Warning, spoilers ahead for season one of 1883.
As a passionate Yellowstone fan, I was skeptical that series creator Taylor Sheridan would be able to make another show that lived up to the hype. After watching the first four episodes of his Yellowstone prequel 1883, I can say without a doubt I was wrong to doubt him. 1883 has everything Yellowstone has but in its own unique way: a passionate patriarch who will do anything for his family, unique and tough female characters and a sense of drama and storytelling that only Taylor Sheridan can do. Not to mention the cast...Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Sam Elliott? Are you kidding?! If the casting alone isn't enough to make you watch the show, hopefully, I can be the extra push.
New episodes will be available every week on Paramount Plus, but I've narrowed it down to the 10 biggest moments so far on 1883.
1. The Dutton family arrives in Texas
When we first meet James Dutton (McGraw), he has traveled from Tennesee with some horses and a wagon, ready to meet up with the rest of his family who traveled by train. It's just James, his five-year-old son, and four women (his wife, daughter, sister and niece), and they quickly discover that their trip might be more dangerous than they had originally planned. Elsa (Isabel May) almost gets assaulted by a drunk man in their hotel, and James realizes that it might not be a bad idea to join a larger group on their journey out West.
2. The Duttons join a wagon train of immigrants
After a couple of run-ins with Shea Brennan (Elliott) and his associate Thomas (LaMonica Garrett), McGraw agrees to join the wagon train of immigrants they have been tasked to protect. It's clear from the beginning, it's a tough undertaking because none of the immigrants seem prepared for the journey ahead and many don't even speak English. But at least this way, James is aligning himself with more people that can help ensure his family's safety along the way.
3. The Shootout in Fort Worth
Shea, Thomas, and James get some help from local cowboys to round up wild cattle for their journey. While they are gone, some suspicious strangers show up in their camp. With some unfortunate provocation from Claire Dutton (James' sister), the strangers start attacking the camp, killing many people in the process. Sadly, his niece Mary Abel is in the crossfire in addition to many of the immigrants. With some help from the local sheriff (Billy Bob Thornton), James, Thomas, and Shea head to town and kill every last man that attacked their camp. It's a seriously cool shoot-out scene in the local saloon that nearly scares the pants off Josef (Marc Rissmann), who comes along to identify the criminals.
4. James and Shea are both haunted by the war
We learn that James was a captain in the Confederate Army and, in a flashback in episode two, a survivor of the Battle of Antietam. In one of her narrations, Elsa explains that her father was a prisoner of war and doesn't like to talk about his experience in the war at all. Meanwhile, Shea was a captain in the Union Army and we see that he still has trouble sleeping, haunted by nightmares of the things he saw in battle.
5. James loses his sister
She may have only been in two episodes but Claire Dutton certainly made an impact. A widower who lost all but one child before the trip to Texas, Claire fell into despair after losing Mary Abel in the attack in the second episode. As a result, she refuses to leave with the wagon train and shoots herself on her daughter's grave. James stays behind to give her a proper burial and Shea stays to help him. It's a heartwrenching scene.
6. Elsa has a suitor
Pretty quickly, it's established that Elsa has eyes for the handsome young cowboy Ennis (Eric Nelson). By the end of the fourth episode, James has given him permission to court his daughter and Ennis promptly kisses Elsa while they are spending the night watching over the livestock. It's a cute romance and I'm excited to see where it goes over the course of the season.
7. Thomas has a potential love interest
Thomas and Shea come to the aid of a young Romani woman who lost her husband to bandits. Other immigrants on the wagon train stole from her and she was left with little to no supplies to take care of herself and her two sons. Shea goes to kick them out of the group and return her missing things. Though she initially offers to be Shea's wife, Noemi quickly shifts her gaze to Thomas, who tells her that she's only going to make things complicated for herself by having a Black husband. She doesn't seem remotely worried about it and even makes him dinner as a thank you. Thomas drives her wagon for her when they cross the Brazos River so does this mean he might be interested too? Or is he really just being polite?
8. Shea makes it known he's in charge
Shea kicked out the immigrants who stole from Noemi, making them an example of what to expect if they decide to steal from each other in the future. He lets loose their horses and breaks their wagon so that they have no way of moving with the group. He tells Josef that he needs to police his people and, when he doesn't seem up for it, says he's happy to take charge as long as they know what they're getting when they have to answer to him.
9. Everyone gets a reality check that they are living the lives of pioneers
The road West was obviously not an easy one, but Taylor Sheridan does an amazing job making sure he doesn't sugarcoat the difficulties. It seems like people are dying right and left whether it's from bandits, snakes, bad water or drowning.
When it comes time to cross the river, Shea reminds everyone that it doesn't matter who they were before the journey...right now, they are pioneers. They have to empty everything but the absolute necessities from their wagons before crossing the river and the graveyard of personal belongings is heartbreaking. The scene where Elsa stops at an abandoned piano to play one last song is particularly captivating and serves as a brilliant backdrop to the emotional crossing of the river.
10. The wagon train crosses the Brazos River
You almost forget how challenging things like crossing a river would be for 1800s pioneers. Taylor Sheridan makes sure you're well aware of what they went through and I was truly left speechless at the end of the fourth episode.
James Dutton takes his family across first then stays to help the rest of the group cross the next morning. None of the immigrants can swim, so even though the Duttons have a rope going across the river that they can hold onto, they lose multiple people who lose their grip and end up drowning. Not to mention the losses that come when trying to cross with the wagons. Faith Hill did great job in the first three episodes, but episode four really allowed her to shine. She does her best to save a woman who is crossing and when she loses her in the river, she cries in anger on the bank of the river. Everyone seems shaken and exhausted on the other side of the water but I have a feeling it's only the start of the dangers to come.
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