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The Biggest Unanswered Questions From 1883

With "Yellowstone" one of the most watched shows on television, it came as no surprise that Paramount wanted to create an entire universe of shows surrounding the Dutton family. In February of 2021, the spinoff "6666" was announced (via Entertainment Weekly), and will take place alongside "Yellowstone," while the Wild Western drama "1883" would be set more than a hundred years before.

Launching in December of 2021, "1883" was met with sparkling reviews. It chronicled an important part John Dutton's legacy, as his ancestor James Dutton made the journey through the American West to found the Yellowstone Ranch. 

Right now, there's conflicting information about whether or not we'll see more of the show. After the series concluded its first 10 episode season in February, creator Taylor Sheridan would shock audiences with the announcement that there would be no Season 2. According to Sheridan, he's told the story he wants to tell, revealing that "1883" was never designed to be more than a limited series. "For me, as a storyteller it feels close ended," said Sheridan in an interview with industry publication Deadline following the season's finale. "I'm going to peek through the window of a different era and see what I see then," referencing the upcoming "Yellowstone" spinoff "1932." But as reported by Variety before the series had aired its final episodes, "1883" had been renewed for a second season

Whatever the truth of it, we still were left with many questions surrounding James and Margaret Dutton and the rest of the cast following the 10th and possibly final episode, and whether we get a second season is just one of the biggest unanswered questions of "1883."

Will we see more of James Dutton

As lead actor Tim McGraw would describe it in an interview with Deadline, "1883" initially came about from a pair of flashbacks filmed for "Yellowstone." Excited to be cast in an important role, rather than a bit cameo, McGraw's first scenes as Dutton family founder James impressed Paramount. The studio quickly asked creator Taylor Sheridan to craft a series around them. Though it wasn't an easy process, creator Taylor Sheridan developed the series premise and it was rushed into production, debuting later the same year. 

Now that "1883" has aired its 10 episodes, we now know just what led the Dutton's to Montana to found the Yellowstone Ranch: James vowed to build his home wherever his daughter found her final resting place. In the prior flashback scenes we, also learn that James and his wife will have another son, and have plenty of adventures between what we've seen in "1883" and in flashbacks on "Yellowstone." For now though, it remains to be seen when or if we'll see them next. 

Surely the studio will be keen to continue the series given its tremendous success, but whether it returns with a second season, a follow up a film, or more flashbacks on "Yellowstone" is anyone's guess. Even a prequel with Isabel May returning as Elsa could still be possible. While it appears their journey may be over for now, there's clearly still a lot more story that could be told around the first Dutton pioneers who settled Montana. And with an audience eager to see it, we may not have seen the last of them.

Where did the cowboys wind up?

Wade was one of the few main cast members to survive the series unscathed, physically or otherwise, while Colton — who was smitten with Elsa — may never know that she died in the valley nearby. But when the two cowboys who'd been running with the wagon train depart, Elsa openly ponders what may become of them. She initially tells them to head back to Texas and return to their lives, but as the pair peel off from the group and depart on horseback, Elsa narrates the scene with her own musings.

 "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," she said, imagining that they may have stayed where the wagon train divided and made a life there. "Or perhaps they braved the winter and fought their way to Oregon," she continued, "laying stakes in the emerald fields of the Willamette Valley." But Elsa grimly predicted neither would be the case, and predicted they would die on the frontier, "among the unmarked graves of the Oregon Trail."

Sheridan wrote their future so open that we have to wonder if he has a plan for them.

How did Josef build his new life?

The de facto leader of the immigrants in the wagon train, Josef played a important role in the series. More than just a translator for the non-English speaking travelers, he became the heart and soul of the group, and was in some ways the very reason the story of "1883" exists. 

When the series began, he was portrayed as a meek, soft-spoken migrant who simply wanted to find a better life for himself and his wife in America — a land he saw as a place of freedom and opportunity.  Over time, Josef became a capable leader. We learn he was once a soldier in his home country, but we never really know what became of him. Staying with Shea, Thomas, and James, Josef became one of the only survivors, and the finale showed that he did find a new place to call home. In the closing moments, we saw Josef with a horse and supplies, presumably beginning construction on a new homestead. 

It's never made clear where this home is, but given that it is set a year after Elsa's death, it's likely that it was in Oregon. While it looks like a happy ending for him, it's sobering to realize that he's lost his leg, lost his wife, and lost and his people, and is now all alone. Was this the message of "1883," about the futility of the American dream? Or did he wind up finding a new family, a new community, and the freedom he'd sought?

