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In the first four episodes, the Yellowstone prequel 1883 hasn’t shied away from death. The Dutton family and those they are traveling with are experiencing death all around them as they embark on their dangerous journey. However, the series didn’t kill off any main characters until episode 5 and the character death in yesterday’s episode was definitely a rough one.

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for 1883 Episode 5, “The Fangs of Freedom.”]

Faith Hill as Margaret and Isabel May as Elsa of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Elsa sobs in Margaret's arms. 3
Faith Hill as Margaret and Isabel May as Elsa of the Paramount+ original series ‘1883’ | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Who died in ‘1883’ Episode 5?

1883 has had plenty of death so far, but it’s also built up a romance between two young travelers. Elsa Dutton caught the eye of a cowboy named Ennis, who joined her party. In episode 4, Ennis and Elsa shared some flirtation and eventually a kiss. Episode 5 saw the couple take their relationship to the next level. Not only that, but Elsa confessed her love for Ennis.

After this love affair began, it felt even more cruel and tragic to watch Ennis die in 1883 Episode 5. The cowboy was shot and killed during an altercation with bandits. Ennis told James Dutton that he loved Elsa while he lay dying on the ground. Elsa’s cries of grief eventually turned to rage. She shot and killed the man who killed her lover, and the promo for episode 6 teases that Elsa will continue down a dark path.

Isabel May as Elsa and Eric Nelsen as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Elsa and Ennis are on horses and about to kiss.
Isabel May as Elsa and Eric Nelsen as Ennis of the Paramount+ original series ‘1883’ | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Ennis actor Eric Nelsen discusses his character’s death in episode 5

Actor Eric Nelsen played Ennis in 1883. Nelson didn’t know from the start that his character’s story would end in tragedy. In an interview with TV Insider, he discussed Ennis’ heartwrenching ending and what it means for Elsa going forward.

“It was definitely gut-punching, and I didn’t see it coming, which I think is what makes it great TV, and to see the trajectory my death pushes Elsa to become and where she goes, it’s crucial,” Nelsen told the outlet.

“It really does make sense in the scheme of the story, and it was pivotal for Elsa’s character, so I couldn’t be upset, as much as I was hoping Ennis would see it through. It’s a beautiful death, and it’s a beautiful moment, and I’m just happy to have been the one to be able to portray it.”


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‘1883’ fans were devastated by Ennis’ death

Many fans of 1883 were captivated by Elsa and Ennis’ sweet relationship. This only made things all the more devastating when Ennis was killed right when his love story with Elsa was beginning. “I know it’s gonna hurt, and it’s been so hard for me to just watch the comments roll in knowing that this week is coming,” Nelsen told TV Insider.

“But if anything, I hope people get moved by it, and it does lend itself to a whole new trajectory in the story. There’s some very exciting things coming,” he continued.

Fans were definitely moved by Nelson’s portrayal of Ennis and his final moments. “Well, that one sure gives you the storyline of where this is going. Turning point. What a show. I rarely get emotional, but that got me,” a Reddit user wrote. “I was surprised that I teared up,” another fan commented.

New episodes of 1883 release Sundays on Paramount+.