Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone is more of a modern-day western, but he’s going back to the genre’s more traditional roots with the new series 1883, which serves as a prequel to Yellowstone.
Let’s hitch up our wagons and head west; here is everything you need to know about 1883 season 1 (the show was recently renewed for a second season).
What is the plot of ‘1883’?
The Dutton family are the central characters on Yellowstone, controlling the largest swath of cattle land in the U.S. from their home base in Montana. But have you been wondering just how the Dutton family were able to seize that land and become the power brokers that they are in the cable series? 1883 will answer that.
The new series follows the Dutton family in, unsurprisingly, 1883, as they embark on a journey west through the Great Plains toward the last bastion of untamed America. The series is being described as a stark retelling of Western expansion and an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land, Montana.
The first season it is expected to consist of 10 episodes.
‘1883’ episode recaps
Here is a brief breakdown of what happens in each episode of 1883 season 1, as well as the plot synopsis of future episodes (as available).
1883 season 1 episode 1:
The first episode of 1883 brings together our main group of characters, which consist of the Duttons (James, Margaret, Elsa and 5-year-old John), Captain She Brennan and his partner Thomas and a group of German immigrants led by Josef. Brennan is a man beset by tragedy and grief after losing his family to smallpox, but who attempts to carry on by leading a wagon train of the German immigrants to Oregon. The Duttons are also looking for a fresh start, though have no particular destination in mind.
When Brennan discovers that the Germans are wholly unprepared for their trip, he asks for Dutton’s help in the journey, but Dutton refuses, wanting for his family to go it alone. That changes when his daughter Elsa, a free-spirited and optimistic young woman, is assaulted in town and just barely escapes worse. Dutton agrees to join the wagon train.
Elsa, meanwhile, is not too fazed by her encounter. Providing narration for the show, she remains full of hope about what this journey will mean for her.
Read What to Watch’s more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 1 here.
1883 season 1 episode 2:
After opening with a flashback to Dutton’s experience at the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War, 1883‘s second episode is all about making the final preparations for the wagon train’s journey. To ensure the German immigrants have enough food for the trip, Dutton, Brennan, Thomas and Elsa set out to wrangle some wild cattle, recruiting the help of some cowboys along the way. Elsa proves herself during this and catches the eye of Ennis, one of the cowboys who decides to stay on and help the wagon train.
Back at camp, a group of riders arrive and try to intimidate Margaret and the others. Claire screams and throws rocks at them, angering them to kill a few of the members of the wagon train, including Claire’s daughter Mary Abel.
When Dutton and the others return to camp they immediately set out for town to find the men responsible. They team with the town Marshal, who issues his own brand of justice, killing each of the assailants without hesitation. Though Dutton uses violence to protect his family, it appears he still has a strong distaste for it.
As the wagon train finally readies to depart, Claire decides to stay behind. She tells Dutton that his dream of finding a Garden of Eden will not come true. Claire ultimately decides to kill herself, with Dutton and Brennan then burying her.
Read What to Watch’s more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 2 here.
1883 season 1 episode 3:
The wagon train is officially underway, but things aren’t off to a good start. A number of the German immigrants have died as a result of the inherent dangers of the journey, but they soon come to perhaps their biggest challenge yet, forging a river. The decision of whether to cross or how to go around the river leads to disagreement between Dutton and Shea — Dutton wanting to go west, Shea east.
After camping, the Dutton family divides some duties — Elsa and Margaret agree to help the cowboys watch over the cattle herd, while Dutton and John go hunting. Watching the herd, Elsa gets to continue her flirtation with Ennis, but also sees her mother in a new light, understanding where she gets much of her passion and sense of adventure. For the Dutton men, this is an opportunity for James to teach his son about life and death when they snag a deer, saying that men have to find a balance between their human and animal instincts.
Back at camp, Shea and Thomas help a widowed Gypsy and her children, including stranding a group of men who stole from her. Shea is losing his patience with the travelers and uses violence (and the threat of more) as a way for them to get their act together.
Shea does decide that it is best for the wagon train to go west, but that opens up plenty of new dangers, including lack of water, more bandits and heading into Comanche country.
Read What to Watch’s more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 3 here.
1883 season 1, episode 4:
The episode starts off with Elsa deciding to trade with a member of the wagon train so she can swap out her dress for a pair of pants and start being more like a real cowboy. Probably a good decision as Dutton, Shea, Thomas, Josef and Wade discuss the strategy of crossing the river that lies in front of them; something made all the more difficult when Josef reveals that none of the immigrants know how to swim.
Waiting to cross the next day, we begin to learn a bit about what some of the main characters want and why they chose to embark on this journey to Oregon. Thomas and Noemi continue to bond and they dream of a place where no one can tell them what to do. Josef and his wife hope Oregon is the perfect place to raise their family, free from the oppression of where they came from (no one can swim because it was illegal in their homeland).
