The Weep of Surrender
Episode 8 of 1883 begins with the caravan out on the plains. Sam’s still there too, and alongside Elsa, James and the others, they begin herding some wild horse. Elsa continues to embrace this wild way of life, howling like a banshee as she works to round up the horses.
Elsa has come a long way this season and after ripping her pants, heads back to her caravan to begin stitching them up. Margaret is there though and she suggests Elsa wear a dress… which is met with a vehement refusal. The thing is, dresses are her future, given that’s where she’s heading, and Margaret admitting all this hits her with bitter regret.
The drama this episode though stems from where the caravan are heading next. James suggests they talk to the immigrants, while Shea deduces going back to Denver. That’s something that won’t fly with James.
They’re all interrupted by the arrival of Indians who are there to trade. James trades with one off the men, but takes a fancy to a Spanish helmet behind him. It’s not for sale, he says, but is quick to mention how these men tried to take their land but were cut down and stopped in their tracks.
James is quick to reassure him though, telling him he’s not there to take anything, but given the opening scenes in episode 1, this feels like a nice bit of foreshadowing.
Charlie and Shea part ways, with the former admitting he thinks this is his last journey. This trip is not going to be easy and Shea admits that with only 8 wagons, the old and young are going to have to ride inside while everyone else walks on. The alternative is that they head back to Denver, which will take six weeks. The land there is not free though.
Shea’s choice is usurped by James, offering Josef and the others the choice of joining them and heading North where they can learn to ride and press on. Josef decides to join him rather than head to Denver. Shea decides to turn leadership duties over to James, making him responsible for their wellbeing.
Before they leave though, Sam helps show Elsa how to hunt and kill a buffalo. This symbolic act sees the Indians rally together and ride. Off the back of this, Elsa decides to stay with the Indians now.
Following Elsa’s bold proclamation, things escalate that night with her father. Given Elsa is 18, she deduces that she’s a woman now and can do what she wants. Margaret fails to get through to her, and even in the morning she calls out Margaret for her hypocrisy. After all, she was in the fields working while James was in a cell rotting and she was 17.
As aa compromise, she promises to ride with them until Oregon but is going to stay with the Indians. Margaret wants them to exchange vows but Elsa is done with God. She sees Sam as a sign from God and refuses o ask him for permission.
With Shea on the verge of leaving, Thomas urges him to stay. After all, he’s made a promise and he’s going to see this through to the end and believes Shea should do the same thing. Eventually he agrees.
Elsewhere, James catches up with Sam. After breaking a horse in, Sam hands the reigns over to James and lets him ride to prove as much. While he marvels over the beauty of the plains, Margaret watches from afar and realizes that this is exactly where Elsa gets her spirit from.
Sam and the other Indians aren’t going near Oregon though, they’re staying on the land they’ve made their own. He does promise to bring Elsa back if she changes her mind but Elsa’s tenacious spirit is not something to be tamed as easily as this horse – and James knows that.
For now, Elsa and Sam part ways as the former agrees to ride with the others onto Oregon before parting ways for good. With the Indians leaving, Elsa lets the tears roll down her cheeks as she presses ahead with the others for the next step of the journey.
The Episode Review
After last week’s chapter, this is arguably the weakest of all the episodes in 1883. The drama slows to a screeching halt in favour of seeing Elsa decide to leave the group and press on with the Indians. Seeing how quickly Elsa has taken to Sam just screams rebound and it’s clear this is going to cause all sorts of problems further on down the line.
For now though, this episode focuses solely on Elsa making her choice and embracing the Indians and their way of life. Beyond that though, there’s really not a lot else to write home about. There’s not much in the way of drama, barely anything plot-intensive and instead, all of this plays out like a proverbial catching of one’s breath; a way to unwind and recharge after that amazing episode last week.
Hopefully this is just a proverbial blip in the road and things pick back up soon.