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At last, the Duttons’ journey came to an end in the tenth episode of 1883, which was also the finale. Executive producer David Glasser confirmed the show has not been renewed for a second season, but Paramount+ has ordered additional episodes. Glasser remained mum on specifics, saying the additions will be “super exciting.”
When it comes to the 1883 finale, we’d use another “E” word to describe it…emotional. Ahead of the episode’s release, Faith Hill (who plays Margaret) warned viewers to have tissues, ice cream, and a warm blanket nearby. She wasn’t kidding…because the 1883 finale delivered one heartbreaking scene after the next.
Keep reading for a full recap of 1883‘s devastating finale, “This Is Not Your Heaven.” DO NOT keep reading if you don’t want to have anything spoiled for you.
The episode opens with the wagon train arriving at Fort Casper. Elsa Dutton (played by Isabel May) is in serious pain after being shot in the liver with a Lakota arrow during conflict in episode nine. She faints at the fort’s entrance, so James (played by Tim McGraw) carries her inside to see the doctor.
However, the doctor has no staff members and limited means to care for Elsa in her condition. Seeing that the doctor won’t be much help, James takes Elsa back to the wagon.
Meanwhile, Shea (played by Sam Elliott) learns that Fort Casper is now owned by the CY Ranch. He puts two and two together, and realizes the men they killed for murdering the Lakota women and children in episode nine were probably associated with the CY Ranch.
Shea finds James and tells him they need to get out of there before people start looking for them. James finds Margaret and tells her they’re going to change course and head North to Montana. Once again, he tells Margaret they’ll settle wherever Elsa dies.
After gathering the immigrants, Shea informs them of the new plan to go North and spend the winter in Montana. He pledges they’ll head out for Oregon in the spring.
But the travelers are not pleased with this plan. Most of them decide to stay behind and make the trip to Oregon on their own.
Only Noemi (played by Gratiela Brancusi), her two sons, and the ailing Josef (played by Marc Rissmann) and Risa (played by Anna Fiamora) want to follow the Duttons, Shea, and Thomas (played by LaMonica Garrett). Since Josef and Risa are not well enough to drive their wagon, Noemi volunteers to do so.
Shea sees no point in rounding up the group’s missing cattle herd, so the cowboys Wade (played by James Landry Hébert) and Colton (played by Noah Le Gros) feel like there’s no need for them to stick around. The two men ride after the Duttons’ wagon to say goodbye to Elsa, who wakes just in time to tell them farewell.
“It’s been a hell of a thing ridin’ with you,” Wade tells her.
As they ride off, Elsa imagines what their future will be like. She wishes they’ll find fortune and lots of land, but knows the reality is that they’ll likely die on the trail somewhere and be buried in an unmarked grave just like her lost love Ennis (played by Eric Nelsen) and so many others.
Later, it becomes clear that Josef and Risa are not getting better any time soon. Thomas concludes that Josef’s snakebitten leg needs to be amputated in order to save his life.
The group gets Josef drunk so he’s a little more comfortable before they amputate his leg. In a gruesome scene, Thomas saws off the lower portion of Josef’s injured leg while Noemi, Margaret, Shea, and James assist.
The surgery went as well as it could, and Elsa wakes just as Josef is getting stitched up. She seems to have a bit more energy and says she’s hungry.
Elsa gets back on her horse in the morning and rides with her father. She marvels over the beautiful scenery and shares her greatest fear about death…that she’ll be forgotten. James assures her she won’t be.
They speak about the immigrants who chose to stay behind. Elsa narrates as we see what became of them. They sadly never made it to Oregon, because they were all killed by a bunch of bandits.
Back with the Duttons, Elsa faints once more. She fell off her horse in front of a group of Crow Indians, including their leader, Spotted Eagle (played by Graham Greene). The Crow try to help Elsa by bathing her in a cold creek in an effort to stop her wound’s bleeding.
But Spotted Eagle delivers some heartbreaking news to James, which he already knows…Elsa is dying. He says the Lakota dip their arrows in manure to ensure that every hit will be fatal. The infection is killing Elsa quickly.
Spotted Eagle tells James about a spot that would be fitting for Elsa’s final resting place, which will also be the Duttons’ future home. He says there’s a valley ahead where he used to hunt as a boy, and calls it “Paradise.”
Though Spotted Eagle tells James that in seven generations, his people will want the land back. James says they can have it by then.
Of course, we know in modern-day Yellowstone there are conflicts between the Duttons and the Native Americans as the Duttons fight to maintain control of their land.
Spotted Eagle says the valley will take several days to reach by wagon. Elsa doesn’t have that much time.
Elsa realizes her days are numbered. She cries as she makes her dad promise she can pick the spot where she wants to be buried. James promises she can.
Overnight, Thomas and Noemi bond and make plans for what they’ll do when they get to Oregon. At the same time, Josef awakens to discover that Risa has died in bed beside him. He cries while holding her hands in his.
James forms a plan. He’s going to take Elsa to the valley on horseback, since the trip will be faster. But this means he’ll have to leave Margaret behind to drive the wagon and tend to John (played by Audie Rick). That means Margaret won’t get to be with Elsa when she dies.
Knowing Margaret may take the news better from Shea, James asks him to speak to her on his behalf. He does, and Margaret is understandably upset. But after seeing how devastated her husband is, she realizes this is what he has to do.
Margaret and Elsa say goodbye in the morning, with Elsa saying she’ll see her in the valley. Elsa then says goodbye to Shea, and says she’ll see him at the beach. Earlier in the series Shea said he wanted to go to the coast and see the ocean since it was something his late wife Helen dreamed of doing.
James and Elsa ride away and admire the beauty of Montana. Then, Elsa spots the place where she’d like to be buried, right under a large tree. James holds her in his arms as they lean against the tree and speak about their earliest memories.
Elsa said the first thing she remembered was seeing a bunch of birds pecking at the ground. She said she thought they were so smart to wait for the Earth to soften before looking for worms.
The day passes, and Elsa falls asleep. She wakes up and sees a bird in front of her, and is suddenly at peace.
“I understand it now,” she said with a smile.
James asks her what she understands. But Elsa doesn’t explain. Her final words are, “I know what it is…I’m not scared. I’m not scared daddy.”
Elsa dies in James’ arms and he sobs.
After that, the show jumps forward one year. We see Josef, on crutches, trying his best to build his future home on a vast amount of land. We also see Thomas, Noemi, and her boys as they stake a claim to their own land in Oregon.
In another tearjerking scene, we see that Shea made it to the beach. He speaks to Helen and sees a hummingbird, which we’re left to believe is Elsa visiting him on the beach as she said she would. Shea smiles at the bird before the camera moves back and a single gunshot rings out over the beach.
The series closes with a final piece of narration from Elsa. We see her personal heaven, which is an open plain bathed in sunshine.
Elsa is greeted in her heaven by her husband, the Comanche warrior Sam (played by Martin Sensmeier). The two of them ride off together as Elsa says that death, “smiled at [her] and it was beautiful.”
There you have it folks…that was the emotional conclusion of 1883. How much did y’all cry while watching the finale?
1883 was a wild ride from start to finish. Now we can’t wait to see what will happen in the additional episodes coming in the future.