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‘1883’ Fans Are Upset Over the Show’s First Major Death

1883’s fifth episode, “The Fangs of Freedom”—halfway through the show’s first season, but not nearly halfway through its migrants’ Oregon Trail woes—saw the first major character death. Death has visited the series earlier, with both James Dutton’s sister, Claire, and her daughter, Mary Abel, buried during the show’s first week. But nothing yet has devasted fans like episode 5, when fan-favorite Ennis took a bullet to the chest.

Episode 5 was Ennis’ episode. Introduced as an unruly cowboy, Ennis quickly becomes the love interest for Elsa Dutton, and the two race through every relationship stage faster than a wagon loses its wheels in a river. Ultimately, the two have a tryst that ends with Ennis committing himself to Elsa and even standing his ground against a furious James Dutton. And then, just as he’s about to prove himself in battle, he falls.

If we wanted to get all critical theory, we might say that Ennis serves Elsa’s coming-of-age storyline more than his own, making his character a more ancillary part of the series—and in the same way that an underdeveloped female character, and love interest to the male hero, would typically die early to give the hero motivation. Ennis serves that purpose for Elsa, who has now completed her first real threshold crossing into adulthood, a character evolution we don’t often see in a historically male-centric western genre.

Of course, Ennis isn’t just the story’s love interest. Okay, he’s kind of just the story’s love interest. But we can still mourn him! 1883 really did him dirty.

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How Are Fans Reacting to Ennis’ Death?

Fans are distraught.

One Redittor put it best when they wrote, “Now that’s some bullshit, he was my favorite character. What the fuck man, the red flags were everywhere but come on. He was hilarious.” Indeed.

Other fans applauded the show’s commitment to the gritty realities of the west, where capable riders and gunman don’t always fare any better than your standard traveler. Death comes for everybody.

Some are speculating that Ennis may have impregnated Elsa, leading to a line in the Dutton family we haven’t yet explored—a line that, some say, may lead to Jamie.

In the end, 1883’s fifth episode seems to have done something Yellowstone hasn’t yet been able to stomach: kill off a major character, or a relation to a major character. The equivalent death in Yellowstone would be someone like Rip or Monica. We guess the west really has become a lot safer since the time of John’s ancestors. Or maybe these days the plot armor is simply stronger.

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