Episode 2 of 1883 begins on a flashback at Dunker Church at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. Dead soldiers lie all over the grounds and Captain James Dutton arises to see the devastation of what war can bring. In shock, the Union soldiers are coming upon him. He’s in so much turmoil that he pays them no attention. James sits down in shock and horror at the events around him.
General George Meade (Tom Hanks) steps up and allows James Dutton the moment to take it all in. The two of them share a look of solidarity with the toll the war takes on a man. He understands, and as strong as James is he breaks down in tears at the loss of his men. The General even lays his hand on his shoulder in comfort. Though they fight on different sides of the war it is a great scene that shows you the honor of a man. He allowed him that small chance to grieve before taking him captive.
"“My father won’t speak of the war. When men ask if he fought, he says no. I’ve seen fellow soldiers call out his name on the street. He turns and walks the other way. He spent three years in a Union prison. When he came home my mother said he weight ninety-seven pounds. “"- Elsa Dutton
In the present time of 1883, James circles around the camp with his horse checking on him and holding true to the agreement he made with Shea and Thomas. Though Shea is usually the man who gives the sound advice, James returns the favor telling the two they need to get a cook. The immigrants are eating too much and too fast and this level of food is going to run out. They need someone to ration the food before things get bad to worse.
Thomas thinks food won’t be a problem because they are bringing a herd with them. Shea quickly agrees and adds a cook to the list. James tells Elsa to watch over her brother so he can go with Thomas and Shea to see a man about cattle. They will have to have more than enough food to survive this long-awaited adventure. Unfortunately, the cows are a little more than they bargained for but a couple of cowboys tell them they know of a herd they can round up.
"“I do not know what the word “Texas” means, but to me it means magic.”"- Elsa Dutton
The trio hires two ranch hands named Wade and Ennis. Shea gives them a tasty offer they can’t refuse. Two true cowboys that are much needed for the wild cattle down on the Brazos.
"“It seems even trees are new to this place. They scatter about in clusters, like little villages. And everywhere, treasures. Everywhere there is a bounty just waiting to be scooped up. “"- Elsa Dutton
Elsa Dutton definitely romanticizes Texas and easily finds the beauty in it. Her father told her to stay put but that didn’t last long. She finds herself coming across a skeleton plunged with arrows and other skeletons around it. Learning as risks of this beautiful land.
"“When I looked out over this land, I only saw the freedom it promised. I knew nothing of the horror that hides in freedom’s shadow.”"- Elsa Dutton
Quickly Elsa stumbles upon some of the immigrants getting deathly sick. Keeled over in pain and profusely vomiting from the river water. She quickly runs back to camp to alert her mother. Claire believes in survival of the fittest and doesn’t think Margaret should bother thinking they are too stupid to survive anyway.
1883 Episode 2 recap: “I got one that can ride.”
Because of the slim experience the Europeans have, there are few men who are able to help herd the cattle, but there is however one female who can. Elsa Dutton. James lets Margaret know he’s going to take her and she’s not enthused with the idea at all. Elsa is already hard enough to tame as it is. She can’t teach her how to be a lady when James keeps treating her like one of the guys but James doesn’t think that’s so bad. There are ladies out there like his sister who are far less appealing than an eccentric woman like Elsa.
It starts to hit Elsa the dangers that men face when James puts a gun in her saddlebag. He tells her just in case but she will soon see why every man should stay armed.
James and Shea’s group meet up with another group run by a man named Grady who agrees to help them and take them up to their camp. They all lay under the stars like cowboys do. Elsa is more than grateful to be there and help but James assures her they need her and advises her the best way to handle a herd.
They all wake up early to go try and round the cattle right back to the camp. It’s a new experience for Elsa but she handles it well and follows their instruction by holding her position in the back. She comes across a longhorn and pushes it into the pack. Elsa did a fine job for her first cowgirl experience. Which was a surprise to the men, all but James.
"“Freedom, to most it is an idea. An abstract thought that pertains to control. That’s not freedom. That’s Independence. Freedom is riding wild over untamed land with no notion any moment exists beyond the one you are living.”"- Elsa Dutton
Back at camp, Margaret and Claire have to listen to the not-so-angelic songs coming from the Europeans. For once they are actually in agreement about something. In Claire's fashion, she remains pessimistic about James’ dream for the Dutton family, thinking it won’t end in anything but misery. Margaret believes in her husband but you can see a glimpse of doubt in her eyes.
While the men were away, a group of bandits who were up to no good come up on the camp. Claire makes a bad situation worse by throwing rocks at them as their horses were trying to drink from the river, which forces Margaret to pull out her shotgun and give them a warning. It all leads up to a gunfight and Margaret and company don’t have the firepower to fight back with a lone shotgun.
Mary ends up paying the cost of her mother's mistake and dies along with several immigrants. We don’t know that the band of bad bandits wouldn’t have harmed them but James was absolutely right when he said Claire tends to make a situation worse, and she did.
Ennis is a charming cowboy who makes Elsa smile from the start. Claiming she is far too pretty for him. While it may be true you can feel their chemistry. It goes to show that at the time not everything was based on looks but on how someone makes you feel.
"“They were rough and they were rude, and they were looking for it. But I can’t say they started it.”"- Margaret Dutton
The men were on their way to the Marshal to go after the bandits. Margaret didn’t necessarily see the justice in it. They may have started chaos anyway but it was Claire who began the violence. The Marshal famous Jim Courtright (Billy Bob Thornton) gives James a badge to keep him legally protected from what they were about to go do.
Josef starts to point out the men who attacked them and quickly Jim recognizes this crew and knows its leader Clyde. Longhair Jim asks him what happened but quickly wasn’t pleased with his explanation and shoots him. The group takes out the rest of the bandits. One of Clyde’s men nearly escaped until Josef shakily pointed him out. Though unarmed he was still murdered for his crimes.
Shea knows they have to get on the move whether they are ready or not. Everyone in Fort Worth is going to be looking for them in revenge. As soon as sunrise hits, Shea is instructing his group on how to cross the river. The cowboys decide to come along for the ride. Ennis assures him they will earn their keep. Wade tells him they know the land better than they do and know exactly what comes next, so having them around will come in handy.
1883 Episode 2 recap: Sometimes it’s too hard to say goodbye
James' group is getting ready to go but after the death of her daughter, Claire is kneeling by her grave and not planning to move from that spot. She has nothing left to live for and sees no point in fighting for a life that only lets her down. She has had 7 children and they have all been put in the ground. She is ready to lay down too. Even in the face of what happens to her she doesn’t feel the guilt and puts the blame on James and his dreams for causing this. The differences between James and Claire are night and day. Because of the man James is, he does go back for her but it’s too late. She pulls the trigger on herself and dies on top of her daughter.
Unlike his sister James does have guilt over what just happened. Shea tries to give him some words of wisdom that what she did was courageous. James almost snickers finding nothing courageous about taking your own life, but if anyone can understand reaching your breaking point after losing everything you love it’s Shea. Luckily for him, he has people who depend on him and can focus on a job and task that keeps his mind from staying depressed. But you have to ask how long will that last as devastation piles up on the Oregon Trail?
Ennis and Elsa continue to flirt and you can consider this Elsa’s first crush in her short life so far. She is happy around him and enjoys his sense of humor. Her parents may not be all too happy about it but that is young love for you.
"“What began as a journey had become a retreat. Into the unknown. We were backing into the abyss, so worried out sins would follow us we didn’t bother watching where we walked. And behind us was a cliff.”"- Elsa Dutton