Ah, Taylor Sheridan. He never sees a plot point through, but man, he loves a cowboy vibe. That trait is what turned his underdog Western series into a television empire, and continues throughout his ongoing slate of Yellowstone spin-offs. But although he can nail an atmosphere, he often doesn’t pay too much mind to the little logical details.
This is especially obvious in our favorite of Taylor Sheridan‘s Yellowstone spin-offs: 1883. Set way back in the Yellowstone timeline, 1883 sees James Dutton travel from Texas to Montana with his family to seek their land. You’d expect this Western to have plenty of historical elements, but sometimes things get missed out and cause some plot problems, such as it did when it comes to Elsa’s age.
As you know by now, Yellowstone fans don’t miss a thing. So it’s unsurprising that audiences were quick to point out how Elsa’s birth year doesn’t quite make sense. In 1883, she’s said to be 18 years old, however, James Dutton would have been trapped in a POW camp during her supposed birthday.
Let’s look at the facts: In the drama series, James Dutton was captured by Union forces in 1862 during the Battle of Antietam. He then spent the rest of the war as a prisoner, until 1865 when the Civil War ended. Elsa would have been born in 1865, but it’s unlikely she could have been conceived in time for that to happen.
So, either Elsa isn’t 18 years old, or Margaret Dutton got a little too lonely during James’ time away. Does this mean the Dutton family tree is built on lies?
Probably not. Realistically, this isn’t the biggest flub of accuracy that could’ve occurred. Stranger things have happened in the Yellowstone universe, and there are plenty of questions hanging over every major Yellowstone character.
Most likely, this is just some math gone wrong. Feasibly, she could have been conceived at the end of 1965, meaning she’s actually 17 when the show takes place, and what differences does one year make, really?
What’s more, we’d like to give Sheridan the benefit of the doubt on this one. One of the key arcs in Elsa’s story is her sexual awakening that takes place during their trail across the U.S.
Because of this, she really couldn’t have been younger than 18, so they probably just had to establish her age as that in the script without worrying too much about whether it lines up with James’ briefly mentioned backstory.
The Dutton family history is becoming more sprawling by the day. Between 1883, 1923 season 2, and the upcoming Yellowstone 1944, things are starting to become tangled in an incredibly dense Dutton web, so it’s no surprise that some mild inconsistencies are popping up.
1883 also just so happens to be the best Yellowstone story of the bunch. It’s dangerous, unpredictable, and an excellent small-screen take on the Western genre. Plus, we love Elsa, and the fact that Sheridan put her as the lead is something we’re thankful for. So yeah, we’re willing to look past a miscalculated year or two. That’s the Yellowstone spirit!
Be sure to brush up on your Dutton history by checking out the Yellowstone cast and keep tabs on the Yellowstone season 5 part 2 release date. You can also see if there’s a 1883 season 2 in the works, and find your next pick in our list of the best TV series of all time.
For more, find out why 1883 already told us how Yellowstone will end, and find out why we think the Western has always been a genre for women, too.