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1883 Episode 9 Recap: Elsa Might Be Dying As We Get Context for the Series' Harrowing Opening Scene

Elsa is indeed in danger

Lauren Piester

[Warning: The following contains spoilers from 1883 Episode 9. Read at your own risk!]

All season long, I've been waiting for 1883 to get to that terrifying opening scene, in which Elsa (Isabel May) is shot with an arrow as she shoots a man in the face after his tribe attacks the caravan. This week, we got there, and it was just as upsetting in context. It came in the middle of Episode 9, "Racing Clouds," after the caravan came upon a slaughtered Lakota camp. James (Tim McGraw), Shea (Sam Elliott), and Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) knew that their crew would be blamed for the attack since there were no other tracks. They told the rest of the group to stay put while they went off in search of the actual murderers, but the rest of the group soon realized staying put was a bad idea and changed course to head to the fort. That's when Margaret (Faith Hill) told Elsa she had to put on a dress because the fort would not take kindly to her Comanche outfit. Soon after Elsa put on the dress, things went very south. 

The cook was the first to be found by the Lakota, and Elsa found his wagon on fire, which is how the Lakota found her. She did her best to lead them away from her family, which half worked. She was knocked off her horse, watched one man scalp one of the immigrants, confronted him, got shot through the torso while shooting him in the face, and then was conveniently able to prove to another man on a horse that she is the wife of a Comanche, and that her family was not responsible for the death of his family. He let her go and they stopped the massacre while I was wishing Elsa had managed to have that conversation like half an hour ago. 

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Meanwhile, James, Shea, and Thomas found the group of misguided vigilantes who actually murdered the Lakotas and disposed of them, which James explained when he met up with Elsa's new Lakota friend. So everything was suddenly sort of okay if it weren't for all the people who just died and the massive arrow stuck in Elsa's body. 

Margaret and the cowboys removed the arrow and used an iron to cauterize the wound—if this is the origin of the Yellowstone brand, yikes!—and then had Elsa rest. They'd just get a doctor to fix it once they got to the fort! Or maybe not, because as soon as James got a look at how dirty the arrow was, it became clear that it was definitely going to get infected and Elsa was definitely going to die. James and Margaret made the choice to not tell Elsa she was definitely dying and not go to the fort, and let her live out her final days wearing her Comanche outfit and riding on a horse. But Elsa's not stupid, and in her voiceover, she explained that she had caught on to what they were doing and knew her time was up. 

Normally, I'd assume the main character of a TV show was not going to die, but I have never once known where this show was headed and I'm now wondering if 1883 is actually the story of how great aunt Elsa went out with a bang. I'd be sad about it, but I'd also be sort of impressed. All I know for sure is that now I'm stressed and contemplating the way Paramount+ announced that there would simply be "more" 1883. Not specifically another season, but "more." Was it announced like that because otherwise, they'd have to spoil Elsa's death? Will future episodes skip ahead in time? Or am I thinking way too hard about it? Only time will tell, and in the meantime, let's all hope that if Elsa's wound does get fatally infected, they don't show it like they showed that snake bite at the beginning of the episode. Nobody needs that! 

1883 has one more episode in this batch, premiering next Sunday, Feb. 27. 

Faith Hill, 1883

Faith Hill, 1883