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The Shea Scene That Went Too Far On Yellowstone's 1883

A prequel to the hit Paramount+ Kevin Costner-led drama "Yellowstone," the new series "1883" goes back to the origins of the Dutton family and their Montana ranch. At the beginning of the series, the Dutton family leaves Tennessee to join an immigrant wagon train heading to Oregon. Leading the expedition is Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott), a Civil War veteran and Pinkerton agent, as James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill) try to guide their family through the often dangerous journey. The wagon train has to endure dysentery, clashes between passengers, hostile Native American tribes, and even bandits in order to find a better life in the West.

Much of the conflict in the drama stems from Shea's ruthless, pragmatic decision-making versus James' less cautious and more human approach to obstacles. Oftentimes, Shea is correct about what needs to be done to survive on the Oregon Trail, even if the choices he makes can seem downright cruel by modern standards. However, there is one scene in "1883" in which Shea's mercilessness simply doesn't make much sense. 

Shea destroying the thieves' wagon is a terrible move

In the episode "River," Shea and Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) discover that two of the camp residents have stolen food from Romani widow Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi). Her husband already died in an attack and now she and her children are starving. Enraged, Shea not only takes Noemi's supplies back, but he and Thomas assault the thieves. The Pinkerton finally casts the wagon out of the group as he releases their horses, breaks the hitch, and tells the men to never come back to the expedition or he'll kill them. 

Shea's emotional reaction is understandable under the circumstances on the Oregon Trail, where a loss of supplies can mean a death sentence. But the decision to separate the men from the camp is a serious one, and could easily have been discussed with the rest of the wagon train leaders, let alone other group members. The thieves were obviously wrong, but so is stranding them to die in the middle of the country. 

It also just doesn't make sense to release the horses and break the wagon. Even if Shea was determined to leave these men behind, surely the expedition could use more horsepower and another wagon for carrying supplies and food? It's a very dramatic choice, sure, yet not a very sensible one considering how dire the journey can be for the characters of "1883."