Thursday, March 09, 2023

I’m no historian but Taylor Sheridan’s “1883” seems bona fide

At the urging of one of my sisters (her first name starts with M), I tuned in to "1883" last night and was up to all hours. My favorite line thus far comes from Sam Elliott, the grizzled veteran of the trails. He hates all of their delays and warns Dutton that it puts the wagon train at South Pass in October. South Pass in October can be nice from a car window in 2023. It can also be the other thing -- a white-out nightmare. Imagine yourself on horseback or in a wagon or on foot, still miles to go until Oregon.

I stayed away from Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” series because its biggest fans also seemed to be FOX viewers. I didn’t want to watch another  “Dallas of the Tetons” or a color version of “Wagon Train.” I didn’t want to see all the old tropes from a John Ford movie. The early part of his career, until “The Searchers” brought some reality to the genre. I loved the old “Wagon Train” and “Rawhide.” I loved all those TV westerns. I was a kid and looking for heroes. I got ‘em by the wagon-load. They’ve channeled my behavior ever since. My politics are a combination of Rowdy Yates and Sister Norbert. They were both enforcers who rode for the brand. Moral and fair. A bit rough around the edges.

I like “1883” thus far. It is cold-blooded in its portrayal of the migration to the West. Cheyenne at this point was 17 years old. It might have been a bit more civilized than Fort Worth, not nearly as crazy as Deadwood. Fortunately for streaming services, Frederick Jackson Turner would not declare the frontier “gone” for another decade. The Duttons will have settled in Montana or Wyoming or a version of Wyotana filmed in Canada. Wyoming would become a state in 1890 and was fairly civilized until MAGA Republicans took over the state legislature. Now all is lost.

But back to “Yellowstone.” I am watching the entire series to keep me occupied until “The Last of Us” returns with Season Two. It’s an odd coincidence but episodes 7 & 8 of “The Last of Us” take place in the winter wilderness of Wyoming and Colorado. The characters ride horses and hunt for their own meat. There are bandits and cultists and killers everywhere. And don’t forget the fungi zombies although they’ve been scarce the last two episodes. The protagonists are killers, as both Sheriff Jim Courtright (Billy Bob Thornton) and Trail Boss Shea Brennan (Elliott) call themselves in “1883.” Ellie proved to be a very capable killer in TLOU Episode 8 and Joel long ago proved he can eliminate those who threaten him or his young charge.

I am thankful when the depiction of killing is put in able hands. My wife keeps asking if we can watch something civilized such as “The Sound of Music” (she is not a “Yellowstone” fan). I say just wait as I’m standing by for the latest body count. That would be “Yellowjackets,” season 2 coming March 24 on Showtime.

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