Warning: Major spoilers are ahead for 1883‘s Episode 2, “Behind Us, A Cliff,” as one main character has already met a horrible end.
Before anyone loses their Western marbles, let’s set the record straight. The cover image for this article does not feature either of the characters who died in 1883‘s Episode 2. This image was chosen in order to protect those who haven’t seen “Behind Us, A Cliff” from spoilers. So rest easy, Outsiders: both Sam Elliott’s Shea Brennan and Isabel May’s Elsa Dutton are safe. For now.
Elsa’s family, however, is not. In a shock ending to the episode, her Aunt Claire took her own life in grizzly fashion. Here’s how it all went down.
‘1883’s Duttons Lose Family at the Start of Their Journey to Montana
James Dutton (Tim McGraw) may not know Montana is where he’ll end up. But Yellowstone fans do. It’s the “promised land” he’s been dreaming of, and this “untamed bastion” will grow his familial empire.
Before this can happen, however, James’ family must brave their version of the Westward Expansion and the horrific reality it brings; a reality immediately marked by death and loss.
Firstly, the life of his niece, Mary Abel (Emma Malouff), is cut tragically short after her mother’s own resentful nature spurs an all-out brawl with invading outlaws. The bandits come upon the Dutton wagon camp while James is away and – as bandits do – immediately start trouble.
“Be gone!” Mary Abel’s mother, Claire (Dawn Olivieri), tells them, spurring laughter in the cruel men.
Claire is (or was) sister to Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill), and the two are wildly different. Claire’s cynical, hateful nature finds her throwing the biggest rocks she can find at the bandits before they ever strike her group. This, of course, issues a full-out gunfight. Only it’s more of a slaughter as the camp’s armed men are elsewhere wrangling wild cattle. Mary Abel is caught in the gunfire as her defenseless family and surrounding immigrants take for cover and shot dead.
Mary Abel dies in her mother’s arms in the middle of the aftermath. And it is her loss that drives her mother over the edge.
Claire, already a widow and survivor of seven children, has now lost everything through her last surviving child’s death. In a gruesome and horrible sendoff, Claire decides to take her own life by her daughter’s riverside grave.
Her sister did what she could to talk her out of her despair prior, but to no avail. James did the same but knew what was coming. He brings a shovel just in case – and sure enough – arrives right as Claire makes her decision. She places a revolver on her right temple and pulls the trigger, scattering blood as she shoots herself in the head.
Shea (Sam Elliott) and James dig her a grave beside her daughter on the riverside. Like so many during the Westward Expansion, Claire and Mary Abel will lie forever in unmarked graves; casualties of a grueling journey that took untold lives.