Is Yellowstone Prequel 1923 Setting Up a Surprise Character Return?

TV

This article contains spoilers for Yellowstone prequel 1883.

After the debut of the Yellowstone season 5 premiere, Paramount gave the franchise’s ravenous fans an early holiday present with the first peek at 1923, the second prequel and second chapter in the Dutton family saga. 

1923 (originally announced as “1932”) will introduce a new generation of Duttons led by patriarch Jacob (Harrison Ford) and matriarch Cara (Helen Mirren). The series will explore the early twentieth century when issues like pandemics, historic drought, the end of Prohibition, and the Great Depression all plagued the mountain west and the Duttons who called it home. 

In addition to Ford and Mirren, 1923 will also star Darren Mann (Animal Kingdom), Michelle Randolph (A Snow White Christmas), James Badge Dale (Hightown), Marley Shelton (Scream), Brian Geraghty (Big Sky), Aminah Nieves (Blueberry) and Game of Thrones favorite Jerome Flynn.

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Yet with legends like Mirren and Ford leading the cast, true fans of the Dutton family history were more excited about a familiar voice narrating the trailer. They grew accustomed to the poetic words of Taylor Sheridan being spoken by a youthful and soft-spoken voice in the first Yellowstone prequel, 1883. During the limited run of that series, the voiceover of Elsa (played by breakout star Isabel May) was the absolute heart of the show, drawing you in with her whispers, her prose, and her foreboding sense of danger. 

Those who enjoyed seeing this generation of Duttons’ eldest and only daughter carve a familiar Dutton-woman path of strength, passion, and defiance were naturally heartbroken when Elsa was stricken with a fatal infection, as so many pioneers and frontiersmen on her family’s journey were. Elsa let audiences know very early in the season that she would, in fact, die. Many viewers must have felt as if, once again, they were touched from beyond the grave, as Elsa’s smoky and haunting voice this time was sharing the tale of other generations of her family. She spoke of how “violence has always haunted” the Duttons. How it followed them “from the Scottish Highlands and the slums of Dublin” all the way to the new country and Montana, where they would eventually carve out their empire. 

But what does Elsa’s return mean? Could she be the eternal link between all generations of Duttons in America? Sheridan’s writing through Elsa was absolutely stunning, and the writer/creator has said how much he truly found the voice of the Dutton struggle through the young female protagonist. There’s something both savage and comforting about having Elsa narrate the trailer, as if her fate, and the tragic fate of so many Duttons throughout the 150 years they’ve been on the land is inescapable. 

This could easily mean that it is not simply the trailer where audiences will hear Elsa’s voice. Fans are undoubtedly hoping this means Isabel May, and in turn Elsa, is not truly gone, that she will in some way continue and lead us on this new journey in 1923, perhaps even into the final season of the modern-day Yellowstone if next season is, in fact, the last. 

1923 premieres Dec. 18 on Paramount+.

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