‘1883’: Best Character Quotes From Season 1

by Jon D. B.
Pictured: Tim McGraw as James, Sam Elliott as Shea and LaMonica Garrett as Thomas of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

1883 delivers stellar quotes courtesy of one of the best ensemble casts of any show on television. But first, be warned of significant spoilers for all of 1883 Season 1 ahead!

“You know what I’m doin’ here? Lookin’ for a reason. You wanna be my reason?”

So says Sam Elliott’s captivating Capt. Shea Brennan, one of the best characters to grace small screens in the history of television. Such high praise extends to his stellar castmates, too. From Tim McGraw’s gruff Dutton patriarch, James, to Isabel May’s career-defining performance as his daughter, Elsa, 1883 is chock-full of some of the most iconic Western faces both sides of the Brazos. And with such a stellar cast delivering Taylor Sheridan’s pitch-perfect script, 1883 has become one of the most quotable shows of them all.

‘1883’s Tim McGraw Delivers Timeless Quotes as Dutton Patriarch James

Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Throughout 1883 Season 1, Tim McGraw proves himself a true leading man and force of nature as James Dutton. As the Yellowstone prequel’s Dutton patriarch, McGraw delivers stellar quotes that elevate him as 1883’s leading man.

“I believe in you and I believe in that boy and I believe in our daughter. That’s all. Justice don’t factor into it.”

James Dutton, S1 E2

“How am I supposed to hunt with a 5-year-old?” James asks his wife.

“Teach him to be quiet, or find a dumb deer,” Margaret replies before riding off on her horse.

“When you kill a thing, son, it makes you look less man and a little more animal. Now we try to find the balance between ’em. That’s all life is.”

James on the heart of 1883‘s hunting.

“I can’t treat you like an adult when it suits me and a child when I’m worried. You’re one or the other.”

James to his daughter, Elsa

“I look at you for what you are: the most important thing to me on this planet. That comes with a lot of worry. Cause I can’t replace you.”

James to a dying Elsa

James Dutton’s Best Speech:

In Season 1, Episode 6, James opens up to his heartbroken daughter, Elsa, offering perspective on the cost of taking another person’s life. Through this longer quote, Tim McGraw cements himself as one of 1883’s true powerhouses:

“I’m gonna tell you a story. You’re going to listen. I think I’ve earned that right… First man I killed was just a boy. Younger than you. The reason company’s have flag bearers is so soldiers know to stay with their group. And so generals on the hill can track the progress of the battle. So much dust and smoke in battle… Fighting in a fog. Hard to make out the enemy. Can’t tell their man from yours. But you can always look up and see the flags. So we shoot flag bearers first. And I did. That boy’s face was burned into my brain. The whole world seemed to stop as this boy’s lookin’ right at me. By the end of the battle, I… I killed so many men I couldn’t remember what that boy looked like. Still can’t.

“That man you shot was already dead. Whether we hanged him or he bled out, his time on this earth was done. You did not kill him. Understand? The meanest thing you can do to yourself is hate somebody else. I know what it feels like to hate the world. You don’t want to feel that, honey. Be sad. Miss him! Cry yourself white. But you leave the hatin’ to me.”

James Dutton, S1 E6

Faith Hill Shines as Dutton Matriarch, Margaret

As 1883 starts out, Faith Hill’s Margaret is very much the 19th century housewife one would expect from this stifling time in American history. Her Tennessee life has been uprooted by her “dreamer” of a husband, James (Tim McGraw). But Margaret is destined to become so much more than even she thought possible – and her quotes throughout 1883 illustrate this perfectly.

Pictured: Faith Hill as Margaret of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“How am I supposed to make her into a lady when you keep treating her like a man?” Margaret asks her husband.

“There’s plenty of ladies in this world. Pretty short on decent men, though,” James smiles.

“How am I supposed to respond to that!?” Margaret replies.

“Girl, I’ve forgotten more about horses than you’ll ever know.”

Margaret to Elsa, S1 E3

“Just once I’d love to see the world through your eyes. But one day you’ll see it through mine, though. And it breaks my heart.”

Margaret to Elsa, S1 E5

“You’ve seen enough farm animals to know how babies are made, Elsa.”

Margaret to Elsa, S1 E5

“You use that word in front of my child again, I’m gonna stab you with this f***ing fork.”

Margaret to Cookie, S1 E7

Margaret Dutton’s Best ‘1883’ Speeches

By 1883 Episode 5, the Yellowstone prequel  busts the doors wide open on Margaret’s relationship with her daughter, Elsa. And Faith Hill delivers her best quotes of 1883 Season 1 within:

” I envy you… Becoming a woman out here. No rules, no worries or whispers about what you should be. There’s no such thing as freedom, Elsa. Don’t let anyone tell you there is. There’s laws, there’s rules, there’s customs, responsibilities everywhere. And the more people you cram together, the more rules they’ll be. I don’t know what life is like in Oregon. But there’ll be rules there, too.

This trail, this is as free as you’ll ever be. The only rules you need to follow are the ones in your heart.”

Margaret to Elsa

“You’d better be careful. You’re a woman now, ain’t yah? And woman to woman you better be careful. It takes years to make something of your life. And one decision can change the course of it forever. And we don’t know if that decision is the one that’s going sink us until we make it. So you better be very, very careful what you choose. Freedom is anything but, Elsa. And every choice has fangs, do you understand me?”