What became of Thomas and Noemi in Oregon?

One of the most important side stories to unfold in "1883" was the growing relationship between Thomas and Noemi. The Romanian immigrant loses her husband early in the series, and is left alone to care for her two children. Ex-soldier and Pinkerton agent Thomas steps in to help, and the two slowly form a loving bond before truly becoming a couple. Though we did see an end to their story, there's a lot left unfinished for the pair. But in his interview with Deadline, creator Taylor Sheridan specifically called out the couple when commenting on how he prefers to wrap up his stories.

"I'm not someone who likes to tie everything up in a bow and explain how everyone lived happily after, or didn't," Sheridan said, in a statement that's sure to frustrate fans of the series. "I'd rather you imagine it, and wonder what Thomas and Noemi made of their lives. You never get to see how James and Margaret move on."

At the end of the finale, we see Noemi and Thomas a year after Elsa's death, finally arriving at their destination in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Noemi and her children spot a stream by a field, and Thomas endeavors to build them a home there. It's clear that Noemi repaired her relationship with her children over the course of their remaining journey, giving hope that they became a happy family. But based on Sheridan's comments, it sounds as if we'll never know whether they prospered, or struggled through the transformation of Oregon through the late 19th century.

Is Spotted Eagle an ancestor of Broken Rock Tribe?

While the focus was squarely on the wagon train, "1883" introduced viewers to a number of Native American characters. From the friendly tribesmen who come to the wagon train to trade, to the vengeful Comanche who think they've attacked and killed their family, we saw many sides to the Natives on the frontier. But in the finale, we're introduced to one final elder tribesman as the group approaches the Bozeman Valley in Montana: A man called Spotted Eagle. Arriving with the dying Elsa, Spotted Eagle offers them aid in the form of his own doctors, who help assess her injury and treat her wound. While they can't help James' daughter, Spotted Eagle does offer him advice and direction on where he may find a home.

Pointing James towards a river, he describes a valley just beyond where he says will be a good place for James to bury his daughter and build a ranch. He calls the valley "Paradise," and it is indeed where the Duttons will build the Yellowstone Ranch. Spotted Eagle asks James to allow his people to continue hunting the valley, and James accepts. If we're figuring correctly, this could mean that Spotted Eagle's tribe borders the sprawling Dutton Ranch, and could very make the people living on the Broken Rock Reservation in "Yellowstone" his descendants. 

Once again, we may never discover whether this is the case, but now that we know more about the world of "Yellowstone" in the year 1883, it's possible we'll see Chief Thomas Rainwater make reference to his community's ancestors in future episodes of that series.

Is Sam related to Martin?

Like Spotted Eagle, we too wonder if Sam — the Comanche warrior who fell in love with Elsa — could be the ancestor of a character we have previously seen on "Yellowstone." But rather than making connections based on what we see in the story, where Spotted Eagle seems to be living in the same region as Broken Rock, we're connecting some real world dots here. In "1883," Sam is portrayed by actor Martin Sensmeier, the same actor who played the character of Martin on "Yellowstone."

In "Yellowstone," Martin was a swimming instructor who helped Monica Dutton — the Native American wife of Kayce Dutton — rehab from her injuries sustained in an attack at her son's school. The pair begins an affair behind Kayce's back, but Monica calls it off before it gets too serious. Could Martin be a descendant of Sam? Anything is possible. But given that Sam wasn't near the Montana valley when he met Elsa — who he named "Lightning With The Yellow Hair" — it's also possible that Sensmeier was simply cast because he's a talented actor of Native American descent who was a good fit for the role. Series creator Taylor Sheridan also has a penchant for casting the same actors across his many different shows and movies, so this could be chalked up as a coincidence — at least, for now.

Could we see spinoffs of 1883?

Throughout "1883," we have seen many new and unexpected breakout characters. Whether it's the world-weary war veteran Shea Brennan, the humble Pinkerton agent Thomas, or the Comanche warrior Sam, there's any number of fascinating new western heroes in the "Yellowstone" universe. With just 10 episodes in its short series, audiences barely got a glimpse at some of them, only touching briefly on the depth of their characters and backstories.

