'1883' Tells the Story of the Duttons' Journey West — Who Is James Dutton to John Dutton?

Leila Kozma - Author

Dec. 20 2021, Published 10:00 a.m. ET

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 1 of 1883.

Set almost 150 years before Paramount Network's hit Western drama Yellowstone, 1883 tells the harrowing story of the Dutton clan's journey through the Great Plains.

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Faced with the immediate threat of deadly diseases like smallpox and encounters with deprived bandits, James (Tim McGraw), Elsa (Isabel May), Claire Dutton (Dawn Olivieri), John Dutton Sr. (Audie Rick), and the rest of the crew have to fend for themselves at all costs. Who exactly is 1883's James Dutton to Yellowstone's John Dutton (Kevin Costner)?

James Dutton is a distant relative of John Dutton. Just how distant?

The opening scene capturing a violent face-off between Elsa Dutton and the Native Americans gives way to a bloodied shoot-out between James and a group of bandits in the Season 1 premiere of 1883. The modern-day Dutton's fight to keep the land and maintain their way of life has propelled millions of viewers to tune in, and 1883 is bound to up the ante.

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As John Dutton's great-grandfather, James Dutton is here to prove just how far he is willing to go to secure a better life for himself and his family. Early on in the Season 1 premiere, he shoots at a group of men. The scuffle is overseen by Shea Brennan, the leader of the pioneers who was contemplating suicide moments before, and Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) who more or less congratulates him on his shooting skills before dispensing some advice.

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Tim McGraw plays the father of John Dutton's grandfather, also John Dutton, in '1883.'

News about the country sensation and Caregiver Champion Award-winner appearing in 1883 started making the rounds a while ago. Having made a cameo as James in Season 4, Episode 1 of Yellowstone, Tim has already displayed extraordinary talents with his portrayal of the Dutton patriarch.

Source: Instagram
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As to the family tree: James is traveling with his wife, Margaret (Faith Hill, Tim's real-life wife), daughter, Elsa (Isabel May), and son, John Dutton Sr. (Audie Rick). Evocative of Rip Wheeler's rugged charm and pared-down, command-heavy communication style, James relies on his charisma to survive random shootouts ripping apart bustling high streets and altercations with fellow travelers.

Does Tim McGraw's character, James Dutton, die in '1883'?

As the lead character of the show, James is bound to have a few close brushes with death. In the Season 1 premiere alone, he has several fights, some of which end on an ugly note. Take the last scene, in which he rushes to defend Elsa's honor and kill her attacker. It's uncertain what the creators have in store for James at this stage. Let's hope Tim will continue to delight us.

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Source: Instagram

1883 tells the story of John Dutton's grandfather, John, and his family. In 1883, John is a 5-year-old boy quietly looking on as the adults take care of the bloodied happenings. But John's name is far from the only thing that ties together 1883 with the present-day Yellowstone.

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With the perpetual prospect of violence erupting at any given moment, it's practically a miracle young John manages to survive the journey. (Judging by Season 1, Episode 1, things aren't exactly looking baby-boomer-bright for the adult members of the family — talk about low life expectancy rates.)

An adventure-loving young woman, Elsa has strong parallels with rockstar-like people's psychologist Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly), while Margaret's firm parenting and insistence on steering Elsa back to femininity aren't that dissimilar to Evelyn Dutton's (Gretchen Mol) quiet poise.

New episodes of 1883 arrive Sundays on Paramount+.

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