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The Real Reason 1883 Had To End The Way It Did

For "1883" fans, the Season 1 finale may have brought things full circle for the Dutton family, but what about poor Elsa Dutton (Isabel May)? Did the show's main protagonist and narrator really have to go out like that? Did Taylor Sheridan really have to sacrifice the daughter of Margaret (Faith Hill) and James Dutton (Tim McGraw) in order to explain the origin of the "Yellowstone" Dutton Ranch? Well, the answer is a lot more complex than you may think.

For those who don't know, the season finale of "1883" saw the long-foreshadowed death of Elsa following a run-in with some Lakota warriors, one of whom shot the beloved character with an arrow. In the episode's final moments, we see James Dutton and Elsa in Montana on the same patch of land that the Duttons now call home in "Yellowstone." James vows to carve his family's path on that land, making it their forever home and ultimately setting things up for Sheridan's flagship show.

So, was Elsa just collateral damage? A plot device used to explain how the Dutton Ranch was born? If you ask "1883" executive producer David Glasser and some others, the answer you'll get is an interesting one.

Elsa's death gave 1883 characters more room to develop

While Elsa Dutton's death may not have sat well with fans at first, it was one that producer David Glasser says was greatly needed to help give the others on "1883" more depth to their characters and room to grow.

"For every single character, even down to our young boy John Dutton Jr., you can see where this goes forward in this journey," Glasser told The Hollywood Reporter

According to Glasser, "Yellowstone and "1883" creator Taylor Sheridan "closed every little piece up" for the spinoff series through the death of Elsa, first and foremost. Then came the Dutton family ranch connection. "For James and Margaret, they lost a daughter but found a place to build a better life. Shea [Sam Elliott] wanted to see the coast one more time — that's what he wanted out of this journey after losing his family. Thomas [LaMonica Garrett], who had closed everything off in his life, found what he wanted: a woman. ... You understand the pain of this journey they invested in. Everything that happened sort of has a full-circle wrap to it."

Despite the heartbreaking end to Elsa's time on "1883," it's hard to deny how poignant it was.