Episode 3 of 1883 begins with the threat of death ever-present. Our caravan is stalked every step of the way, and many of these men and women are dying. Whether it be through snake bites, fallen wagons or possessed dogs, it looks like many are going to perish before they make it to Oregon. The biggest obstacle they’ve had to face is still to come though, and that comes in the form of a river.
James and Shea are aware of this and it’s a big problem that cripples the entire caravan. The country to the west is rough, which is where James suggests they go, while Shea deliberates over going the longer path – and increasing their journey time – to the East.
It’s not much of a negotiation in truth, and to be honest either way it’s going to be tough going. If they try and cross the river where they are though, a good deal of them will drown. After their heated exchange of words, Thomas worries that James is undermining Shea’s authority.
In camp, Thomas and Shea run into a gypsy by the name of Noemi. She’s having trouble with her horses but Shea gives her some solid advice. Her two boys haven’t drunk anything for a fair while either, which certainly concerns the grizzled old man. He offers them canteens of water.
Shea promises to help but sternly rejects Noemi’s sexual advances, making it clear that he’ll get her to Oregon but won’t be marrying her.
Thomas begins talking to Noemi and learns that one of the men in camp has stolen all of her things. This betrayal, stealing from their own, brings Shea into cutting the thieves’ horses loose, messing up their wagon and taking the resources back to Noemi. Shea also promises to kill them if they go the same way they are.
With a bag over his shoulder, Shea confronts Josef and implores him to control his people. If he can’t, then it’ll be up to him to pick someone else to lead them forward. Thomas has concerns over Shea’s behaviour, reminding him that they need these travelers to trust them if they want to make the journey in one piece.
In camp, Elsa volunteers herself to help Ennis with the herd. James is not sure this is a good idea but Margaret decides to join her, intent on keeping an eye on the young woman. Ennis has more than herding on his mind though, and as Margaret and Elsa approach, those intentions are very obviously clear. Nothing happens but it’s definitely bubbling up.
While this is going on, James takes John out hunting. He’s taught how to hunt a deer. It’s a big stag too and enough to feed the camp for a week. James teaches him the art of honoring the kill, staining his cheeks with blood as they head back to camp with their kill.
When James arrives, Shea is there waiting for him. Shea tells James that heading east may be easier but it’ll add another 3 weeks to their journey. So naturally, they’re going to go West. Although Shea does begrudgingly agree, he points out James questioning his authority and how that’s damaging for the whole journey.
James only cares about his only family though; he doesn’t care about the politics among the traveling rabble of foreigners. Eventually though they do agree to head out together.
That night, the robber from earlier attempts to rally the people to his caused, moaning about Shea’s leadership. Shea certainly makes his point clear that night, drawing his gun at a lightning quick speed and reminding the sobbing man that killing him would mean absolutely nothing, especially not after the massacres he’s faced in the past.
When the robbers do eventually leave, Shea tells the rest of the foreigners to police themselves or he and Thomas will step in. They’re going to leave in the morning but before they go, he implores them to collect up water – boiling it before drinking of course.
Leaving these robbers alive has an adverse effect too. It puts the caravan in grave danger, given the men may well go back to Fort Worth, collect up a whole bunch of thieves and approach the caravan as revenge. Shea is aware of this, especially when he talks to Thomas and bemoans his conscience for not killing them. Will it come back to haunt Shea in the future?
As the caravan starts moving, the threat of death moves with them, leaving plenty of dangers in the near future.
The Episode Review
The third episode of 1883 presents an interesting dilemma between two characters who are quickly becoming the personification of an unstoppable train meeting an immovable object. Shea and James both have very different ways of going about business and that much is especially true here.
The decision to travel West is perhaps the most obvious but the way it comes about is certainly concerning for Shea. These two have a really interesting dynamic and this episode only exemplifies that further.
On top of that, 1883 has a clever way of shifting the perspective across to the different family members and giving them their own subplots. It’s a nice way of adding depth to each of these characters, even John who starts too learn the way of the hunter.
This series has been really compelling and well written right the way through its run-time and the ending hints that we’re about to step it up and dive into even more drama for the episodes ahead.