Margaret Dutton, S1 E5

‘1883’s Best Quotes Come Courtesy of Isabel May’s Narration as Elsa Dutton

“The road West is filled with failures. But failure isn’t what drove him. It was a dream. And the dream was coming true.”

Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“I think cities have weakened us as a species. There are no consequences there. Step into the streets without looking and the carriage merely stops or swerves; the only consequence an angry driver. But here? There can be no mistakes. Because here doesn’t care. The river doesn’t care if you can swim. The snake doesn’t care how much you love your children. And the wolf has no interest in your dreams. If you fail to beat the current, you will drown; if you get too close, you will be bitten. If you are too weak, you will be eaten.”

Elsa Dutton’s narration for S1 E5

As the sun rises on the end of 1883 Season 1, we see Elsa’s heaven. And it is a race with Sam (Martin Sensmeier) along the valley they were to reunite. And it is beautiful.

“There is a moment where your dreams and your memories merge together and form a perfect world. That is heaven. And each heaven is unique. It is the world of you. The land is filled with all you hold dear. And the sky is your imagination.

My heaven is filled with good horses, open plains, wild cattle, and a man who loves me. It is always sunrise in my world. And there are no storms. I am the only lightning. I know death now. I’ve seen it. It had no fangs. It smiled at me. And it was beautiful.”

Elsa Dutton’s narration, S1 E10

Sam Elliott Sets the Bar High as ‘1883’s Captain Shea Brennan

There’s no modern Western icon more beloved, prevalent, or powerful than Sam Elliott. So when the veteran actor was cast as a lead in 1883, audiences knew they were in for a real treat. But nothing could’ve prepared us for just how spectacular his performance as Captain Shea Brennan would be throughout Season 1.

Pictured: Sam Elliott as Shea of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“You know what I’m doin’ here? Lookin’ for a reason. You wanna be my reason?”

Shea Brennan, S1 E2

“During the war, we fought a battle at this place called ‘The Wilderness,’ because there was nothin’ around but the wilderness. I fired my rifle so many times it melted. Just drooped like rotten fruit. So I killed with my pistol. And when I ran out of bullets I killed with my sword. And when my sword broke I killed with my boots and bare hands. When the battle was over and I looked behind me, the wilderness was gone. Not a tree left standing; chopped down chest high by bullets. We killed five-thousand men that day. When I say killing you means nothing to me, I mean it. Killing you means nothing.”

Shea Brennan, S1 E3

“It takes a lot to surprise me, Thomas. These people… They’ve never been allowed to think for themselves. Hell, they can hardly think at all. The fact that they ain’t headed for Galveston begging their way onto a boat for home… Shocks me. It shocked me, Thomas. That they haven’t quit yet.”

Shea Brennan, S1 E4

Shea’s Best Speech Comes as He Aids a Heartbroken Elsa

After the tragic death of Ennis (Eric Nelsen), Shea comes to the aid of Elsa while revealing much of himself:

“I know how you feel. A lot of people are gonna tell you that. Whether it’s truthful or not, I don’t know. But I know its true when I say it,” Shea tells her. “I’ll tell you a secret. I’ll tell you why I’m still sucking air today. I’m headed to the ocean. An Apache scout told me once, that when you love someone you trade souls with them. They get a piece of yours, and you get a piece of theirs. But when your love dies, a little piece of them dies with you. That’s why it hurts so bad. But that little piece of him is still inside you. And he can use your eyes to see the world.

So I’m gonna take my wife to the ocean. And I’m gonna sit on the beach and let her see it. That was her dream. Then I’m gonna see her. That’s my dream.”

Shea Brennan, S1 E6

‘1883’s Moral Compass Comes via Thomas’ Timeless Quotes

And then there’s the breakout character of the show, Thomas. LaMonica Garrett would blow audiences away with every single scene his Thomas inhabited, forming a masterful moral compass for 1883.

Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“When there’s two leaders, there ain’t no leader. Know what I mean?”

Thomas, S1 E2

“I figure maybe, that one of they kids has a kid. And that kid does somethin’. Somethin’ that… The world’s better because their kid’s in it. Know what I mean?”

Thomas, S1 E3

The most terrifying thing on this planet is the unknown,” Shea tells Thomas.

“That’s cause you ain’t never been whipped, Cap’n. Let someone put a whip to your back. Then tell me the unknown is what scares you. These folks ain’t never goin’ home,” Thomas tells his closest friend.

“There’s degrees of freedom. Government says you can’t swim. Can’t protect yourself. Damn right the government can tell you who to love and how to love ’em. They shouldn’t, but they can.”

Thomas, S1 E5

“You ain’t do deputy, you ain’t no judge. You ain’t no f*cking jury. Those folks weren’t no thieves. You the thieves. And you gon’ die for it.”

Thomas, S1 E9

Billy Bob Thornton’s Cameo Delivers One of ‘1883’s Best Quotes

Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

For 1883, veteran actor Billy Bob Thornton steps into the role of lawman Jim Courtright, a historical figure pulled straight from Texas’s true past. As the Duttons settle some disputes in Forth Worth, Thornton’s Marshall peruses a bloody saloon, announcing to all:

“There’s only one killer in Fort Worth, and that’s me.”

Jim Courtright, 1883

For more of the best quotes from 1883, check out our full character quote breakdowns, too:

1883 streams exclusively on Paramount Plus, and is set to receive more episodes as early as 2022’s end.