While Dutton committed to helping the wagon train cross, he doesn’t want to have his family mixed up all the commotion, opting instead to cross at night (all but Elsa, whose flirtation with Ennis grows and culminates in some kissing). Though they make it across safely, Margaret is stressed by the event.
After the river rises the next day, Shea tells the travelers they have to lighten their wagons with anything not absolutely necessary, forcing them to leave behind furniture and even a piano. That still does not make the crossing safe. Though most get across, some travelers fall in and Margaret is forced to leave one to drown to save herself. Elsa and the cowboys trail behind with the herd, but she sees how shaken her mother is from everything.
Read a more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 4 right here.
1883 season 1, episode 5:
Starting at the river where episode 4 ended and claimed a number of lives, Elsa notes that they have left one world behind them and entered the land of no mercy. She also learns right away that it isn’t just the land that threatens the wagon train, but bandits are also a danger, looking to steal cattle, horses and even people.
That’s not the only problem for the wagon train. One of the wagons lost in the river had most of their food. To make matters worse, Josef tells Shea that two members of the wagon train have been stealing. Shea tells Josef that as the leader it is his responsibility to stand up to these men and take charge of the other travelers. He tries, but he is pushed around by the bigger man and eventually Dutton is forced to step in. Shea kicks the thieves off the wagon train and tells everyone else that they need to follow Josef or elect a new leader.
Elsewhere, Elsa and Ennis continue their romance. Margaret feels that it is time to give her daughter an important lesson in love, saying that she must be sure of how far she takes things with Ennis. Elsa ultimately opts to commit to the cowboy, sleeping with him and then the pair agreeing that they are engaged. While not thrilled, Dutton and Margaret accept the choice.
In the final moments, the wagon train is beset by bandits. Josef ends up serving as a kind of bait to lure the bandits in, while Shea, Dutton, Thomas and Wade ride up and try to ambush them. Unfortunately, as the shoot out rages, Ennis is shot and killed by one of the bandits. Elsa is distraught and kills the bandit who shot Ennis.
Read a more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 5 right here.
1883 season 1 episode 6:
Elsa is deep in grief over Ennis, including learning that she is not pregnant with his child. Shea talks to her and tells her that the people they love and lose are still with them and shares with her his reason for going to Oregon – to see the ocean, which he believes his wife will see through his eyes.
As the wagon train comes to a trading post, Margaret attempts to help Elsa out as well by taking her into the town, but Elsa gets into it with some men and threatens to kill them, causing Dutton to step in and calm the situation. Disappointed, Margaret finds an outlet by drinking with the local shopkeeper (Rita Wilson).
Thomas also heads into town, hiring a cook for the wagon train and then a mirror for Noemi. When he presents this gift to her, she tells Thomas that even though he may be scared of it, what he is doing for her is love and that she loves him back. Shea also adds another member to the company, a new cowboy named Colton, who immediately has an eye for Elsa, though she shuts him down quickly.
Worried about his daughter, Dutton tells her about his first battle in the Civil War and the impact that had on him. He also tells her she shouldn’t feel guilt about the bandit she killed, because they were going to kill him anyway. He wants her to let him take care of hating the world. It appears to work, because after dreaming of Ennis, Elsa wakes with some of her spark back (including some mild flirtation with Colton). Just in time too, as the wagon train readies to cross another dangerous river and then head into the Oklahoma territory.
Read a more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 6 right here.
1883 season 1 episode 7:
As the wagon train moves through the plains, Elsa spots a pair of Comanches on a hill. She is told that they are here to collect a tax for allowing them all to cross their lands. One of the Comanches is immediately drawn to Elsa and challenges her to a horse race, which Elsa wins. He says that he will call her Lightning Yellow Hair and introduces his name as Sam, having taken the name from the man who killed his wife. The two have a clear connection.
The next morning a tornado appears, forcing everyone to take cover. Elsa and the other cowboys are forced to flee, until they are saved by Sam. During the storm, the only way that Elsa can stop from screaming is to kiss Sam. After, as the two are about to part, Sam tells her that she will always be welcome in his home.
Many wagons and much of the supplies were destroyed by the tornado, and to make matters worse Shea learns that a group of thieves are rounding up their cattle. Shean, Dutton, Thomas and Elsa go to confront the thieves, but soon see they are outnumbered. Sam once again arrives to help, and the bond between he and Elsa grows deeper. Shea, on the other hand, after narrowly escaping a shot to the head, begins to wonder if their luck is running out.
Read a more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 7 right here.
1883 season 1 episode 8
The wagon train has been held up for three days after the tornado. Even though he invites a tribe of Native Americans to trade with the immigrants so they can get more provisions, Shea tells them that he thinks it would be best to head for Denver rather than Oregon to beat out the winter. Dutton, however, says he plans to push through to Oregon, and anyone wanting to come with him can, but he isn’t going to baby them. The immigrants opt to go with Dutton. Though Shea initially considers leaving, he decides to stay and help Dutton, but it will be on him to lead.
