‘1883’: Full Recap of Season 1, Episode 10 Finale, ‘This Is Not Your Heaven’

by Jon D. B.

1883‘s heartbreaking Season 1 finale pulls no punches while closing the first chapter of the Yellowstone prequel, resulting in an ending as beautiful as it is tragic. Be warned of significant spoilers for the 1883 Season 1 finale ahead.

“The numbing shock of war is behind me now. Pain has taken its place. Hurts to move. Hurts to breathe. The back of my head throbs with every step of my horse. I look at the world through the hazy lens of fever and somehow see it clearer.

What is death? What is this thing we all share? Rabbits, birds, horses, trees. Everyone I love. And everyone who loves me. Even stars die. And we know absolutely nothing of it.”

As the finale opens, a fever-ridden, weary Elsa (Isabel May) leads their wagon party directly to Fort Casper astride Lightning. Upon meeting the guards at the fort’s gate, Elsa sees two young boys who know nothing of the horrors of the world outside their settlement. But fever takes her, and she collapses onto, then off, Lightning.

Straight to the surgeon she goes with her father, James (Tim McGraw) and Shea (Sam Elliott). But the prognosis is not good, and the fort has been abandoned. There’s no nurses, no staff; nothing to aid Elsa. So on they move to somewhere that may be able to help: Fort Laramie.

James and Shea know the worst is coming for her. And so is winter. With its onset, the plan becomes to head north and hunker down in Montana for the winter. As the decision is made, parties split and fates are decided.

“Where are we goin?” Elsa asks her father.

“Montana, honey,” James tells her.

“I wonder what that will be like,” she smiles.

‘1883’ Season 1 Finale: SPOILERS AHEAD

As she rides with her family, Elsa says her final goodbyes to Wade (James Landry Hebert) and Colton (Noah Le Gros). The cowboys ride off into the sunset together after thanking Elsa for changing them forever – as she has every soul she’s ever met.

“I wondered what became of them. Wondered if they staked their claim in Wyoming and built sod houses, bought cattle, and tried to scratch a life from this place. Perhaps they fought the winter and braved their way to Oregon; laying stakes in the emerald fields of the valley. But I’d seen too much of this world. Knew too much about the nature of man to think either would be their future. Another future awaited them, and it laid in the abyss of unmarked graves along the Oregon Trail.”

As night falls, Margaret (Faith Hill) sings to her daughter, tending her fever. Josef (Marc Rissmann) and his wife, Risa (Anna Fiamora) are faring no better. Thomas (LaMonica Garrett), however, wants to save Josef from the fallout of his rattlesnake bite. He knows he has to take his leg, or he won’t make it.

Pictured: Marc Rissman as Josef of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

They get him as drunk as possible. Margaret and Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) are on hand to help, and the surgery begins. Thomas takes the lead, using a knife first to sever what he can of Josef’s thigh. From there, he breaks out the saw, and the deed is done.

A cold and more lucid Elsa then joins, warming herself by the fire. Her appetite has returned, and Margaret tends to her daughter. The Dutton daughter is shocked to learn it’s been three days since they left the fort.

‘1883’ Seals the Fates of Many

The next morning, Elsa rides out with her father. As they discuss death, they take in the breathtaking scenery that is the edge of Montana.

“You look at me like I’m dying,” Elsa tells her father as they look upon the home their Dutton descendants will inhabit.

“I look at you for what you are: the most important thing to me on this planet. That comes with a lot of worry. Cause I can’t replace you,” James tells his daughter.

“We never spoke of death or dreams again. We never spoke of the pioneers, either. Because there was no need… To survive the frontier, you must learn to recognize those who won’t, and be weary of their doomed decisions. They are to be avoided at all costs. Because their fear is tragedy’s closest cousin. And tragedy is contagious in this place.”

Back outside Fort Casper, bandits have done away with every one of their immigrant companions that chose to stay behind. None survive.

But James is already taking to the landscape. He hunts a herd of elk. As he does, Elsa rides with their party, and begins to feel worse again. She falls off her horse right as a small band of Indigenous people ride in. And they may be exactly what she needs.

‘Paradise’: The Future of the Duttons is Montana

Shea and the Duttons gather with the tribe, and two beautifully-dressed Indigenous women take Elsa down to their cold river. There, they soak her worn, infection-ridden body by lying her within its waters. As they do, they bleed the toxins from her wound. Taking her to the heart of their camp, all methods of healing known to the people of this land are brought to Elsa’s aid.

Pictured: Graham Greene as Spotted Eagle and Tim McGraw as James of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Their Indigenous leader, Spotted Eagle played to perfection by Graham Greene, tells James that his daughter will not survive much longer. She will still die. But he offers the Duttons a piece of “paradise” in a nearby valley; one where they can lay her to rest and settle along side her.

