Yellowstone fans were not very happy with how 1883, the first prequel series to the original show, was marketed to long-time viewers. In a nutshell, Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan’s 1883 is a compelling Western drama about the life of pioneering Americans in the late 19th century. While Yellowstone and 1883 exist within the same universe and share certain themes, the two shows are worlds apart in terms of many key elements. This divide was made even more apparent by how Yellowstone season 4 was used to market 1883.
1883 protagonists James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill) – the great-grandparents of Yellowstone’s John Dutton (Kevin Costner) – first appeared onscreen in Yellowstone season 4. James briefly featured in Yellowstone season 4, episode 1 “Half the Money,” and both James and Margaret had lengthy scenes in Yellowstone season 4, episode 8 “No Kindness for the Coward.” The latter episode actually opens with a scene from 1883, in which James goes after horse thieves while Margaret stays at home with the kids, ending with James returning home and collapsing due to a bullet wound from the brutal confrontation. This was the first time for many Yellowstone viewers to be introduced to the characters and story of 1883.
Yellowstone viewers were left confused by the showrunners’ decision to open an episode of Yellowstone with a scene from 1883 without any prior setup or context. Some even wondered whether or not they were watching the right show on Paramount+. Worst of all, some felt that they were being forced to watch a segment of 1883 in the middle of Yellowstone. This isn’t to say that the 1883 promo in the episode was in no way related to the plot in Yellowstone season 4. In fact, prior to the episode in question, Yellowstone season 4, episode 7 “Keep the Wolves Close” began with Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) searching for missing horses. However, for many, this wasn’t enough to justify the use of a lengthy scene from 1883 to open an episode of Yellowstone.
It seems that not all Yellowstone fans are ready for 1883’s bleak and gritty setting. While both Yellowstone and 1883 are neo-Westerns, it’s understandable that not all die-hard fans of the original series would be thrilled at the notion of watching the prequel, which is essentially a period drama that’s closer to the traditional Western formula. That being said, 1883 definitely hasn’t failed to deliver on the hype that’s been promised by Taylor Sheridan, as the prequel series is an extremely compelling deep dive into the life and struggles of American settlers in the late 19th century.
Yellowstone’s marketing strategy for 1883, despite its negative reception, could still prove to be a big leap for shows with connected stories and universes. Although Sheridan’s decision to essentially force Yellowstone viewers to watch 1883 may not be agreeable to many fans, it’s meant to establish the deep connections between Yellowstone’s characters and their ancestors from 1883. This style of storytelling is a first for recent series history, and Sheridan’s unpopular decision could open the floodgates for other shows with shared continuities – including the upcoming second spinoff Yellowstone: 6666.