1883 Season 1 Review – A quiet, thought-provoking slice of western heaven

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5


1883 is a special show. Styling itself as a western drama, 1883 combines elements of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Yellowstone with a dash of tension, romance and drama for good measure. Sure, the show has its dips – most notably a questionable teen romance midway through – but beyond that, 1883 manages to capture a very distinct, bleak period of history so accurately that few other shows have managed.

The story itself is pretty straightforward and centers on a caravan moving through the Great Plains, with its inhabitants eager to reach Oregon and find a new home.

That caravan is fronted by Shea and Thomas, two hardened cowboys who know the way the world works and enact a strict “our way or the highway” approach. Together, they lead a rabble of immigrants across the land – but they aren’t alone.

Joining them for this journey happens to be James Dutton, who’s accompanied by his wife Margaret, daughter Elsa and son John. This family eventually find themselves becoming more and more invested in the caravan and their misadventure, navigating natural disasters, bandits and hostile wildlife.

While the pace is likely to be too slow for some, 1883 has a deliberateness to the way it tells its story. This Is a show that’s not afraid to take its time, slowly building up tension across several episodes before exploding into a flurry of gunfire or action. There’s one episode here that sees the caravan try to navigate a river, and the whole episode builds up to this moment so well.

This is much less about the plot though and more geared up to explore its various characters that inhabit this world. Every main character has depth, with a reasoning to their actions. Shea’s motivation stems from honoring the memory of his deceased wife. Meanwhile, the immigrants are looking for a free land to call their own. Elsa is on a journey of discovery, while James and Margaret just want to keep their kids safe.

Everyone has a reason for being on this journey, and by the end of the season most characters find their arcs come to a natural close – one way or another. What’s interesting though is that these journeymen embody a different theme which this show tackles over time.

From innocence and young love (Elsa) to honour and regret (Shea), seeing how these characters embrace or shy away from their traits makes for a wholly fascinating watch. This also has the knock-on effect of adding some really thought provoking and interesting bites of dialogue.

While some may disagree and find the show too lethargic, 1883’s slow pace works beautifully to drink in the scenery and allow for a very quiet, thought provoking slice of western drama. For those who can go in with an open mind and some patience, 1883 is a special show and easily one of this year’s best small screen offerings.

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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