It’s a slow start for James Dutton, however. There’s a few gems in the first two episodes of the series, but be warned of major spoilers ahead for Season 1 of 1883 regardless.
“Anybody else wanna f*** with my family? Anybody?” – S1 E1
“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.” – S1 E2
Indeed, series creator Taylor Sheridan has crafted another stalwart Dutton patriarch. Once 1883 gets rolling, Tim McGraw is firing on all cylinders as the gruff James. Episode 3 busts the doors wide open for McGraw as an actor, too.
‘1883’ Season 1, Episode 3: ‘River’
“How am I supposed to hunt with a 5-year-old?” James asks.
“Teach him to be quiet. Or find a dumb deer,” Margaret replies before riding off with her daughter.
“It’s gonna kick, and it’s gonna hurt. But you won’t remember the kick in a week, all you’ll remember is the kill.” – James teaching his 5-year-old, John, how to hunt deer with their rifle.
“It’s your first kill so I gotta blood you. You took a life to give us life. Now we say thank you.” James tells his son.
“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.
“The only family I give a sh*t about is mine!”
“I’m going to build you a house so big you get lost in it,” James smiles to his wife, Margaret. And he’s most certainly talking about the Dutton Manor of Yellowstone (real-life Chief Joseph Ranch lodge).
“You break her heart or get handsy, you and me gonna have a problem.” – James to Ennis on Elsa.
Season 1, Episode 4: ‘The Crossing’
“My wife can back a wagon through the doors of a saloon. She’ll be fine.”
“I ain’t no f***ing farmer. I was a captain, too. But I don’t call myself that either… Cap’n.” – James to Shea
“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 told you it was gonna take everything we had and more,” he replies.
“You shoulda told me what ‘everything’ meant,” she exhales after crossing.
Season 1, Episode 5: ‘The Fangs of Freedom’
“Cattle and horses ain’t all they steal out here. You hear me?” James to daughter Elsa.
“You say you love her. But you won’t ever love her like I do. That’s my heart you’re running off with. And you better cradle it like an egg.” – James to Ennis on Elsa
‘1883’ Season 1, Episode 6: ‘Boring the Devil’
“You don’t point this at anybody unless you plan on using it,” James to Elsa on pulling her revolver in town.
“Girl, you go looking for trouble, you gon’ find it every time.”
“The only thing they’re gonna learn crossing that is how to die.” – James to Shea & Thomas on crossing the Red River.
Before Episode 6 ends, James opens up to his daughter to try and give a hurting Elsa perspective on the cost of taking another life:
“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.”
Episode 7: ‘Lightning Yellow Hair’
“The only place you ain’t gotta worry about her is on the back of a horse,” – James on Elsa’s race with Sam.
Episode 9: ‘She’s the light of my life. And she’s my soul. But she’s going to die.’
“She’s the light of my life. And she’s my soul. But she’s going to die,” James sobs.
Margaret smacks her husband. “How f*cking dare you!? I will not lose a child!” Margaret weeps.
“She is going to die. And it’s going to cut us in two. If we don’t accept it now, she’s going to die in some fort, with some doctor, who’s gonna cut her open so bad she can’t see straight. And we will have robbed her. She needs to see every sunrise. And every sunset. And we will lie to her. We will tell her she’s fine. And we will let her look at this world with those big dreamer eyes… Until they can’t see no more.”
“Then what’re we gonna do? She’s gonna be another cross on a trail that we don’t visit. Ten years from now, it’s just gone!” Margaret cries.
“Our wagon drives over… Where we bury her is where we stay. That is our home.”
“Not here. Not in this place.”
“No. Not this place. I will find a place. By God I will find a place,” James promises his wife. And together, they accept Elsa’s fate – and their own.
‘1883’ Finale, Episode 10, Sees James Lose His Only Daughter
“You look at me like I’m dying,” Elsa tells her father.
“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 tells his daughter.
Beneath a canopy of golden trees, Elsa asks her father to stop. “This is the spot,” she cries. James takes his daughter off her horse, and together they walk to and old tree of her choosing. There, James places his back on the tree, cradling his daughter in his lap.
“What’s your first memory?” she asks her father.
“I was probably three, I reckon. My daddy had an apprentice. And he was bangin’ horseshoes,” a heartbroken James tells her. “I remember the sparks. He looked up at me and he smiled, put his hands over his eyes and said ‘Peekaboo, I see you.’ Then he covered his eyes with his hands, and said ‘But you can’t see me. Where am I?’ I didn’t understand the game. He was hiding behind his hands, and I could see him, plain as day. I thought he was a fool.”