1883The fifth episode of “The Fangs of Freedom,” halfway through the show’s first season but not halfway through its Oregon Trail migrant woes, saw the first major character die. Death visited the series earlier, with James Dutton’s sister, Claire, and daughter, Mary Abel, buried during the show’s first week. But nothing has yet devastated fans quite like Episode 5, when fan-favorite Ennis was shot in the chest.
Episode 5 was Ennis’ episode. Introduced as an unruly cowboy, Ennis quickly becomes Elsa Dutton’s love interest, and the two go through each stage of the relationship faster than a wagon loses its wheels in a river. In the end, the two have a date that ends with Ennis committing to Elsa and even holding his own against a furious James Dutton. And then, just when he’s about to prove himself in combat, he falls.
If we wanted to get the whole critical theory, we could say that Ennis serves Elsa’s coming-of-age storyline more than his own, making his character a more incidental part of the show – and similarly that an underdeveloped female character, and the love interest for the male hero, would usually die early to give the hero motivation. Ennis serves that purpose for Elsa, who has now crossed her first true coming-of-age threshold, a character evolution we don’t often see in a historically male-centric Western genre.
Of course, Ennis isn’t the story’s only love interest. Okay, he’s kind of just the story’s love interest. But we can still mourn it! 1883 really messed it up.
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How are fans reacting to Ennis’ death?
The fans are distraught.
One Redittor summed it up nicely, writing, “Bullshit, he was my favorite character. Damn man, red flags were everywhere but come on. He was hilarious. Indeed.
Other fans applauded the show’s commitment to the harsh realities of the west, where competent riders and shooters don’t always fare better than your standard traveler. Death comes for everyone.
Some speculate that Ennis may have impregnated Elsa, leading to a line in the Dutton family that we have yet to explore – a line that some believe could lead to Jamie.
At the end, 1883the fifth episode seems to have done something Yellowstone hasn’t been able to digest yet: killing a major character, or a relationship with a major character. The equivalent death in Yellowstone would be someone like Rip or Monica. We guess the west has really gotten a lot safer since the days of John’s ancestors. Or maybe these days the plot armor is just tougher.
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