What will happen in '1883' season 1 episode 10? Our theories on the big questions for the season finale

1883 episode 8 Sam Elliott Tim McGraw
(Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

1883 season 1 concludes this Sunday, Feb. 27 and, after the dramatic penultimate episode last week, there are some big questions that we hope the series will answer in the finale. We already know that there'll be an 1883 season 2 and let's not forget that what happens could also feed into 1932 — the latest spin-off from Yellowstone creator, Taylor Sheridan — so what's going down in episode 10 (“This Is Not Your Heaven”) that will set up these new stories?  We have thoughts.

* SPOILERS AHEAD catch up on everything that's happened so far in our guide to 1883, which features recaps of the past nine episodes.

As James Dutton would say, we’re not going to baby you anymore. If you've got this far you're ready for a spoiler or two.

Here are our theories on what will happen in the 1883 season 1 finale: 

Does Elsa die in 1883?

1883 Isabel May

Isabel May in '1883' (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount Plus)

From the very beginning, we knew that Elsa Dutton’s (Isabel May) life could be in danger. The first scene of the series showed her getting shot with an arrow by a Lakota warrior. In addition, anyone who watches Yellowstone knows that Elsa didn't feature in any of the flashbacks her parents, James (Tim McGraw) and Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill), appeared in. But would 1883 really kill off Elsa in its first season — especially after she has served as both the narrator and emotional center of the story so far?

At the end of episode 9, Dutton seems sure that Elsa doesn’t have long to live. He tells Margaret that wherever Elsa dies is where their family will settle, which we know ultimately will be the Yellowstone Ranch in Montana so, in all likelihood, Elsa has to make it at least there.

Even though it seemed like it took forever for the wagon train to get out of Texas, the Duttons seem close to finding their new home, geographically at least. The events of the penultimate episode take place in Wyoming. Paradise Valley, the real-life setting where Yellowstone is set, isn’t too far from the Wyoming/Montana border. Elsa has shown all season long how strong she is, so there’s a chance she could survive the finale and make it to at least part of season 2, but the potential for a powerful ending to its first season is probably too much for 1883 to pass up. 

However, some fans are pointing out clues that could hint at Elsa's survival. In Yellowstone, John Dutton (Kevin Costner) says that every Dutton since 1886 has been buried on the Yellowstone ranch. Also, per Yellowstone, the ranch was established in 1886. If this is true, it could mean that Elsa will live for about three more years in the context of the show. Of course, Taylor Sheridan could employ some revisionist history (he wouldn't be the first creator to do that).

Our prediction: There's a case to be made for Elsa surviving, and honestly we'd love to see it, but we're going with Elsa dying from her wound in the finale, as the Duttons discover the land that will become the Yellowstone Ranch.

Is this the last we see of the Duttons on 1883? 

1883 episode 8 Tim McGraw Faith Hill

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in '1883' (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

1883 was billed as a Yellowstone prequel showing how the Dutton family made their way west. We knew where they would end up, so if they do settle on the Yellowstone at the end of season 1, will they still be around for season 2?

The synopsis that was included in the official announcement for season 2 reads:
“It is a stark retelling of Western expansion, and an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land — Montana.” 

Season 2 could find the Duttons building their 'better future' on the Yellowstone ranch. They have been the main characters of this story and we'd expect that to continue — the challenges of wild, untamed 19th century Montana are likely to make for exciting storylines — even if the end of the first season sees them arrive at their journey's end.

Our prediction: It's hard to believe that two of the top-billed stars (the Duttons, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill) would leave the show after the first season, so expect the Duttons to stick around in some capacity.

Will Shea and the wagon train go on to Oregon?

1883 episode 8 Sam Elliott

Sam Elliott in '1883' (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

If the Duttons stay in Montana, what about Shea (Sam Elliott), Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) and the rest of the immigrants in the wagon train? 

While Dutton took charge of the wagon train in 1883 episode 8, in the next episode Shea committed to getting the wagon train to Oregon — saying that they'd all suffered too much not to make it there. 

Our prediction: Even if the Duttons reach Yellowstone and stay behind in Montana, we think the wagon train and its continuing journey west will be a central part of the season 2 storyline.

This could be a really exciting development for the show, as it will finally allow the supporting characters to be fleshed out. One of the gripes we had about 1883 season one was that they could have done more to build up Josef (Marc Rissmann) as a character, as well as others in the wagon train like Wade (James Landry Hébert), Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) and Colton (Noah Le Gros).

Find out what happens in the 1883 finale, Sunday, Feb. 27 on Paramount Plus.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.