“We are in the land of no mercy now.” 1883‘s Episode 5 delivers a spectacular entry, showcasing the love and heartbreak “freedom” reigns.
“I think cities have weakened us as a species. There are no consequences there. Step into the streets without looking and the carriage merely stops or swerves; the only consequence an angry driver. But here? There can be no mistakes. Because here doesn’t care. 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. If you fail to beat the current, you will drown; if you get too close, you will be bitten. If you are too weak, you will be eaten.”
As 1883‘s Episode 5 begins, Elsa (Isabel May) recalls the crossing of the River Brazos. She, Ennis (Eric Nelsen), and Wade (James Landry Hebert) take care of the cattle as the gents inform the Dutton daughter of the perils that lie ahead: outlaws of the truest sort.
“Don’t go anywhere alone, okay?” Ennis tells Elsa tenderly. “I mean it.”
Shea (Sam Elliott) and Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) share one last look at the river, and the journey into the true wilds begins.
‘1883’ Episode 5: Thieves in Our Midst
As the Duttons rise for another Texas breakfast, the divide between Margaret (Faith Hill) and James (Tim McGraw) grows. Elsa remains with the herd after a full week, and her father is glad to see her becoming “quite the cowboy.” Her mother does not share this enthusiasm.
But there’s a far worse issue with the immigrant camp. Someone continues to steal supplies. And with their party losing their entire wagon of food to the Brazos, Shea and Thomas know it is time to deal with this thief. They enlist James’ help, and the hunt is on for the weasel in their midst.
Once we meet him, however, he’s far less a weasel and far more a German bear. The mountain of a man has been preying on the weaker travelers and taking their food. Immigrant leader Josef (Marc Rissman) attempts to settle the dispute but is readily beaten senseless. James steps in and makes short work of the thief before Shea throws “a refund” in his face. “Find your own way to Oregon. If you follow us, I’ll kill you,” he growls.
Shea reiterates to the immigrants that the only way they’ll survive is working together. They must follow Josef, the leader they chose, or perish.
‘This trail is as free as you’ll ever be’
Back at the river, Margaret finds her daughter and the two share a bath in the warm waters. She takes the opportunity to walk her 18-year-old through the ways of infatuation, love, and sex, as Elsa is “becoming a woman” out in the wilds of 1883. But the wagons are leaving early, and as a dumbstruck Ennis tells them on the riverbank, it’s time to move on.
Wade has found a worn trail through the brush and a bed of hot coals. Someone else is close by. He asks Margaret to send for Thomas and James, expecting the worst.
In a week, the wagon train has shrunk to half its size. Dozens of men, women, and children have died, and the journey has only begun. Leaving behind the immigrants who chose to steal decreases these numbers by another two dozen, too. Right when trouble is on the horizon.
James sends Elsa to sleep with the camp tonight as a result. But she doesn’t listen. She’s consumed by “attraction,” and to Ennis she goes. The two make for a hillside and undress passionately; the first time for both. Ennis once paid a woman to “show him” in Dodge City, he says, “but it didn’t work.” There was no love there. With Elsa, however, there is everything. And she agrees.
“The whole world faded away. No stars or moon, no sky at all. No earth between my feet; no rock against my back. There was only us.”
Margaret awakens to find her daughter missing, and before long she sees the two intertwined. But the night is to take a sharp turn for all.
Love in the Wild West
It’s the immigrant bear of a bandit who falls first to the outlaws who’ve been trailing the 1883 wagon train. Out of the night they come, slitting his throat before murdering his entire family.
The next morning, Margaret gives Elsa the full rundown of the consequences of her actions. A child, marriage, all of it. But Elsa still sees the beauty in all of it. She finds Ennis, and the first words out of her mouth are “If I have a baby, are you man enough to raise it?”
Ennis is shocked, then elated, and Elsa rides off to tell her father she’s getting married. But there’s smoke on the horizon, and James, Shea, Thomas, and Wade know what that means.
Before anything can happen, James punches Ennis straight off his horse for the most obvious of reasons. Elsa intervenes, declaring her love. And Ennis stands his ground; willing to take any punishment for having Elsa as his own.
“You say you love her. But you won’t ever love her like I do,” an emotional James tells Ennis. “That’s my heart you’re running off with. And you better cradle it like an egg,” he cries.
“I will, sir. I will,” Ennis decrees tearfully.
Death Reigns in ‘1883’
As the wagon trail rolls out, Josef and his wife, Risa (Anna Fiamora), stay behind. They’re a decoy for the trailing outlaws; a hive of scum so brazen they’re moving to attack in broad daylight.
But James, Shea, Thomas and Wade are ready. Thundering through the valley, they round back to take out the villains. Josef waits in his wagon, his double-barrel shotgun loaded and ready.
Before long, a lone bandit wanders up to Risa from the prairie. “Smells good,” he says of her cooking. The bandit tries to take her, but she pulls a pistol. Josef emerges from the wagon, finishing him off with the shotgun as James & company ride in over the hill. And a full-out gunfight ensues.
The outlaws make for the main wagon camp and Margaret yells for the immigrants to fire back. She takes out one bandit herself as carnage ensues. Back at the cattle, Ennis tells Elsa to ready her pistol. He takes off for the bandits from the opposite direction, firing directly at their lead horsemen. The two shoot each other simultaneously… And Ennis hits the ground dead.
“I loved her,” he says to James with his dying breath. Elsa’s heart is gone, and 1883 Episode 5 changes her forever.
‘Maybe killing this man will get my eyes back. Maybe it won’t. But I chose to find out’
“I’d known death since I was a child. It’s everywhere. But it had never touched me. It had never placed it rotten finger on my heart. Until today. Today my eyes died. I see the world through my mother’s eyes now. Yes, freedom has fangs. And it sunk them in me. I chose to love him. He chose to love me back. Then chose to protect me. Then a man we’ve never met chose to kill him. And made me colorblind.”
From her mother Elsa marches, pulling her revolver to kill the last outlaw standing. She sees nothing but rage.
“Maybe killing this man will get my eyes back. Maybe it won’t. But I chose to find out.”
She returns to Ennis’ body; numb as his lifeless self. There she lies with him one final time, and the rest of her life begins.