Alongside Sam Elliott’s starring role, 1883‘s stellar cast includes two of the best cameos in modern television history, each filled by other Oscar-winning Hollywood legends. Warning: Major spoilers are ahead for Episode 2 of 1883.
1883 premiered with two phenomenal episodes Sunday, December 19. While Episode 1, “1883,” went a long way in setting up this sprawling, magnificent Western, it’s Episode 2, “Behind Us, A Cliff,” that set a new bar for television cameos.
Bill Bob Thornton Rocks ‘1883’ as Marshal Jim Courtright
As James Dutton (Tim McGraw) heads back into Fort Worth to pursue justice over the loss of his sister-in-law’s daughter, he makes some powerful allies. Under the guidance of Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott), James is deputized by none other than Billy Bob Thornton as Marshal Jim Courtright.
The bandits responsible for slaughtering James’ niece are celebrating in town after raiding the Dutton wagon camp. Here, they’re found by Courtright, James, Shea, and Thomas. Courtright makes short work of the first wave of outlaws, followed by the newly-deputized James stepping in.
“There’s only one killer in Fort Worth and that’s me,” Thornton delivers as his steely Marshal. Meeting Thornton’s version of this historical figure is a highlight of an already fantastic 1883 episode; one that shows how far the Yellowstone franchise has come since delivering Kevin Costner as it’s only A-List star. But it doesn’t get any more A-List than the first cameo in the episode.
Tom Hanks Surfaces as Civil War General George Meade in Flashback
In the first throws of “Behind Us, A Cliff,” 1883 drops us right into the heart of the Civil War. There, a far-worse for wear James struggles to cope amidst the fallout of The Battle of Antietam. He’s the only one left alive amidst his regiment’s slaughter, and his unusual uniform (possibly making him a rebel soldier) may be the reason why.
As he attempts to regain some form of sanity, his general comes to his aid. It’s in this moment that we meet Tom Hanks as Civil War General George Meade.
Meade was a real Union Major General who fought in the true Civil War. According to American history, Meade assumed temporary corps command during Antietam. In 1883, however, he’s present as James’ general.
The two share an emotional moment amidst Antietam’s wreckage, and it sets the stage perfectly for a Dutton who’s lived through hell and would prefer to chase a dream; not live in the nightmares of his past.