Episode 9 of 1883 begins with the caravan back on the move, uneasily passing through this dangerous country. Unfortunately, a rattlesnake bites Risa’s horse, knocking her down, which then in turn bites Josef.
While the caravan is stopped, James, Shea and Thomas ride on and notice six sets of tracks leading away from a bloodbath. Numerous Lakota are dead, mostly women and children.
Unfortunately, given they’re all tracking around the camp, whoever rides through is undoubtedly going to think Shea and the caravan are responsible, and he curses his sloppiness.
Josef’s bite is tended to, while Risa struggles to keep liquids down. They’re both in a rough way and things are looking bad.
The only way to solve this issue is to find the bandits, stop them and bring their bodies back to the Lakota. If not, the Lakota are going to attack and this could be a bloodbath.
The caravan will need to stay put right now – including Elsa who surprisingly doesn’t tag along with James, Shea and Thomas. Unfortunately the resident new chef realizes what’s happened and becomes spooked, deciding to ride out to the fort in order to hide. So naturally, the entire caravan follow him.
With Margaret and Elsa alone, they’ve no choice but to join them. Margaret demands her daughter wear a dress though, reminding her that rocking up at the fort looking like a Native American is not going to do anyone any favours. Of course, this time thee dress doesn’t feel the same as it did earlier in the season; constricted, lacking freedom and hiding the new Elsa.
Meanwhile, Shea, James and Thomas ride out into the country and find the murderers, disguising themselves as deputies. Our guy are no strangers to hustlers and the minute they admit to killing the Lakota, they shoot and kill the men.
That’s just as well too, given a whole rabble of Lakota find their women and children, going on the hunt. That hunt brings them to the caravan’s cook, who has his wagon burned and destroyed. With Elsa watching from afar, the Lakota spot her and immediately give chase.
A big fight breaks out with the caravan, as Wade instructs them all to circle while they prepare to fire. In doing so, we cut forward to the scenes we actually received at the start of episode 1.
Elsa wakes up, with the Lakota nearby and after shooting one dead, takes an arrow for her troubles. As she continues to fight the Lakota, speaking Comanche stops them from landing the killer blow. She manages to rationale with them, telling the men that Shea and the others are hunting the real killers of their kin.
When they eventually leave, letting her go, Elsa stumbles on with her horse. She stumbles into the path of Margaret, who urges her to press on and make it to the fort. Before they get there though, they need to remove the arrow and, as you can imagine, that’s not a pretty sight. Elsa’s screams pierce the air before she eventually passes out.
James finds the Lakota, whose leader confirms to him that Elsa is the one who has stopped the fighting. With the battle over for now, James and the others catch up with Margaret, Elsa and the other rabble of survivors.
James speaks plainly to his daughter that night, admitting that thy need to get her to fort. The thing is, the blood was dark when the arrow was pulled out and after talking to Elsa, learns in confidence that the arrow has pierced her liver.
Examining the arrow himself, James notices how dirty it is and believes that Elsa is going to die. In order to honor her life, James decides to let her live out every sunrise and sunset and lie to her that she’s going to be okay.
When she dies, James promises to take her body with them and bury her wherever they make a life for themselves. Of course, this is a neat bit of foreshadowing given we know the Duttons end up in Montana.
So lie is what they do. Margaret and James keep the pretense up that everything is fine. The thing is, Elsa is smart and as she studies her father’s eyes, she realizes the horrifying truth.
The Episode Review
1883 returns this week with a much-improved chapter, one that adds a good deal of action, drama and tension. With plenty of the caravan now dead, and the whole group hanging by a threat, the fate of many characters are still unknown.
One of the bigger surprises here from Elsa. The reveal that she’s on death’s doorstep and about to die, literally taking an arrow for the team, is quite the massive hammer blow. And it’s perhaps even more damning given it comes at the hands of the Lakota. Had she been wearing the outfit she was riding with earlier in the season, would she still have been attacked so ferociously?
As we reach the business end off this season, 1883 is just starting to get back to the lofty heights preceding last week’s episode, leaving things wide open for where this one may go next.