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3 Big Yellowstone Connections Made In 1883’s Tragic Season 1 Finale

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched 1883’s emotionally charged finale, so be warned!

For the first time since early November 2021, TV and streaming audiences will be moving forward without any of the Dutton family to keep up with, as 1883 has now concluded its first season on Paramount+. It was a long, painful, and death-filled journey across the ten episodes, and the Season 1 finale did not ease up on any of those factors. The slightly extended episode confirmed Elsa’s fate, and in a way that concretely set up the origin story of Yellowstone’s namesake ranch, while also displaying other interesting connective tissue to the flagship series and its characters.

With a couple of tissues on hand, as well as whatever is left in the bottle of whiskey that Josef drank from before his amputation, let’s pull the wagon train through the biggest Yellowstone connections made in 1883’s finale. 

Margaret hugging Elsa on 1883

(Image credit: Paramount+)

The Yellowstone Ranch Was Established Around Elsa Dutton's Grave

As some 1883 viewers probably guessed, especially after Episode 109 made it clear that Elsa was a goner, the eventual site for the Yellowstone Ranch within Montana’s Paradise Valley was directly tied to Elsa’s death, and it also all tethers to another important event connecting the Duttons to surrounding native populations. In this case, members of the Crow tribe attempted to offer medical help for Elsa, but to no avail. It’s how Elsa realized James lied to her about her long-term prognosis, which wasn’t fun to witness.

More importantly, the group’s elder Spotted Eagle (portrayed by guest star Graham Greene) is the one who explained to James how to reach Paradise Valley, saying that he used to hunt in the area as a youth. After a few highly uncomfortable conversations regarding the time issues involved, James and Elsa set out alone to find the perfect place for her to rest her head eternal, as she requested to chose her own gravesite.

And lo, a few days into their journey, the father and daughter reached a familiar expansiveness that would soon become the family’s home and legacy for nearly a century and a half. Of course, it would also become a growing graveyard for the Dutton family on the whole, as well as others. So while it’s obviously a tragic and depressing reason for the Yellowstone ranch to have been founded, it’s difficult to think of an explanation that would be more meaningful for James, Margaret and future generations. 

Beth holding shotgun on porch in Yellowstone

(Image credit: Paramount Network)

Some Of Elsa's Last Words Echoed Those Of Beth Dutton

For reals, I could sob thinking about James and Elsa's final moments together against her burial tree, particularly her asking him to be her blanket. [Uses entire beachtowel to wipe snotty tears away.] I could also dig deep into James' extremely dry first memory, in which he couldn’t grasp the absurdity of peek-a-boo. But what stood out to me was Elsa’s own memory that eventually led to one of her last thoughts before death, which future-echoed a line Kelly Reilly’s Beth Dutton delivered in Yellowstone’s Season 4 premiere, which is non-coincidentally where James and his sons were first introduced. 

To say nothing of how poetic these first memories are, compared to what others might offer when asked, Elsa’s was about her admiration for birds’ intelligence and awareness to hunt for worms after a rain, when the ground is soft. The next morning, she awoke to a single bird on the ground not far from her, and she uttered the line:

You birds sure are smart.

At which point James woke up, she told him she wasn’t afraid of death anymore, and she passed. [Wrings out beach towel.] But beyond being just the kind of pure and gentle thought that an eternal optimist like Elsa Dutton would conceive, it called back to the moment in “Half the Money,” as John is being told about the attacks that went down in the Season 3 finale. After Beth angrily put a bullet through an overly noisy wind chime, a nearby bird quickly regretted making its presence known as it flew away before also getting shot. And what did Beth say right afterward?

Smart bird.

It was one of my favorite lines in the episode, and now it unexpectedly means even more than just a case of Beth’s badassery. When 1883 first introduced Elsa Dutton to be something of a polar opposite to Beth, a lot of fans likely envisioned an impossible reality where the two characters could meet up and shoot the shit. While that won’t happen, at least they were able to share a similar perspective on birds. Also, in hindsight, I'm very glad that we don't have to worry about Beth's line being an omen about her own death.

Spotted Eagle and James Dutton talking in 1883

(Image credit: Paramount+)

James Was Given An Ominous Warning About The Yellowstone's Future

As awesome as it was for Spotted Eagle to the Duttons medical help and directional guidance, it came with a specific price that someone as in-the-moment as James couldn’t ever fully conceive of. He might be a man who plans, but he’s not necessarily thinking about what might be at stake 160 years from that point, particularly when his dying daughter is already taking so much of his headspace. 

In any case, despite the native’s easygoing nature and sense of humor, he dropped this threat out of nowhere after telling James how to get to the Valley. 

Yes, Paradise. Good name. But you know this: that in seven generations, my people will rise up and take it back from you.

James, who did not yet have his descendents’ intrinsic sense of land protection, said that they could have it in seven generations. So for all intents and purposes, 1883 has already planted additional seeds for a Yellowstone sequel series, relatively soon after its renewal news was accompanied by a 1932 spinoff being ordered at Paramount+. Because unless there are more surprises in store, it would seem as if the seventh generation in question would be that of Tate’s children, and others on that branch. 

Here’s how the family lineage shakes out at this point, going by the male offspring.

  • First - James Dutton
  • Second - John Dutton Sr.
  • Third - John Dutton Jr. 
  • Fourth - John Dutton III
  • Fifth - Kayce Dutton
  • Sixth - Tate Dutton
  • Seventh - Unknown

While that might just be a detail for Taylor Sheridan to have in his back pocket for the deep future of this universe, how amazing would it be if Paramount+ ordered up a new Yellowstone spinoff called 2060. To see Sheridan bring his western storytelling into a sci-fi-skewing setting would be magical. Just imagine the Elsa Dutton holograms! 

With 1883’s first season now done, fans will presumably have to wait until the 6666 spinoff debuts to see what happens next in the ever-expanding Yellowstone universe. Until then, fans can rewatch episodes of 1883 on Paramount+ (opens in new tab), and to see when all the other new and returning shows will be popping up, check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.