The Ending Of 1883 Explained


A Failed Fort Visit

James and Margaret Dutton take Elsa to a nearby fort to get treatment for her arrow wound, only to meet Major Hemphill, who has no staff and no nurses. After examining Elsa, he tells the couple that she has already gone septic and they should go to a place where she can die in comfort.

Divided Over The Truth

While Margaret wants to lie to Elsa and give her hope that she’ll recover, James wants to tell her the truth. Although it clearly frustrates and upsets him, James goes along with his wife’s insistence that they lie to Elsa, even when she confronts him for the truth.

Diverting To The Valley

Shea Brennan and James decide to divert to Bozeman Valley in Montana for the winter and continue to their original destination of Oregon in the spring. This is deemed as the best chance for survival, but the rest of the wagon train disagrees and decides to go to Oregon without them.

Josef Chooses His Fate

Shea initially rejects Josef and his wife as too sick to go to Montana, but Noemi, Thomas Rainwater’s wife, insists that they are free people who have a right to make a choice to live or die. As the journey goes on, Josef’s snake bite worsens, and he makes the choice to let Shea and Thomas amputate his leg.

Shea's Origin Story

After Josef’s surgery, Shea opens up to James about how his wife saved his life during the Civil War by writing to him that she was leaving him for another man. Shea left his unit and returned home to kill his wife’s new lover, only to find that it was a lie to get him to leave the war and avoid an inevitable death at Gettysburg.

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