Elsa isn’t so sure she wants to go with her family to Oregon. Her bond with Sam continues to grow and she ultimately makes the decision to be Sam’s wife and stay with him in the plains. Dutton and Margaret, unsurprisingly, aren’t thrilled with this, worried by their daughter’s habit of falling in love with men extremely quickly. Elsa eventually says she will go with them to Oregon so she can know where to find them, but that she is going to be Sam’s wife and will return to him.
When it comes time for the wagon train to continue on, Sam and Elsa say their goodbyes and make plans to meet there again the next June. Elsa declares her love for Sam in his language, while he tells her that she is in his heart and that this land is now her home.
Read a more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 8 right here.
1883 season 1episode 9
The wagon train is greeted with two big problems right off the bat. First, Josef and his wife Risa are in need of medical attention after an incident with a rattle snake; second, Dutton, Shea and Thomas find a group of Lakota women and children murdered. The three decide to go and hunt the murderers so they can explain things to the Lakota warriors sure to come looking for revenge. Despite being told to stay where they are, at Cookie’s insistence the wagon train makes for a fort for protection.
Unfortunately, before they get to the fort they are beset by the Lakotas. Elsa tries to draw some away from the wagons that have circled up to defend themselves, but she is hit with a club and falls of her horse. She wakes to see the Lakotas killing some of the immigrants. She quickly grabs a gun and kills one of the Lakotas, but is shot with an arrow in the process. Before the rest of the Lakotas can kill her, Elsa speaks the Comanche that Sam taught her. This stops the Lakotas and she is able to explain what happened to their family.
Dutton, Shea and Thomas return to the wagon train having killed the murderers and running into the Lakotas, with both sides filling each other in. Looking over his wounded daughter he is clearly worried. He reveals to Margaret that Elsa will likely get an infection and die. Rather than take her to a doctor, who Dutton doesn’t believe will be able to stop it, he suggests they let her live her final days in as much peace as possible, with them settling wherever Elsa passes away.
Read a more in-depth recap of 1883 season 1 episode 9 right here.
Who is in the ‘1883’ cast?
Starring in 1883 will be a principal group of actors that include Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Isabel May, LaMonica Garrett and Billy Bob Thornton. Here is the full list of series regulars, as well as who they are all playing:
- Sam Elliott – Shea Brennan
- Tim McGraw – James Dutton
- Faith Hill – Margaret Dutton
- Isabel May – Elsa
- LaMonica Garrett – Thomas
- Billy Bob Thornton – Marshal Jim Courtright
- Audi Rick – John Dutton Sr.
- Marc Rissmann – Josef
- Eric Nelsen – Ennis
- James Landry Hébert – Wade
Additional cast members recently announced by Paramount Plus include Dawn Olivieri, Emma Malouff, Alex Fine, Gratiela Brancusi, Nichole Galicia, Stephanie Nuir, Amanda Jaros, Noah Le Gros and Martin Sensmeier.
According to a report from Variety, Oscar-nominee Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves) is joining the cast of 1883. Greene, who previously worked with Taylor Sheridan on the movie Wind River, is slatted to play Spotted Eagle, a Crow elder who aides the Duttons on their journey.
Another big name is being added to the cast of 1883, even if just for a brief guest spot. It’s a bit of a spoiler, though it seems just for the surprise factor, not to the overall story. According to Deadline, Tom Hanks will appear as Civil War General George Meade, who historically assumed temporary command of the Union forces during the Battle of Antietam. Hanks will appear in a flashback scene to Antietam, where Tim McGraw’s James Dutton fought as a Confederate soldier.
1883 has landed both members of one of Hollywood’s favorite couples, as Rita Wilson is also set to guest star in an upcoming episode of the show, per Variety. Wilson’s husband, Tom Hanks, briefly appeared in the second episode of 1883. It is not clear what episode Wilson will appear in, but we do know that she will play a character named Carolyn, a shopkeeper who connects with Margaret (Faith Hill).
When is the ‘1883’ release date?
1883 arrived on Paramount Plus Dec. 19, debuting the first two episodes. The remaining episodes of 1883 season 1 are being released weekly on Sundays via the streaming service.
Is there a ‘1883’ trailer?
Paramount Plus released the first trailer for 1883 on Nov. 7, with the premiere episodes of Yellowstone season 4. Give it a watch below.
There is also now an extended trailer, which offers more narration from Isabel May’s Elsa about the dangers and adventure of the Dutton family’s travels west. Watch below.
How to watch ‘1883’
With 1883 being a Paramount Plus original series, the drama series will only be available to watch via the Paramount Plus streaming service; at least at this time, it is not known if 1883 will get a simulcast on Paramount Network like Mayor of Kingstown will have for its premiere episode on Nov. 14.
Paramount Plus offers two subscription options: a $4.99 per month ad-supported plan and a $9.99 per month ad-free plan. While there are some differences between the two as far as available content (the $4.99 plan does not offer access to local CBS stations), 1883 will be available to subscribers of either plan.