But in seven generations, Spotted Eagle tells James, his people will rise up to retake this land he is granting to the Duttons. “In seven generations they can have it,” James smiles.

Now, however, his daughter knows she is dying. “You lied,” she sobs deeply, utterly destroyed as she finally comes to terms with her fate. And it breaks James.

“Make me a promise,” she asks him.


“I can choose the spot,” Elsa cries into his chest.

The Timeless Friendship of James and Shea

Back at the wagon camp, Noemi and Thomas discuss her boys and their own fate. Thomas wants to find them both a valley with “good water and no people. We’ll make it ours,” he smiles to his love.

Alongside, Shea tells James of his own daughter he lost.

“I’ve lost a daughter, too. You’ll come to blame yourself. Think it’s your fault, for giving her so much rain. Maybe it is your fault. But I’ll say this. I’ve watched this girl for the last six months, and she has outlived us all. I’m 75-years-old. And she has outsmiled me, outloved me, outfought me. She’s outlived me. She’s outlived all of us.”

“She wants to pick the spot where she’s buried. She wants to choose it. Put eyes on it,” James replies. These wagons won’t make the trip in time. My boy can’t make the trip on horseback. And I gave her my word. And I can’t letter lie there while breaking it. I have no idea how to tell my wife that I have to take her daughter away from her… To die. And she can’t go. She’ll hear the logic in it from you. From me, all she’ll hear is the cruelty in it. You think you can do that for me? Please?” he asks of Shea.

“Yeah. I can do that for yah,” his friend replies. And so Shea does.

A Family in Grieving

Shea tells Margaret of James’ plan, and she takes it exactly how she should. She finds her husband crying over a sleeping Elsa by the fire.

“I’m sorry. There ain’t no other way,” James sobs.

This horrible night takes Risa from Josef, too; his wife dying in her sleep. And as morning comes, Elsa mounts Lightning with her father… And Margaret says goodbye to her daughter.

Pictured: Sam Elliott as Shea of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Then, Elsa gets her goodbye with Shea. “I’ll meet you on the beach,” she smiles to her dear friend, and her ride to her final resting place begins.

‘1883’: The Death of Elsa Dutton

Beneath a canopy of golden trees, Elsa asks her father to stop. “This is the spot,” she cries. James takes his daughter off her horse, and together they walk to and old tree of her choosing. There, James places his back on the tree, cradling his daughter in his lap.

“What’s your first memory?” she asks her father.

“I was probably three, I reckon. My daddy had an apprentice. And he was bangin’ horseshoes,” a heartbroken James tells her. “I remember the sparks. He looked up at me and he smiled, put his hands over his eyes and said ‘Peekaboo, I see you.’ Then he covered his eyes with his hands, and said ‘But you can’t see me. Where am I?’ I didn’t understand the game. He was hiding behind his hands, and I could see him, plain as day. I thought he was a fool.”

“Mine was… All these birds… In the field behind the house. Right after it rained.” Elsa tells her father. “Pecking at the ground… Pullin’ out worms. I thought, ‘How smart. Wait for the rain to soften the earth.’ I just thought that was so smart.”

“You’re right, honey. That was smart,” James sobs to his daughter. He holds her, and together they sleep. Elsa awakens one last time to see a dove on the ground in front of her.

“You birds sure are smart,” she whispers, waking her father. “I understand it now.”

“Understand what?”

“I know what it is. I’m not scared. I’m not scared, daddy…” And Elsa breathes her last.

She dies in James’ arms, and the father is inconsolable.

One Year Later

A year has passed. Josef survives, visiting the grave of Risa.

Noemi and Thomas have made it to Willamette Valley, Oregon, with her boys. It is beautiful.

And Shea sits by the ocean. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asks his wife, showing her her dream through his own eyes. As he does, a hummingbird visits, bringing tears to his old eyes. There, he fulfills his promise to her and himself… Taking his own life in the sand.

Pictured: Martin Sensmeier as Sam of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

As the sun rises over another day, we see Elsa’s heaven. And it is a race with Sam (Martin Sensmeier) along the valley they were to reunite. And it, too, is beautiful.

“There is a moment where your dreams and your memories merge together and form a perfect world. That is heaven. And each heaven is unique. It is the world of you. The land is filled with all you hold dear. And the sky is your imagination.

“My heaven is filled with good horses, open plains, wild cattle, and a man who loves me. It is always sunrise in my world. And there are no storms. I am the only lightning. I know death now. I’ve seen it. It had no fangs. It smiled at me. And it was beautiful.”

1883’s story will continue on with spinoff 1932 courtesy of Paramount Plus.