‘1883’ Brings Young Love, a Shattering Death + Terrible Vengeance [Spoiler Alert]
Fans will be left on the brink of tears (or well beyond it) at the end of Episode 5 of 1883. The latest episode is the most fully realized yet, offering up all of the various facets that have made the journey of the show so compelling so far.
As we reach the halfway point of Season 1 with Episode 5, which began airing via Paramount+ on Sunday (Jan. 16), Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) says in a voiceover that with the crossing of the Brazos River complete, the wagon train headed to Oregon from Texas is "in the land of no mercy now" — but she has no idea just how prophetic that's about to become.
In the aftermath of the river crossing, which saw some of the inexperienced immigrants die and at least one wagon sink, the wagon train has lost much of its food and is going to be forced to restock. Meanwhile, a stunned Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) finds Shea Brennan (Sam Elliott) off by himself, crying over the lives that were lost under their care. When he points out that Brennan never shed any tears over the men they lost during the war, we see yet another layer peeled back on Brennan when he retorts, "The hell I didn't."
Brennan, Thomas and James Dutton (Tim McGraw) are also forced to step in when it's revealed that one of the immigrants has been stealing food from the others, which results in a pistol-whipping and banishment from the wagon train.
Meanwhile, an inevitable moment is brewing between Elsa and Ennis (Eric Nelsen), and Margaret (Faith Hill) takes Elsa aside and talks to her about sex, telling her to "save it for someone you love."
That's exactly what Elsa does, and in a later scene, she approaches Ennis that night, and they make love — which, we find out, is the first time for not just Elsa, but for him as well. It's a scene that Margaret views from afar, and the next morning, she tells Elsa that if she decides to do that again, she could at least do it out of earshot of the entire camp. She also warns Elsa to be careful, because if she has a baby, Margaret does not intend to raise the baby for her.
That prompts Elsa to challenge Ennis, asking him if he's "man enough" to help her raise a baby if it comes to that. When his reply is an enthusiastic, "Hell yeah, I'm man enough!" she races off excitedly to tell her father that she's getting married, accompanied by Ennis — who James lets know that he's angry in no uncertain terms, laying into him and knocking him to the ground.
But that doesn't deter Ennis, who defiantly tells James that he'll take whatever licks he can deal out if it means being with Elsa.
Meanwhile, bandits attack the camp of the immigrant who was banished from the wagon train for theft, killing him and everyone with him. When James, Thomas and Brennan see the not-too-distant smoke from the remains of that attack, they know it's time to prepare to defend themselves once again, and they devise a plan that centers around Josef (Marc Rissmann) and his wife, whom they use as a decoy to draw the bandits in on a seemingly easy target. Josef and his wife have learned to use weapons and fight, and they're able to take one bandit down themselves, buying time for the men to come in and chase the others down.
This leads to another pivotal scene for Hill, who's acquitting herself exceptionally well in the role of Margaret each week. We see her grab up the shotgun and take one of the bandits out with a well-placed shot to defend the main camp, and while the men catch up and start dealing with the situation, there's still one final, brutal scene left to play.
Ennis, hearing the commotion, tells Elsa to stay with the herd, and he rides forward on point, stepping up to defend her with his life. And that's exactly what ends up happening — in an exchange of gunfire, he and the bandit he's confronting are both hit, and Ennis falls to the ground, where he tells James as he lays dying, "I loved her."
The episode ends with another star-making scene from May as Elsa arrives to find Ennis' body on the ground. She falls to the ground, wailing and covering his body with hers in a scene that's so raw and real that it's actually difficult to watch, and then takes sudden, unexpected vengeance on the lone bandit who's left standing, storming over to him and shooting him point-blank, killing him where he stands before she returns to Ennis.
After an episode in which viewers see Elsa lose her innocence in more ways than one, what could possibly happen next? Less than three weeks into the journey, the number of survivors on the wagon train has shrunk to less than half, and the notion of safety in numbers in wearing somewhat thinner with every passing day. Is there any chance for them to make it to Oregon? Will it be worth the price if they do? Can Margaret ever forgive James for the immense sacrifices he's asked the family to make along the way? And what can possibly become of Elsa after everything she's already seen?
Those are just some of the questions viewers will take with them into the back half of the season as 1883 continues each Sunday on Paramount+.
Stay tuned to Taste of Country as we provide ongoing coverage of both Yellowstone and 1883, including episode analysis, news on the shows, cast interviews and more. As part of our comprehensive coverage, check out the Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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