“1883” Star Explains Why Their Character “Had To” Die In Episode 5

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WARNING: Spoilers ahead for the fifth episode of 1883, “The Fangs of Freedom.” DO NOT keep reading if you have not watched the episode yet!

A new episode of 1883 dropped on Paramount + on Sunday (January 16). Prior to that, viewers had already witnessed the deaths of many members of the travel party, including James Dutton’s sister, Claire, and her daughter, Mary Abel.

In Episode Four, several of the travelers died while crossing the river. Margaret Dutton tried to save one of these travelers, but was unable to do so, resulting in the woman’s death.

But the most devastating death yet occurred at the end of Episode Five.

Earlier in the episode, Elsa and Ennis took their relationship to the next level and became intimate for the first time. They later professed their love to each other in front of James, and left that conversation with plans to get married.

When bandits attacked the camp, Ennis joined the other men to help fight them off. He snuck away for a moment to tell Elsa to get her pistol out so she could defend herself.

As Ennis rode over the hill, he was shot by one of the bandits. He died, but not before uttering his last words to James, “I loved her.”

Elsa’s heart shattered when she discovered that the man she loved had died. The innocence and happy attitude she once carried with her everywhere died in that moment too.

Viewers were torn up over Ennis’ death, asking why he had to die.


Eric Nelsen, the actor who played Ennis, spoke with Newsweek about his character’s unfortunate fate. Even he was shocked when he learned that Ennis would die in Episode Five.

Once I read all the scripts, I ran to [show creator] Taylor [Sheridan] and I was like, ‘Why? Why? This is who we were rooting for the whole time.’ We’re rooting for this couple and we finally get them there and then it all falls apart.

But Taylor told Eric that Ennis needed to die at this point in the series to move Elsa’s story in a new direction:

And he’s like, ‘you’ll see. Keep reading. It has to happen this way,'” Eric relayed.

He continued, “So for Elsa’s journey, it’s a complete turning point in the story, and it sends her on a trajectory where she otherwise wouldn’t be heading, and it is pivotal for the character.

Elaborating further, he said, “So it does make a lot of sense and you’ll see as the rest of the episodes unfold that, for Elsa, it had to happen this way.

Even though Ennis “had to” die, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept his fate.

Tune in below to watch a scene between Ennis, Elsa, and James in Episode Five. We’ll miss seeing Ennis on the show!