‘1883’ Brings a New Romance, Healing + a Hilariously Drunken Afternoon [Spoiler Alert]
1883 kept the drama coming in Episode 6 of the hit streaming show, but it also leaned into some of the lighter elements that make the show so compelling.
The episode, which began streaming via Paramount+ on Sunday morning (Jan. 30), opens with the wagon train of would-be settlers headed to Doan's Crossing, where they need to re-supply and hire a cook before they begin the next leg of their arduous journey.
Elsa (Isabel May) is in deep mourning over the death of Ennis (Eric Nelsen), and in a scene that's hauntingly reminiscent of Shea Brennan's (Sam Elliott) opening scene in the series, viewers see her sitting by his grave with a pistol in her hand, seemingly contemplating taking her own life. She's interrupted by Brennan himself, who tells her, "I've sat right where you're sitting ... but here I am."
He explains that she will always take a part of Ennis with her, and she can honor him by showing him the world, the way Brennan intends to see the ocean again at the end of their journey in a way that his wife would have loved. He tells her to mourn Ennis but not to let his loss define her life, adding, "In the meantime, the herd could sure use its cowgirl." And we see her head back to work, though she's clearly still deeply troubled.
Fans find out just how true that is in short order, when Elsa gets into a confrontation with an older man who is trying to hit on her at the trading post. She ends up drawing her pistol on him, and there is a tense standoff before James (Tim McGraw) intervenes.
Margaret (Faith Hill) makes an unexpected friend at the trading post when she meets a woman named Carolyn (Rita Wilson), who runs a store there. Carolyn can see that Margaret is in need of a break, and she gives it to her in the form of an afternoon partaking in whiskey punch, which ends with the two women whooping it up and telling tales in rocking chairs on the back porch of the establishment until Margaret is falling-out-of-the-chair drunk.
That moment of levity turns darker when a drunken Margaret unloads on James as he's shepherding her back to camp, telling him, "I will never forgive you for this" after the journey he has forced the family into has seen his daughter take a man's life.
"You don't forgive me?" an incredulous James demands. "I don't forgive me."
Meanwhile, Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) is supposed to be selling widow Noemi's (Gratiela Brancusi) husband's things to raise money for her to feed her family. He gets an offer of $35, but when he finds a beautiful silver mirror at the trading post that costs $50, he pays the difference and gives it to her as a gift along with $35 of his own money. Though he has been reluctant about her obvious romantic interest in the past, he tells her, "If I looked like you, I figure I'd stare at myself every chance I got."
She points out that he won't marry her and won't love her, but will buy her unnecessary gifts, telling him, "Want me happy? Want me safe? That's love. Me letting you take care of me is not fear. It's loving you back."
"I'm not scared. You are," she points out, and they become lovers in a scene that leaves him unsure about how where he stands afterward, when he still fumblingly tries to address her as "ma'am" the next morning before she takes his hand and says, "No more ma'am."
In an emotional scene between James and Elsa, he prevails upon her not to see the world through the bitter eyes of a killer, and we subsequently see her lie in the grass and picture Ennis, realizing she can still keep their happy times close to her. "I opened my eyes and I could see color again," she says in voiceover.
As the wagon train preps for another dangerous river crossing, there's more healing, as Margaret tells John, "You're forgiven," while Elsa startles Shea by thanking him with a kiss for helping talk her back from the ledge.
As they leave Texas, Elsa seems elated to be back in the saddle and out into the river again, and the episode ends with her picturing Ennis on the far bank of the river, as if she's leaving him behind.
Of course, it won't be as simple as that. Actor Eric Nelsen has revealed that he filmed for the character of Ennis until the end of the season, so what role will those scenes play in upcoming episodes? And will Elsa be able to open her heart to another love interest as the rest of the season winds down?
As for Noemi and Thomas — he's warned her before about the dangers of her trying to love a Black man in a country that will almost certainly frown on their relationship, so what kinds of challenges will lie ahead for them? Now that her character has become a focal point for some happiness on the show, will that be allowed to flourish? Or will the 1883 gods snatch that happiness away, too, as we've seen before? One has to wonder if the character of Noemi is long for this world as 1883 heads into the final four episodes of the season. New episodes of 1883 stream every Sunday on Paramount+.
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