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1883 shocked fans with a plot twist in the season 1 penultimate episode that could change everything for the Duttons. Now fans are wondering whether 17-year-old Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) will make it out of season 1 alive. Would Taylor Sheridan kill off the series’ narrator and breakout star so soon? Here’s how that plot twist relates to May’s season 2 teasers.

1883's Isabel May in costume as Elsa after the attack and being shot with an arrow in the Paramount+ original series
Isabel May as Elsa Dutton | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

The opening scene of ‘1883’ was finally revisited in the penultimate episode

The plot twist in season 1 episode 9, “Racing Clouds,” happened at the end when Elsa was shot by an arrow. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to viewers, as it was foreshadowed in the series’ very first scene way back in the premiere.

James (Tim McGraw) realizes that the “filthy” arrow that struck all the way through Elsa penetrated her liver. “She’s gonna die,” he tells Margaret (Faith Hill).

They decide not to tell their daughter, and James vows to find her a proper place to pass, which he says will become the new family home. Many viewers concluded that this means they won’t make it to Oregon. Instead, it’s very possible Elsa will die in Montana. This could be the explanation for the location of the Dutton Ranch in Yellowstone.

Elsa Dutton knows she’s going to die

Despite her parents’ efforts to keep the truth from her, Elsa can see right through her father. At the end of the episode, she realizes he’s looking at her “as if he’s already in mourning … as if I’m already gone.”

“That’s when I knew I was going to die,” she said as the emotional episode came to a close.

But just because she knows she doesn’t have long to live, that doesn’t mean Elsa won’t make it to season 2.

How does the ‘1883’ plot twist relate to the season 2 teasers?

As the series’ narrator, Elsa is a main part of the story. And May joked that she knows “everything” about the bigger picture of 1883. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter whether she knew “beyond season 1,” May said she knew “a little beyond the first season.”

As for how much she knew about Sheridan’s “overall plan” for 1883 and her character, she said: “I’ve been let in. I haven’t poked and prodded, personally, because I’ve never been one to do that. But he’s always been very forthright with me, and it’s probably because I don’t poke and prod.”

With May knowing the story beyond season 1, fans should have hope that Elsa will survive the finale. But it’s not a guarantee.

Things didn’t ‘sink in’ for Isabel May until she read the season 1 finale script

When Sheridan offered May the role, she said yes without reading a script or knowing much of anything about the character. The 21-year-old actor knew Elsa would be narrating the story because it was the first thing Sheridan told her. But she said the importance of that didn’t really sink in until she read the script for the season 1 finale.

“I was receiving scripts as he was writing them and once I got the first episode, I thought, ‘Oh, my character really is narrating the story,'” May explained. “But it really took until the last episode for that to really sink into my head.”

Taylor Sheridan loves ‘1883’ and Elsa Dutton

Sheridan has said that when he met May, the “whole story, all 10 episodes” of 1883 went right through his head. He told Wide Open Country that she was “the hook” he needed, and he saw that she could represent “innocence and hope.”

According to May, Sheridan is “the busiest man” she’s ever met in her life, and his attention is “a precious thing.” But she pointed out that the Yellowstone prequel was his “baby,” and he has a special place in his heart for Elsa.


‘1883’ Season 2 Is a Go, Plus Taylor Sheridan Is Ready to Tell the Story of Even More Duttons in ‘1932’

“He cares deeply for this project, Elsa in particular, so I got very, very lucky on that end,” May said.

Would Sheridan actually kill off a character he loves so much — and who is so important to the 1883 story — at the end of the very first season?

Fans will get answers when the 1883 Season 1 finale drops on Sunday, Feb. 27 on Paramount+.