The following contains treats for episode 5 of 1883.
1883In the fourth episode, Shea, James and the migrants are seen across the Brazos River, claiming the lives of several travelers. Episode 5 follows the aftermath of the intersection, with the wagon train preparing for a long road out of Texas and far from re-stock. This next leg will be the first real test for the travelers. Can they make it over the next two weeks on the supplies they have and save the cattle for the winter? Or will they continue their unfathomable incompetence and undermine their hopes of reaching Oregon? Our money is on the latter outcome. (Although we know James Dutton is making the trip – for obvious reasons.)
The theme of episode 5, as it was in previous episodes, is freedom. Last week, Thomas questioned the freedom of marriage and explained to Noemi how she is not really free to choose a partner, as their interracial relationship would put them at risk. Episode 5, titled “The Fangs of Freedom,” examines the consequences of free choice. This week’s choice is also romantic: Elsa chose Ennis.
Although Elsa appears “freer” to make this choice than Naomi, she is not free from the consequences. In the saga of Elsa Dutton’s adulthood — her whirlwind romance with Ennis and simultaneous intersection in the American wilderness — episode 5 witnesses his first eye-opening adult moments.
The takeaway for episode 5 is not just the result of choice within freedom. It is also its finality; it can not be taken back. Last episode, that lesson was physically learned by the river. In this episode, the lesson is more evolving. Elsa lost the innocence of adolescence. Whatever she thought might have been cowboying and settlement, she now realizes what these things really are. Episode 5 is where she becomes a cowboy, where she becomes a pilgrim.
Let’s dive in. Here’s what happened in episode 5.
The Wilderness Hates You
The episode begins with another Elsa monologue, this time chewing on nature’s indifference to human hope and suffering. It is still unclear when Elsa is writing these passages — whether she’s big and thinking about the journey, and whether she’s making a journal while traveling west. If it is the latter, she describes a lesson she has not yet learned. But she will. Man is also part of nature. And man can also be indifferent to suffering.
After the voiceover, Ennis tells Elsa that they are now in bandit territory; they have as much to fear from men as from nature.
Shea and Thomas analyze about the river crossing. Shea blames himself for the deaths.
Later they learn that the migrants put their food in one wagon (the wagon that was lost downstream, predictably), because they feared theft from someone in the group. Shea and Thomas deliver a downturn and tell that man and his family that they can not continue to ride with the group.
James and Margaret talk about Elsa’s future. It turns out James wants her to be a cowboy. Margaret is not convinced and drives out to talk to Elsa. They have “the talk” because it looks like Elsa is DTF with Ennis.
Meanwhile, Wade finds a campsite where at least six men (probably bandits) spent the night.
The inevitable second industry is now set up.
Men hate you more
Shea asks James to save rations to help the migrants reach the next town. James only agrees if Shea hires a cook for the trip once they reach town. Shea and Thomas are worried that the migrants will not be able to survive on cattle if they start eating them now. They will have to store them for the winter.
That night, Elsa and Ennis tried a little. Margaret sees them and confronts Elsa the next morning and asks if she is willing to take care of a child. Elsa says she is and confronts Ennis later to ask him the same. He says he will also support the child. Later, he stands his ground against James and promises to marry Elsa. Damn, things are moving fast.
During Elsa’s midnight Ennis ride, the bandits attack the stealing migrant who is left behind. In the morning, the wagon train sees smoke on the hills, realizing the bandits will attack them soon. Shea, Thomas and James are planning a defense, but the strategy seems to break down early when the attack comes. Joseph and Anna (who we think are probably pregnant) are attacked first. It looks like Anna was hit. Joseph, who has probably never fired a gun before, turns out to be a wonderful shot.
The bandits then drive through the camp where Margaret sends out a couple before Shea and the company drive in from behind and chase the bandits away and kill everyone. Except for the last one driving in the direction of Ennis. They both shoot. Ennis falls dead.
Elsa mourns. In one last monologue, she realizes this is the first time she’s so close to death.
She shoots and then kills the apprehended bandit.
Damn, she’s a cowboy now.
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