The “1883” finale dropped today, February 27, a nice little birthday gift to me. Beware, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, there will likely be SPOILERS AHEAD. Read at your own risk.
Recently, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill spoke about the effect the finale had on them when they read the script. Faith Hill, specifically, spoke about the “enormous responsibility” she felt playing Margaret Dutton in that moment.
The two mentioned that the final script made them cry so hard they could barely get through it. “He couldn’t read it because he was bawling,” Hill told Variety. “It took me about an hour to read it to him because most of the time, I couldn’t catch my breath I was crying so hard.”
Hill mentioned that when they recovered from reading the script, they said, “My God, this is one of the most incredible stories we’ve ever read.” Hill continued, “I knew the weight and responsibility of playing Margaret and telling the story and bringing her to life — I felt an enormous responsibility. I did not want to fail.”
And, if you’ve seen the episode, you know she definitely didn’t. When she found out she couldn’t be with her dying daughter, she cycled through so many emotions at once; the impossible hurt, the grief, and then cold, stony acceptance. She was amazing as a woman going through an unbearable loss. Both Hill and McGraw were incredible, overshadowed only by Isabel May herself. McGraw as the stoic James Dutton, finally breaking down as he held his lifeless daughter in his arms: truly heartbreaking.
McGraw commented, “I know fans are gonna hate it and love it at the same time. That’s what good TV, good music, good movies, good art, good books, all those things, do. They bring out those emotions in you. It’s going to be a good thing that they hate that ending, because it has to be that way and they know it. It’s gonna be devastating. Why would you watch stuff if it doesn’t purge your emotions?”
Shea Brennan’s Ending and the Catharsis of the ‘1883’ Finale
Shea Brennan’s ending let us feel our feelings in a different way than Elsa Dutton’s ending, at least in part. Her actual death was a devastating kind of emotional blood-letting; Shea’s was almost like letting out a breath you’d held for a long time.
Shea finally made it to the ocean, after “1883” skipped forward a year. He spoke to his dead wife, Helen, and then the shot pulled back. A gunshot rang out, and Shea’s fate was fulfilled. That was always the way he was going to go, on his own terms, by his own hand. But, it wasn’t out of helplessness; there was a certain serenity in his death that meant he was going home to his family, finally.
There was a definite catharsis in the “1883” finale; it wrung us all out like old dishcloths, doing exactly what Tim McGraw said it did: purging our emotions. It lets us get all those things out that we usually don’t. The finale allowed us to have a big cry and really feel all of our feelings.