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1883 Season 1 Episode 8 Review: The Weep of Surrender


If you were hoping for another Elsa-centric outing, then 1883 Season 1 Episode 8 hit all the right notes.


But it does bring to attention a question.


What, exactly, is 1883 about, anyway?


It’s a valid question, especially since it was never advertised as a coming-of-age adventure with a female protagonist.


At this point, eight episodes into the story, there’s no doubt that it’s what we’ve got. Personally, I don’t mind it. As a female viewer, processing the trip through Elsa’s eyes reminds me a little bit of Little House on the Prairie.


Once upon a time, westerns were told only through the male lens, but getting the feminine touch revitalizes the genre.


Just like Half Pint aka Laura Ingalls Wilder before her, Elsa bucks expectations. She’s got a strong will, and her determined mindset upends tradition.


But it’s not exactly what I’d expect from a historically accurate show. Was 1883 ever supposed to be anything other than historically adjacent?


Given Yellowstone’s implausibility and the soap opera tendencies, that’s a resounding no. I think we have exactly what Taylor Sheridan set out to create. It’s a very modern tale that takes place at the time the US was expanding.


If you’re saying to yourself, well, yeah, we didn’t ask and have no idea why you’re questioning it now, it’s because there have been comments.


This way, we can get it out in the open that we know this is not an accurate depiction of wagon trains that made their way across the US.


Undoubtedly, people from around the world made their way to America in search of the freedom to start again. What they met on the wagon trails was daunting.


Many of them weren’t acclimated to the harsh realities of pioneering. Lives were lost. Possessions left behind. Crossing a river was an enormous task. Bandits roamed free, wreaking havoc and taking advantage of newcomers without skills and with generous hearts.


But we’re seeing the more rigorous side of the wagon train. There are books out there written by women who seemed almost delighted at their travels. One such book is A Pioneer Woman’s Westward Journey and on that website is just a snippet of writings from women of the time.


All of this is to say that we’re taking 1883 with a grain of salt. Lots of salt. Elsa’s coming-of-age story, especially right under her parents’ noses, doesn’t seem realistic in the slightest.


But it’s a damn sight more entertaining than it would be if she minded her parents and spent her time knitting or washing clothes.


At least, Sheridan is having some fun with the outrageousness.

Margaret: She said she’d ride with us to Oregon and come back to him in the spring. Let’s just hope she falls in love in Oregon.
James: With the pattern she’s established, she’ll fall in love again by Nebraska. [They both crack up]


Poor Ennis wasn’t in the ground for a couple of days (if even) before Elsa was on to the next man. It’s awfully handy that Sam the Cherokee, with his well-spoken English, was on hand to cast his eye in Elsa’s direction.


Can you imagine if she had been forced to be in mourning for more than a few miles? The torture!


Hey, as ridiculous as it was that she was embraced by the Cherokee and Sam in particular with such ferocity, I was rooting for her and Sam to fall in love, too.


I never imagined that a three-day stay would have the Love Boat effect, and they’d be married (such that it is) before the group departed again.


And if I had it my way, Sam would be going along so that their newlywed adventure could overpower Elsa’s coming-of-age story. She can’t continue in this vein for the entire trip, can she?


A young woman’s heart is malleable. The odds that she’ll remain true to Sam once they get going again can’t be good.


It wouldn’t matter if it seemed like there were other stories on the horizon, but the adults are taking a backseat to Elsa’s tale.


Shea momentarily considered rerouting. He’s fearful that he cannot get the group to their destination safely. He’s lost faith in the pioneers and can’t lead a group he cannot trust.


Thomas was pleading with Shea to continue on the journey with them, but it was Elsa’s arrival that had him course-correcting.

Thomas: It’s gonna be hard enough with you. We ain’t go no chance without you. I ain’t never asked you for nothin’, but I’m askin’ you now. Don’t leave us, Captain.
Elsa: Where you goin’?
Shea: What happened to you?
Elsa: I killed a buffalo. Ate its heart to keep its strength. Where ya goin’?
Shea: Oregon, honey. With you.
Elsa: I’m not goin’ to Oregon. I’m stayin’ here.


James, who has seemed standoffish when it comes to the pioneers, actually trusts them and believes that they could weather the journey together by talking with them instead of to them.


If Shea is an old-time cowboy, James’s life with Margaret and Elsa and given him a different mindset. Not that Margaret is eager to let go of societal expectations.

Margaret: You know why he lets you run wild, don’t you?
Elsa: Because he trusts me too.
Margaret: Because he knows dresses is your future. No matter where we go, you’re wearin’ dresses and raisin’ babies and sweatin’ over a garden and swallowin’ every dream you ever had because that’s all the world wants from you. We may find someplace where we can hold the world off for a while, but they’ll find us there too, and bring all their rules with it.


Every word of Margaret’s little speech indicates that she wants to break as far away from those expectations as Elsa. If James drops dead as it seemed in the one-off scene from Yellowstone, then she might have to do things differently.


Speaking of that sneak peek, at the time, I wondered where Elsa was. It sounded like there were two young children, boys. If they were settled in Montana, then maybe Elsa did make her way back to Sam for a wholly unexpected life of stealing horses and fighting bandits.


With only two episodes left in the season, there isn’t a straight line to where we’ll leave off. This journey is going to take a very, very long time.


One journey from Iowa to California took six months. If this is a similar schedule that’s filming a few days per episode, we’re in for a very long trip.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.



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