‘1923’ Season 1: Character: Spencer Dutton, Explained: The Dark Horse

Just like Michael Corleone was someone who wasn’t expected to take the mantle when Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” stepped back, Faizal Khan from “Gangs of Wasseypur” was not slated to take over the legacy of Sardar Khan and exact revenge. They are the dark horses who never wanted to be the leader and were never groomed for leadership. This is the case with Spencer Dutton as well. The youngest of James’s sons, he went off to fight in the Great War and ended up facing the repercussions of it. If you watched “The Godfather” films, Michael Corleone in it was also a World War 2 veteran whose worldview changed once he was back home after serving in the war and surviving it.


Taylor Sheridan made sure to add elements of “The Godfather” to the story to sink in the idea of a dark horse, someone unexpectedly taking up the stage to make sure their legacy stands the test of time. The stage was set up from the beginning so that someone other than the regular members of the family living on the ranch would not take over. It is easy to understand the narrative will change, and there will be that one lone person who has been forgotten by the most but remembered by someone who will be asked to unexpectedly take charge when adversities hit the family. The writing is slightly predictable, but the buildup of knowing it will be Spencer who will eventually take over is done convincingly. The viewer was looking forward to knowing what would make Cara demand that Spencer comes back from Africa. Taylor Sheridan’s masterful writing about a man who thought he would never be the center of attention does the trick.

Spencer Dutton, as a character, never wanted to take over the ranch or ever was in the line for being the leader everyone looked up to. He was the younger one, and he always thought he was destined to make his own way in the world without having to worry about running the ranch. Spencer’s service in the war came easy to him; he need not worry about taking care of the land as Jacob, Cara, and Spencer’s brother John Sr. had to. But the war had a severe impact on him as a person. There was not one day he was not hit by PTSD related to the war, the adversities he witnessed, and the deaths he had to face of his enemies and his men right in front of his eyes. Spencer’s exit from the ranch is the direct result of his suffering during the conflict. He went on to live in Africa, hunting in the wild, hoping to stay away from the comforts of home while there were actual problems the world was facing. His way of staying close to risks helps him realize that danger keeps him closer to reality than the solace of a comfortable home. Spencer had seen enough to comprehend that the danger of hunting wildlife in their habitat was the only way to keep him grounded. He was in no mood to get back to Montana and get back to routine life.


Spencer’s life in Africa became a practice that he got used to. The only positive impact would be that the adventure he sought was unpredictable, which helped him stay on his toes. There was no turning back to his current life, and he had locals helping him formulate a plan. Spencer made sure to live a life of unpredictability, not letting the thought of death cross his mind. He had come to terms with the fact that even if he died seeking adventure, he would have died happily. This was when his life took a sharp turn. Alexandra, the daughter of a rich British aristocrat, caught his attention. She makes it clear in a rather public fashion that she finds him desirable. Alexandra was also intrigued by the profession Spencer was in, which made her want to spend more time with him. Her being from an aristocratic family means she has no freedom to seek what she wants. Spencer was taken aback by Alexandra’s bold approach and the fact she broke off her engagement just because she was not happy with her fiancé and wanted to seek more from life. The man, who was known to be tough, falls for a woman who rebelled against her rich family to pursue what she loves: Spencer and a life of adventure.

The man gave Alexandra every bit of love he had in him, all the while trying to understand the woman he was with. Slowly and steadily, as Spencer discovers Alexandra, he is more relieved to know she is with him and not anybody else. He respects Alexandra and slowly accepts her for who she is, which shows that Cara Dutton has had a positive influence on Spencer, too, when it comes to being around women and how to treat them. Spencer also understood the value of life and that seeking adventures might be the lifestyle he’s chosen, but dangerous adventures might not serve him well from here on. With Alexandra by his side, he slows down, hoping that being around her will give him a better perspective on life and how to lead it.


On Alexandra’s insistence, Spencer ended up reading all the letters his aunt Cara wrote to him and later found out that their family was attacked and that he’d lost his brother to it. He did not think twice before asking Alexandra to join him on the adventure of a lifetime, which is the journey from Africa to America. Though it was filled with obstacles of unimaginable nature, it made it easy for Alexandra and Spencer to decide they were indeed meant for one another. Their marriage on board a ship, officiated by the captain of the ship, proves that Spencer wants a feisty woman like her in his life to make sure he remains who he is. His protective nature did cost him Alexandra, by the end of the season, but there is hope they both will find each other again.

Spencer is not just a dark horse; he is, internally, a sensitive man who needs to be tapped into. Alexandra managed to do that by bringing out a version of him that Spencer himself wasn’t aware he had in him. Now that it has surfaced, he cannot wait to start his life with Alexandra and hopes that she will eventually join him. Spencer is not just waiting to join his family to be their pillar of support; he will have to formulate a plan to make sure their ranch isn’t taken over. Hopefully, he will not let anyone underestimate him. Spencer Dutton is now a man on a mission.


See more: ‘1923’ Season 1: Character Jacob Dutton, Explained: A Sensitive Patriarch

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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