So if "Yellowstone" can receive "1883" and others as spinoffs, is it possible we could see extensions of "1883" itself? The season (and possibly series) finale gave a peak at the new life of Thomas, Noemi, and their children, while Elsa's predictions for Wade and Colton all seem like possible threads to explore in their own series. Likewise, a prequel surrounding Sam Elliott's Shea Brennan — whose past in the Union Army was only briefly hinted at — could make for a solid Civil War story. The casting of Billy Bob Thornton as infamous U.S. Marshal Jim Courtright also makes us wonder if there could be a future series based around the real life gunslinger.

Though there's been no talk of giving anyone from "1883" their own series just yet, we suspect that fans will be calling for them soon, as reviews for the series — and the performances of its cast — have been nothing short of stellar. But whether we see the likes of LaMonica Garrett, Martin Sensmeier, or Billy Bob Thornton again in those roles, they've already made an unforgettable mark on "Yellowstone" viewers.

Spotted Eagle's prophecy

In the finale, Spotted Eagle helps James Dutton locate a suitable home to build a ranch. He warns him that the winters will be harsh, but for a man who plans, it will be suitable — and he says that James looks like a man who plans. James is genuinely grateful for the direction, and tells Spotted Eagle with heartfelt words that his people are welcome to hunt there any time. But Spotted Eagle also gives him a dire warning, saying that his own people will rise up and take back their land from him in seven generations. James accepts this, and says that at that time, they can have it.

The big question hanging over "1883," and over "Yellowstone" as well, is whether this prophecy will indeed come to pass. It's hard to determine just which generation John Dutton of "Yellowstone" is, or if James Dutton is considered the first. But it's entirely possible that John's grandson Tate Dutton could very well be the seventh generation. So we're curious if this prophetic warning was simply meant to give depth to the scene and provide additional stakes for James Dutton's new home, or if it could in fact be a hint of things to come on "Yellowstone." Because if Spotted Eagle is indeed a forebearer of the Broken Rock Reservation, we could see them take the ranch from John at some point in the near future.

Will Yellowstone acknowledge the past in the present?

Following the heart-wrenching conclusion to "1883," we found new and important context for John Dutton's claim to the Yellowstone-Dutton Ranch. A family promise handed down generations after the death of Elsa, John's ancestral connection to the land resonates much more prominently now, and we're curious if we'll begin to see it acknowledged on screen in "Yellowstone." 

For starters, it seems the Dutton family owes a debt to the Native American tribes that border their land, having helped him find the valley and having helped Elsa when she lay dying. Chief Thomas Rainwater, leader of the Broken Rock Reservation on "Yellowstone" is an outsider, and thus likely not a direct descendant — but could we see John mention the connection his ancestors had to their Native American neighbors? Or could Rainwater's outsider status, in fact, be the reason John does not seem to have the same respect for him that he might otherwise?

Similarly, we now know that Elsa Dutton's original grave site — the place that marked the founding of the ranch itself — likely lays somewhere close to the Dutton homestead on "Yellowstone." It's likely John's other ancestors are buried there as well. Could we finally see the direct line that connects "1883" to "Yellowstone," beyond a simple flashback, with a visit to their graves? Might we hear the Duttons reference their ancestors and their struggle to build their home after arriving in Montana, especially now that we know exactly how it came to pass? Whether "1883" continues or not, this is one question that we could get answered soon.

Will little John Dutton be the star of 1932?

Even before "1883" concluded in February, word came down about the next "Yellowstone" spinoff. It's titled "1932," and while little is yet known about its cast or story, the Hollywood Reporter said the show "will follow a new generation of Duttons during the time of Western expansion, Prohibition and the Great Depression." It's fair to wonder if the series could chronicle the family's rise to power in politics in 1930s America, given their standing after the new millennium. But considering the timeline, many are also wondering just what role the character of John Dutton — played by youngster Audie Rick in "1883" — will play on the series.

By 1932, young John would be in his mid 50s, and will would have children of his own. Depending on how old John was when he had children, it's possible his son could instead lead the series, while he plays a supporting role. Fans are also still unsure whether the John Dutton in "1883" is the grandfather or great-grandfather of the John Dutton in "Yellowstone" played by Kevin Costner, and "1932" could clear that up. If he's his grandfather, then we could see a teenaged John Dutton Sr. featured the cast of the new spin off. But whether the first John leads the series or plays a supporting role, it looks certain that like the legacy of Elsa Dutton's little brother will live on in the next series from creator Taylor Sheridan.