Who Dies in ‘1883’? The ‘Yellowstone’ Prequel’s Most Tragic Deaths Explained

by Jon D. B.
Pictured: Sam Elliott as Shea and LaMonica Garrett as Thomas of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

As one of the most riveting series to ever grace the small screen, the question of who dies in 1883 conjures immense tragedy, masterful storytelling, and unparalleled consequences for the Yellowstone universe.

No one saw 1883 coming. Originally viewed as a mere Yellowstone prequel, the sweeping Western epic would prove Taylor Sheridan’s finest television storytelling yet. As the show wrapped it’s 10 episode run, however, it became clear than 1883 was a full-on tragedy; one destined to break the hearts of audiences worldwide in brilliant fashion.

Below, we’re breaking down all the show’s major deaths. But from the Dutton family proper to the loss of supporting characters, be warned of significant spoilers for 1883 ahead.

Who Dies in ‘1883’? Dutton Family Loses In-Laws First

Isabel May as Elsa of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2021 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In Episode 2, ‘Behind Us, A Cliff,’ The Duttons experience their first familial losses on the trail. Margaret and James Dutton’s “dream” becomes her sister, Claire’s, “nightmare” as a round of bandits come barreling through.

The rash Claire takes it upon herself to throw huge rocks at the bandits, issuing a full-out gunfight. Her own daughter falls in the mix, with Mary Abel being shot dead.

Then, in an incredibly moving sendoff, we learn that Claire has lost seven children alongside her husband prior to Mary Abel and 1883. Margaret attempts to talk to her sister, but she won’t have it. James then attempts to convince Claire to come with their party and not give up. But she has “nothing left to live for” and refuses outright.

James grants her wish and leaves her behind, but before long he’s turning around to see what can be done. But Margare’t sister has lost the will to live. And we watch as Claire takes her own life by the river. As her body falls, Shea and James prepare to dig her a grave beside her daughter.

‘1883’s First True Heartbreak: Ennis

Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In Episode 5, ‘The Fangs of Freedom,’ a full-out gunfight with tragic consequences ensues. And the question of “Who dies in 1883” becomes gut-wrenching.

A raving band of outlaws makes for the main wagon camp as Margaret Dutton yells for the immigrants to fire back. She takes out one bandit herself as carnage ensues.

While protecting their cattle herd, Ennis tells Elsa to ready her pistol. To protect his love, Ennis rides head-on 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.

The Tragedy of Elsa Dutton

1883-how-can show-resolve-elsa-duttons-fate
Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

By the time Episode 9, ‘Racing Clouds,’ rolls around, flashes of Elsa’s horrifying Episode 1 opening come true. 1883 comes full circle as the show finally answers the question: Will Elsa Dutton die?

She is to meet her end, yes. And it’s the wagon train cook, Cookie’s wagon that burns behind her (that we first see in the opening moments of Episode 1). There, Cookie is shot to death multiple times by vengeful Comanche. And then they come for Elsa.

We’ve seen this before. We know how it goes. Comanche warriors chase down and scalp every immigrant pioneer they can catch as Elsa watches in horror. She runs for the gun of a fallen warrior, but she’s stopped as she readies the pistol.

“You speak English! How can you do this?” she screams. And the Comanche arrow pierces her stomach.

Before she can be gunned down, Elsa screams the words her Comanche husband, Sam (Martin Sensmeier) taught her. This catches her captors off guard.

“You fight like Comanche! What is your name?” the Indigenous warrior facing her asks. She tells him “Lightning with the Yellow Hair” in Comanche. And the warriors ride off, leaving her in tears.

Elsa then walks off to find her family, the arrow still piercing her torso.

“I felt no pain. Perhaps it was the fever of the fight. But it didn’t hurt. I thought of pushing it through. I thought better of it. As my father would say, ‘The one good thing about problems, is they’ll still be problems later. Don’t have to deal with them right away.’”

Elsa’s Death Sets the Stage for the ‘Yellowstone’ Universe

“I looked back at my father, and I studied his eyes. Looked deep into them. That’s when I knew… I was going to die.”

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

As the Episode 10 Finale, ‘This Is Not Your Heaven’ shows us, Elsa’s condition only worsens. As she rides on, the Dutton Daughter says her final goodbyes to Wade and Colton. The cowboys ride off into the sunset together after thanking Elsa for changing them forever – as she has every soul she’s ever met. Then, her time comes to ride off with her father, James,. who has promised her she can pick the spot where she breathes her last.

Beneath a canopy of golden trees, Elsa asks him to stop. “This is the spot,” she cries.

James takes his daughter off her horse, Lightning, 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. After they share their earliest memories, Elsa begins to fade…

“I know what it is. I’m not scared. I’m not scared, daddy,” she says as the light leaves her eyes.

There, on the future site of the Dutton Yellowstone Ranch, Elsa dies in James’ arms, and the father is inconsolable.

As one of her last acts, Elsa thankfully got her goodbye with Shea. “I’ll meet you on the beach,” she told her dear friend. Which leads us directly to the 1883‘s finale’s final heartbreak; an equally gut-wrenching answer to “Who dies in 1883“…

Shea Brennan Sees the Oregon Shore One Last Time

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

“I’ll tell you a secret. I’ll tell you why I’m still sucking air today. I’m headed to the ocean,” Shea reveals to Elsa after the death of Ennis.

“An Apache scout told me once, that when you love someone you trade souls with them. They get a piece of yours, and you get a piece of theirs. But when your love dies, a little piece of them dies with you. That’s why it hurts so bad. But that little piece of him is still inside you. And he can use your eyes to see the world,” he tells her of Ennis.

“So I’m gonna take my wife to the ocean. And I’m gonna sit on the beach and let her see it. That was her dream. Then I’m gonna see her. That’s my dream.”

And tragically, Shea’s dream comes true. With most of the immigrants lost, Thomas and Noemi building a life for themselves in the Oregon valley, and Elsa buried on what will become the Dutton Yellowstone Ranch, Shea seeks to fulfill his own destiny in 1883’s finale.

Traveling alone, Shea makes it to Oregon’s ocean shore. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asks his wife, Helen, showing her this dream through his own tired eyes. As he does, a hummingbird visits; bringing his final tears.

As the hummingbird flutters off, Shea is accompanied only by the sound of the waves. Then, he places his revolver beneath his chin much as he did in Episode 1. But this time, Shea pulls the trigger, ending his life.

Who Else Dies in ‘1883’?

Many other supporting characters meet their end in 1883, too. Cookie, the wagon train cook, meets his end right before Elsa is shot through the stomach.

The same horrible night that took Elsa Dutton also takes Risa from Josef, too; his wife dying in her sleep.

In Episode 9, ‘Racing Clouds,’ Colton rides through the aftermath of this accidental slaughter, finding a sole survivor. There, he finds Alina half-scalped and barely alive… but running in a state of madness. Out of mercy, he shoots her in the head as she lunges towards him.

What a Western. What a journey. And what a heartbreaker. The story of Paramount’s Yellowstone Universe will continue in the next spinoff series, 1932.