This Is Not Your Heaven
Does Elsa manage to get help from a surgeon?
Episode 10 of 1883 begins with Elsa reflecting on the nature of death and how she’ll be facing it very soon. “Even stars die and we know absolutely nothing of it.” Elsa ponders, before she eventually rides up to the Fort. Two boys stand watch outside, but their fresh faces and thin arrogance means nothing in the wake of what Elsa has had to deal with.
When Elsa collapses, James scrambles forward and scoops her up, taking her inside to find a surgeon. As she’s laid down on a table, the Major arrives and claims Elsa’s wound has already been dressed. Unfortunately, the Fort is actually abandoned with no men there able to treat her. Instead, the Major encourages them to head on to the next Fort, Laramie.
The thing is, they’re on borrowed time and at best, Elsa has another week or so before she passes away. The group make a decision and James decides to keep heading North instead, deciding to keep going until Elsa dies.
Do the caravan make it to Oregon?
However, this means Shea and the others will need to go a different way, and eventually press on to Oregon in the Spring. Half the caravan decide to leave and make it on their own, while Josef and Risa want to follow Shea. Wade also leaves the group, riding out into the wild.
The remaining rabble of riders find themselves in a predicament. With Elsa slowly deteriorating, drawing a fever that night, Josef’s leg is looking pretty bad too. In fact, it’s so bad that Thomas realizes they need to cut it off.
So that night, the guys get Josef blind drunk so he passes out, enough so they can cut his leg clean off. Its a sickening, shocking moment and in fact, the pain is so great that Josef regains consciousness… only to lose it again moments later from the pain.
Elsa wakes up soon after the deed is done. Her fever has broken and she seems to be doing a bit better as well. Despite being knocked out for 3 days, she seems to be on the mend, which baffles James as he jokes that she pays about as much attention to the laws of nature as she does to his rules. Of course, this is all to help ease her passing, which we know is coming.
Do the native Americans help Elsa?
Elsa’s condition soon does deteriorate just as foreseen. She falls off her horse and lands in a heap on the floor, just as three native Americans show up. They suggest bringing Elsa to the freezing creek, believing this will help stop the bleeding. After, a shivering Elsa is brought before the other natives, who chant and sing for her.
James speaks to the chief who offers a suggestion for where James can lay down his roots. He speaks of a special area, just south of the river; a little paradise they can call their own.
What does the Chief promise James?
In seven generations’ time though, the chief promises to come back and take the land for himself. James agrees to the terms, as he finds out the trip will take around a week to get there. Unfortunately, Elsa doesn’t have that long left – and she knows it.
At James heads back to see her, as she’s huddled up at a campfire, she sobs that she’s dying. She wants to choose a spot to die too, and although James agrees to her terms, he’s obviously already chosen the general vicinity.
When Elsa does sleep that night, Shea reflects on how strong Elsa has become and how, technically, she’s outlived them all. At least in terms of what she’s been through and done.
Thomas too has decided on a place to stay, wanting to settle down and find a place to call his own – but only when the journey is over. That journey seems to be coming to a close, especially for James who breaks the news that night to Shea.
Does Elsa die?
James gives Shea the unenviable task of telling Margaret that they’re going to press on to this paradise, intending to lay Elsa down to rest. James wants to ride on with her but in order to do that, it means Margaret will need to say goodbye to Elsa now. They ride out in the morning, meaning there’s not a lot of time left.
That night, Josef awakens and finds Risa beside him, dead. This journey has taken its toll on them all, and the ride to Oregon seems like a million miles away now. As night turns to day, and Josef mourns the loss of his wife, Elsa says her goodbyes, with Shea promising to be right behind them.
James and Elsa ride on, eventually finding their patch of paradise. Elsa chooses it, carried over by James to a large tree. She lays against it, in her father’s arms, and in her exhausted state, talks about her first memory before whispering that she’s not scared. This, of course, is in reference to death and it’s the last thing she ever says, as she fades from this world.
1 Year Later
We then jump forward 1 year later. Josef is still alive but hobbling along, with wood on his back from the wagon and deciding to press on ahead, alone. In Willamette Valley, Oregon, Thomas finds his patch of land too, hitching up and preparing to make a new home with Noemi.
Shea meanwhile, makes it to the sea, just as he promised Helen. He looks out at the crashing waves and marvels at the beauty of it all. However, a bird flies by in front of his face; a symbolic gesture that seems to be Helen or Elsa in another life. However, as the camera pans out, Shea shoots himself in the head.
How does 1883 end?
Beyond this life, Elsa rides off in her heaven with Sam. They decide to race, as the episode (and series as a whole) comes to a close.
The Episode Review
1883 bows out its first season with a really solid finale, one that closes out its trip to Oregon with a somber and bittersweet ending to this ride. Josef goes it alone, Shea meets his journey’s end while Thomas sets up his patch of land with Noemi, just as he promised.
Meanwhile, there’s James and his family, who find their patch off land and prepare for the next step of their journey. Given a good year has passed now, it seems 1883 is going to be closer to 1884 now, and it’ll be interesting to see what new developments that brings for our characters next season.
For now though, 1883 has been a really enthralling watch and despite a slight blip toward the end of the season, there’s a solid amount of work done to round out all of these characters and give a good send-off.
Simultaneously though, this show sets things up nicely for a second season. In that respect, 1883 has done a really good job, although I do question the decision to have Elsa in her version of heaven with Sam (who’s presumably dead too, I guess?) rather than her first love, given that had a far greater impact on her life.
Still, that’s a nitpick in what’s otherwise been a very good season. Roll on season 2!