Is 1883's Elsa a Goner? Tim McGraw Offers Unflinching Finale Insight

All season long, 1883 hasn’t wavered from one of its biggest themes: The Oregon Trail is harsh and unforgiving, and it doesn’t care who kicks the bucket along its rutted path.

But plucky heroine Elsa Dutton is going to beat the odds, heal from a nasty arrow wound to her liver and live… right? Right?!

Ahead of the Paramount+ drama’s Season 1 finale Sunday, TVLine looked to country-music star Tim McGraw, who plays Dutton patriarch James, for some solace. (Though we’re not real sure why, given that in last week’s episode, James said this of his injured teen daughter: “She’s the light of my life, and she’s my soul. She’s gonna die.”)

McGraw mused that James is carrying a lot of guilt about putting his family — wife Margaret (played by country-music star/McGraw’s real-life wife Faith Hill), son John (Audie Rick) and Elsa (Isabel May) — through such a grueling trip, all for the promise of a better life in the West.

“I think James doubted it every single day and every single moment,” he said. At one point in the middle of the season, he recalled, he discussed his character’s misgivings with series creator Taylor Sheridan. “I said, ‘You know, I can’t imagine a scenario where James ever sleeps in this entire show. With all the decisions he had to make, all the worry that he had, all the doubt.”

Those who’ve watched the season from the start know that the trip started to go awry in the premiere, before the Duttons’ wagon train even left Fort Worth, Texas. Still, “I don’t think it was in the Dutton genetics to turn around and stop,” McGraw said. “Certainly there was doubt every day about what he had gotten his family into, and you read it in his eyes a lot of the time when things were going badly… He’s a tough guy, but he cared a lot about everybody that was on that trip. He may not have shown it, but you could see by his actions, he put his life on the line for everybody, constantly.”

And for the most part, that sacrifice has kept James’ family safe. And by the end of the season’s penultimate episode, Elsa was back on her horse — that’s gotta be a good sign, right? So even though he’s a realist, might James hold out some hope that Elsa will beat the odds and survive her gnarly injury?

McGraw chuckled ruefully. “I don’t think he has any hope at all,” he said.

What do you think, 1883 viewers? Log your finale predictions in the comments below!

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