The second episode of the series,’1883,’ begins where we left the first episode. On September 17, 1876, James was present at the fight of Drunker Church at Anteitum. Bodies are strewn over the place. James appears to be the last Confederate soldier standing, but the Union soldiers ignore him until he sits down, at which point Tom Hanks walks over and takes a seat alongside him. Hanks lays his hand on James’ shoulder as he breaks down sobbing. James spent three years in a Union jail, weighing barely 97 pounds when he returned home.
To dissuade everyone from eating like it’s Christmas morning, James tells Shea and Thomas that they need a cook. Elsa discovers that the water is unfit to drink. Claire, her aunt, is a pain in the neck who is more concerned with being unpleasant to Elsa than with preventing people from drinking the water. Elsa tries to assist a young woman who is suffering by the river’s edge, but James insists that she saddle Lightning. Margaret is brewing tea in an attempt to alleviate the misery of the people. He’s taking Elsa with him to rustle cattle, and she’s not happy about it. Elsa, on the other hand, is ecstatic. Ennis and Wade track down another bunch of cowboys they know who leads them to several wild bulls they can keep as pets. Shea is traveling to visit Oregon one more time before the world consumes him. Elsa is approaching the situation as if it were a fantastic adventure. It isn’t a gift, according to James. He is in desperate need of her. Elsa is 17 years old now, having been born a year after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Their mission goes off without a hitch. John is perplexed as to why individuals are singing late at night. When do they go to bed? Claire is a thorn in my side. She’s just there because she doesn’t have any other options. She dismisses James’s aspirations for a better life. She describes it as a nightmare and promises Margaret she’ll keep an eye on it. Except the horror arrives in the form of hooligans. Regrettably, they come shortly after Margaret and Claire’s daughter have an unpleasant conversation about coffee and children. Claire storms onto the stage, screaming for everyone to leave. Then she throws rocks at them as they try to water their horses, causing all hell to break loose, killing several people, including her daughter. Margaret shouts for John, who is still alive and well. Claire is a slobbering disaster, but she can only blame herself. Ennis flirts with Elsa because he thinks she’s too beautiful for him and that flirting with her would be a waste of time. He’s taken aback as she takes off her hat. Yes, she’s far too attractive for him.
Shea and Thomas want James to accompany them to town so they may speak with the marshall and track down the robbers. Elsa expresses her sympathies to Claire, who is unable to receive them politely. James bids Elsa farewell and instructs her to sleep with the rifle he gave her. Before they head to the White Elephant Saloon to find their comrades, marshall Billy Bob Thornton deputizes the men in town. The bandits are all murdered after Josef points them out. The performance then resumes as if nothing had happened. Clive Barker is the ringleader. Is Taylor Sheridan a fan of the show? As Billy Bob wonders if he caught them all, Joseph is shivering on the ground. There’s only one person remaining, and he’s not armed. Billy claims to be aware of this but shoots him nevertheless. They’d better get moving now, for they’ll soon be wanted men.
Claire Dutton is James Dutton’s widowed sister, and she is present when Barker’s gang attacks the campers. Claire is greatly saddened by the death of her daughter, Mary, who died during the shooting event. Claire declines to accompany the gang as they prepare to travel north, opting to stay behind. James tries to persuade her otherwise, but she declares that she has nothing left to live for and that she has no desire to start over. Claire recognizes the difficulties of James’ life, but she doesn’t want to be in any more pain. As a result, she takes her own life by shooting herself. Shea assists James as he returns to bury Claire beside Mary’s tomb. Shea observes that it takes bravery to do what Claire did, as he attempted suicide following the death of his own family but failed. Claire and her kid have a fate that contrasts with James’ family and has connections with Shea’s background. It’s a subtly foreshadowing of the consequences of James’ voyage and the independence dream he has. Only time will tell if James’ family suffers a similar catastrophe.