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The fifth episode of 1883 was released on Sunday (January 16). Titled “The Fangs of Freedom,” the episode was an emotional one, as one of the series’ most important characters was killed.
Be warned, we spoil the events of the episode below. DO NOT keep reading if you haven’t had the chance to watch it yet.
Episode Five opens with Elsa (played by Isabel May) narrating. She speaks about the journey so far and reflects on the lives they’ve lost. Realizing how dangerous the world can be, she says:
“The river doesn’t care if you can swim. The snake doesn’t care how much you love your children, and the wolf has no interest in your dreams.”
Elsa’s brutal narration comes on the heels of Episode Four, when the travel party lost several of its members while crossing the river. Thomas (played by LaMoncia Garret) finds Shea (played by Sam Elliott) crying while looking out at the river. He asks him if he’s missing his late wife and daughter extra that day, but Shea reveals his tears are more so for the pioneers who have died on their journey.
The travelers also lost most of their food in the river, because they chose to load their supplies into one wagon. This made the wagon incredibly heavy, and it sank. With supplies running low, Shea asks Josef (played by Marc Rissmann) why they made such a foolish decision. Josef reveals there are thieves in the camp, so they loaded all of their supplies onto one wagon in an effort to keep them safe.
Shea, Thomas, and James (played by Tim McGraw) confront the thieves. Shea gives them a refund for their journey, and tells them to stay where they are. He threatens to kill them if they pack up and follow the wagon train.
Meanwhile, Elsa and Ennis’ (played by Eric Nelsen) romance is continuing to blossom. Elsa confesses to her mother, Margaret (played by Faith Hill), that she and Ennis have kissed. Margaret decides it’s time to have “the talk” with her daughter.
The two go down to the river to bathe, where Margaret tells her daughter this is the most free she’ll ever be, and encourages her to follow her heart.
This happiness is interrupted by a harsh reality. Wade (played by James Landry Hébert) discovers evidence that bandits are following the camp. These bandits kill and attack the thieves that had been expelled from the group further back on the trail.
The men prepare for battle, and James tells Elsa to go sleep in the camp while he watches the cattle herd with Ennis and Wade.
Elsa wakes in the middle of the night and strolls out of the tent. She encounters Ennis, and the two suddenly find themselves in the heat of the moment as they become intimate for the first time.
Since the couple didn’t stray far from camp, everyone heard them. Including Margaret, who actually saw the two of them tangled up in each other’s arms.
Margaret was not too pleased with Elsa in the morning. She told her to be careful, and also made it clear she would not raise her child if she became pregnant. She asked Elsa if she thought Ennis would raise a child with her, so Elsa rode off to ask him. When she did, Ennis gave an enthusiastic “yes” and the couple left that interaction being semi-engaged to be married.
James, well-aware of what Elsa and Ennis were up to the night prior, punches Ennis in the face when he sees him. But Elsa intervenes, saying she loves Ennis. James tries to argue with her, but Ennis also confesses his love. He says he wants to marry Elsa, and will do so whether he has James’ approval or not.
This softens James, who tells Ennis “that’s my heart you’re running off with, and you better cradle it like an egg.”
From there, the camp kicks off their plan to trick the bandits. Josef and his wife, Risa (played by Anna Fiamora), stay behind while the rest of the wagon train moves forward. A sole bandit approaches Risa at her fire, unaware that Josef is in the wagon with a gun.
The couple manages to kill the bandit, while the rest of the bandits pursue the wagon train. Shea, Thomas, James, Wade, and Ennis chase the bandits on horseback.
Ennis finds a moment to sneak away from the group to warn Elsa, who is watching the herd. He tells her to get her pistol out and have it ready.
As Ennis rides over the hill, he comes face-to-face with one of the bandits. They both shoot at each other at the same time, and Ennis falls off his horse.
He is mortally wounded, and James rushes to his side. Ennis speaks his last words to James, saying, “I loved her.” James responds, “I don’t doubt it, son.”
Elsa emerges. She’s silent at first, as reality sinks in that the man she loves is dead. But the silence doesn’t last long. Kneeling by Ennis’ lifeless body, Elsa lets out a long, heartbreaking wail that illustrates the depths of her devastation.
Margaret comforts the sobbing Elsa, whose life and innocent outlook have been forever changed in this moment.
Eyeing the bandit that has been captured by the group, Elsa steps forward and shoots him multiple times. As she narrates the scene, she wonders if that action will make her feel any better about losing Ennis.
After this, Elsa makes her way to Ennis’ side once more, and curls up next to him on the ground. And that’s where Episode Five of 1883 ends.
Watch one of the episode’s scenes in the video below.
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