The new Yellowstone prequel spin-off series, 1923, serves as a sequel to the first spin-off, 1883. It introduced us to a whole new cast of characters from the Dutton family tree, including Jack Dutton – a young cowboy loyal to the family but reckless at times. In the very first episode, his inexperience leads him into a very dangerous situation. So, how and when did Jack Dutton die?
It’s still unknown how exactly Jack Dutton dies in the Yellowstone prequel series, 1923. The pilot episode ended ambiguously, though, with Jack being shot at from a distance by a sheep herder. We never see if Jack was killed or even wounded, but some signs suggest he might die that fast.
Taylor Sheridan – the creator of all the Dutton family-based shows – never shied away from killing off important characters, like John Dutton III’s son, Lee, in the Yellowstone series. Perhaps Jack’s inexperience led to his premature demise in 1923. Another theory is that he wasn’t even hit and that the experience will only serve as a learning curve for young Jack. Let’s explore the theories a bit more.
Who is Jack Dutton in 1923?
Throughout three separate shows, we met such a huge number of characters from the Dutton family it can get hard to follow who is who to whom. So, who is Jack Dutton in the new show 1923?
Jack Dutton is the son of Emma and John Dutton Sr., the great-nephew of Cara and Jacob Dutton, the current patriarch of the family, and the head of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch in 1923.
In the first episode of the show, we learn that James and Margaret Dutton passed away only days apart in 1893, leaving John Dutton Sr. and his brother, Spencer, all alone on the ranch. Jacob received a letter from Margaret asking for help before she died. Jacob and Cara found her body frozen to death and the two boys that were half-starved on the ranch.
Jacob and Cara took in the boys and raised them as their own children while also taking over the ranch and expanding it into an empire. That happened in 1984, almost a year after Margaret and James died.
Fast forward to 1923, when the show really kicks off. It’s been 40-ish years since Cara and Jacob took over the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. Spencer – their younger nephew – is a World War I veteran, now away in Africa as a big game hunter.
The older nephew, John Dutton Sr. (the only recurring character from the 1883 show), is not a little boy anymore. He is a grown man and Jacob Dutton’s right hand on the ranch. John already has a family of his own – a wife, Emma, and a son, Jack Dutton.
Jack is already around his late teens/the early twenties and is a cowboy in his own right. He is incredibly loyal to his family and absolutely loves the ranch. However, as a young cowboy, he’s still reckless and inexperienced and likes to enjoy the little things in life more than he likes the hard parts of being a cattle rancher. Jack also has a fiance, Elizabeth Strafford.
His reckless, immature attitude comes to light when he decides to leave with Jacob and John to help them lead their cattle up the mountains to feed them as the drought, and a locust infestation destroy the grass in the valley.
However, he forgets to mention anything to his fiance, which is a huge problem, considering that his trip actually postponed their wedding. That’s a big example of who Jack Dutton is – he does all the right things but in all the wrong ways.
He absolutely loves his family and the business they’re in but fails to address other important things in his life, even if it comes at his own peril. The loyalty to his family, paired with his recklessness, might’ve led Jack into a whole lot of trouble – maybe even death.
How and when does Jack Dutton die?
Before I say anything, I wish to highlight that we know nothing about Jack Dutton’s eventual death for certain. Seeing that only a single episode of 1923 has aired so far, we don’t know for sure how and when Jack Dutton dies. That being said, the ending of the pilot episode could already point to an early demise for Darren Mann’s character.
As Jacob, John, Jack, and their ranchers ventured up the mountains to feed their cattle, Jack separated from the group by himself, riding alone for quite a while. At one point, he sees a neighboring, rivaling sheep herder, who broke through a fence and was now feeding his sheep on the Dutton family’s property, essentially destroying the little grass that was left for their cattle.
He immediately turns around to tell Jacob and his father what he has witnessed, but the sheep herder spots Jack and shoots at him from a distance. We hear the shots fired, but as the episode comes to a close, we never see if Jack was hit or not. We won’t know for sure until the next episode premieres on Christmas Day, December 25, 2022.
That being said, there are a few theories about what happened to Jack Dutton at that moment. The first, of course, is that Jack was hit and killed by the sheep herder. The theory is supported – believe it or not – by a single joke that Jacob Dutton made towards Liz Strafford, Jack’s fiance.
Jacob joked that Liz was probably already pregnant with Jack’s child. It might be a joke – or it might actually be true, and Jack already ‘forwarded’ the Dutton family lineage, which gives the writers of the show a lot of freedom to do what they want with the character – even if it means killing him off after a single episode.
It wouldn’t be the first time that an important character in the Yellowstone universe dies so quickly. In the Yellowstone series, John Dutton III’s son, Lee, also died very early and unexpectedly, so it might just be Jack Dutton’s fate as well.
Even a comment that the actor Darren Mann made for Hollywood Life could potentially hint that Jack will die while on the job for his family:
“He loves his family a lot, and he’s definitely down to do whatever he has to do to protect it, to preserve it.”
On the other hand, it might just be a cliffhanger for fans to bite their nails on until the next episode airs. Perhaps Jack wasn’t hit at all, or he was only wounded and then aided by his father and great-uncle.
It would be a quick learning curve for Jack, who would likely take the wise words of his grand-uncle and father more seriously and become a more methodical, experienced rancher. That could be supported by another comment that Mann made in the same interview we mentioned before:
“I think he really looks up to his uncle — well, his great-uncle Jacob — and his dad. Of course, we have a fun relationship. A little bit more of like a brother because uncle has been around raising us.”
So, essentially, both theories hold water, and the truth is, we have no idea what will happen to Jack. We know he dies eventually, but when and how still remains a mystery, despite the cliffhanger from the pilot episode of 1923.
Who is Jack Dutton to Yellowstone’s John Dutton III?
To finish this article, I wanted to address the question of who Jack Dutton is to Yellowstone’s patriarch, John Dutton III (Kevin Costner). It seems there’s some confusion about the Dutton family lineage, which is understandable, considering all the deaths, adoptions, and turmoil over the years. The short answer is – Jack Dutton is John Dutton III’s grandfather.
The longer answer requires us to go back to that joke that Jacob Dutton made about Liz Strafford already being pregnant with Jack’s child. Whether Liz was actually pregnant by then or got pregnant later is irrelevant – the child in question was John Dutton Jr., Jack and Liz’s son, and John Dutton III’s father.
He was named after John Dutton III’s great-grandfather, John Dutton Sr., Jack’s father, and the only character to appear in two Yellowstone-related shows, 1883 and 1923. That is if you don’t count the flashback appearances of James and Margaret Dutton in Yellowstone, who were lead characters in the first spin-off series, 1883.