Alex is remanded to her room. It gets worse. We learn Arthur’s family is royalty, and his father’s standing gives him authority on the ship. While Alex — who’s also apparently the Countess of Sussex — is imprisoned in her cabin, her friend does come forward to help clear Spencer’s name. Still, Arthur didn’t survive the plunge and his dad isn’t happy. He questions the legality of his would-be daughter-in-law’s marriage to Spencer, and demands he be released at the next port.
When Alex finds out they’re to be separated, she plans to join him. She’s busted from her room by Jennifer, but it’s too late — her husband’s already in a dingy being escorted to shore by seven sailors. They both scuffle with their respective oppressors — Alex even slaps Arthur’s father — and scream out to each other. But there’s no hope. Spencer will be released at port and she’s stuck on the ship. Undeterred, Alex yells to Spencer that she’ll meet him in Bozeman. Before the season closes the book on their story, they both shout one final “I love you!” to each other. Before the credits roll on 1923’s first season, we head back to the Dutton ranch one more time. Cara is outside, clutching another letter to Spencer: “Spencer, I fear everything your parents fought so hard to build is being ripped from us. You are its only hope. You are our only hope. You must hurry, Spencer. You must hurry. Or there will be nothing left to fight for. Cara” With tears streaming from her eyes, she crumbles up the note and throws it to the ground. She gazes a moment at the majestic, stretching, snow-covered land before her, then turns and begins walking toward her home.
Source: Entertainment Weekly, Matt Cabral February 26, 2023).