‘1883’: Sam Elliott’s Shea Brennan Reveals His ‘Secret’ in Episode 6

by Jon D. B.

Through the power of Sam Elliott’s masterful performance, Shea Brennan finally reveals his reason for embarking on 1883‘s Westward Expansion.

“Death is everywhere. It follows us like a stray dog. Waiting to devour us like scraps.”

1883‘s Episode 6 picks up right where Episode 5 left off. Immigrants, Pinkerton agents, and Duttons all must move on from the death of Ennis (Eric Nelsen). But Elsa (Isabel May) is understandably incapable. She’s been torn in two. The loss of her love has driven her from a wide-eyed, naïve 18-year-old into a jaded, seething young woman.

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

Through personal means, we find out Elsa is most likely not pregnant with Ennis’ baby, either. This drives her further into grief, and she seeks out his grave in solace. There, she pulls out her revolver, rests it in her lap, and sobs numbly as she contemplates suicide.

No character in 1883‘s roster knows this pain more than Sam Elliott’s Shea Brennan. It’s a demon he wrestles with in each episode, which is exactly why he makes sure to come to Elsa’s aid.

“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. I’ve sat right where you’re sittin’, thinkin’ the same thing. Thinking I don’t want to live without them. Don’t see the point. Still do most days,” he tells Elsa as she sits with the gun that would take her life; something we witnessed Shea on the verge of himself in the throws of the show’s premiere.

“But here I am… Livin’ without ’em.”

“Why?” Elsa asks.

“Well, my reasons would be different than yours,” he cries. “I don’t have anyone else left that loves me. You do.”

In this moment, Shea realizes this young woman needs comfort as much as she does tough love. And through the power of Sam Elliott’s performance, he delivers both in one of 1883‘s best scenes to date.

‘1883’: Sam Elliott’s Power; Shea Brennan’s Secret

“I’ll tell you a secret. I’ll tell you why I’m still sucking air today. I’m headed to the ocean,” Shea reveals. Through his dialogue, this scarred, fiery man‘s remaining will to live unfolds.

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

“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,” he tells Elsa of Ennis.

“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.”

Through this heart-wrenching speech, we finally learn Shea Brennan’s “secret” – the reason he’s doing everything within his power to return to the furthest stretches of Oregon. He’s taking his late wife, Helen’s, soul with him so she can see the ocean through his eyes. And once she does, Shea plans to take his own life on the shore. Then, he’ll finally be with her again; the dream of his own.

Shea paints the end of his journey with simple yet vivid words; a hallmark of Sam Elliott’s powerful talent. We now know the captain sees the Oregon coast as the end of the road. The end of the line. And to see as many of his immigrant party across the Oregon Trail safely as he can is his final mission.

Sam Elliott returns as Shea Brennan next Sunday for 1883 Episode 7.