Taylor Sheridan once explained why 1883 season 2 didn’t happen, which underlines why attempting a second season would have been a bad idea. Sheridan emerged seemingly out of nowhere in the last decade to become one of the most prominent (and prolific) writers/directors in the business. After garnering acclaim for his Sicario and High or High Water screenplays, he moved into directing with movies like Wind River. Of course, he staked his claims as a TV mogul with Yellowstone, which debuted in 2018 and has become a monster success.
In the years since, Sheridan has created many more TV shows, including various Yellowstone TV spinoffs or Special Ops: Lioness, starring Zoe Saldaña. Arguably his most acclaimed show is 1883, a prequel to Yellowstone that explored how the Duttons came upon the land their ranch was founded on. The ten-episode series was an emotional, violent and harrowing Western, but 1883’s ending didn’t lend itself to a second season.
1883 Season 2 Would Have Had No Story To Tell
1883 killed most of its characters
By the time the prequel series closed, the Dutton clan had given up on their plan to head to Oregon and instead settled in Montana. This is the place where the show’s main character and narrator Elsa Dutton died (Isabel May), and her parents James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret (Faith Hill) later built a ranch on the land where she passed. Sam Elliott’s Shea was 1883’s other major character, but he dies by suicide in his final scene, having fulfilled a promise to his late wife to see the Pacific Ocean.
In short, 1883’s finale closed the book on this chapter in the Dutton saga, so there was no point in a second season. 1883 season 2 could have possibly focused on Jamesm Margaret and their two young sons struggling on the land, but this wouldn’t have been nearly as compelling as their journey to get there. In the same way Yellowstone is fundamentally John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) story, the prequel was Elsa’s, so without her, it would have felt like a needless extension.
1923 Was The Perfect Way To Expand The Yellowstone Franchise
1883’s sequel launched an expanded universe of Yellowstone tales
In a Deadline interview, Sheridan explained 1883 was always intended as a ten-hour movie with a definitive ending. He also claims Paramount understood this, but they greenlit a second season anyway in response to the show’s success. It’s only when they asked Sheridan how he would explain how Shea “survived” his suicide that he realized they were serious about another season. Since he already had a greenlight to make a show, Sheridan retooled the concept into 1923 instead.
This sequel series picks up decades later on the ranch, which is now run by James’ brother Jacob (Harrison Ford) and sister-in-law Cara (Helen Mirren). They struggle to hold onto the Yellowstone during a particularly tough period, and this has opened up the franchise to further spinoffs exploring different eras in the Dutton family tree. In truth, 1923 isn’t as well crafted as 1883, but considering Paramount has given Sheridan something of a blank check with the Yellowstone saga, more offshoots like 1944 are incoming.
Yellowstone Gave 1883’s Surviving Characters An Epilogue
Yellowstone revealed what happened to James and Margaret Dutton
James and Margaret were introduced during the fourth season of Yellowstone in a series of flashbacks. This is what gave Sheridan the notion of creating a prequel miniseries exploring how they found the land where the ranch was built, but these flashbacks also serve as an epilogue to their story. These flashbacks pick up a decade after 1883 when James and Margaret are settled on the land and have a new son named Spencer – who would go on to become a major character in 1923.
Being a Yellowstone story, it all ends in tragedy. These 1893 sections reveal James became a ranger, but after hunting some thieves and being ambushed, he’s fatally wounded in a gunfight. James manages to make it home but dies soon after. Margaret herself would die a year later, and it was left to Jacob and Cara to take over their ranch and raise Spencer and John Dutton Sr. Knowing where the characters ended up, it was another smart choice by Sheridan not to press ahead with another season of 1883.