TV Series - Aug 08, 2022

One of television's most original shows, Reservation Dogs is now in its second season

One of television's most original shows, Reservation Dogs is now in its second season
One of television's most original shows, Reservation Dogs is now in its second season

Last year, Reservation Dogs was hailed as a groundbreaking television series. Featuring an Indigenous cast, production crew, and primary creator, Sterlin Harjo, it offers a unique insight into lives that are often ignored. While Reservation Dogs begins its strong second season, it is worth emphasizing that it is also an original and one of the best shows on television.

The series is set in Oklahoma's Native American territory and combines dumb jokes, smart jokes, satire, pathos, social realism, magical realism, and tribal lore into a series which is fresh, funny, and heartwarming.

The series is based on the story of a gang of four teenagers known as Rez Dogs.  There's Bear, played by emo-faced D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, who yearns to find his father. A true center of gravity of the group is soulful Elora (Devery Jacobs). As well as Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), who spews foul language, there is Cheese (Lane Factor), who is friendly with everyone.

Among their grown-up friends are Uncle Brownie, once a bar fighter who was now a hermit, and Officer Big, played by Zahn McClarnon, star of AMC+'s terrific Navajo mystery series Dark Winds.

They were busy accumulating money - some illegally - in order to leave the reservation and arrive in California in Season 1. Nevertheless, when a tornado struck the town, only Elora and Jackie ventured outside, along with one of the gang's enemies, the tough, deadpan Jackie.

In Season 2, the young women are trying to leave Oklahoma in their ramshackle car, while back home, Bear looks for employment, and Willie Jack and Cheese attempt to rescind a black-magic curse that went awry.

When a series that I enjoy enters its second season, I tend to get nervous, and I feared the worst when the first episode veered too sharply toward the comic whimsy that can sometimes be its downfall. Despite this, the show quickly regained its balance and began to do what makes it unique.

A loose, indie film style is employed by Harjo and company, which builds around moments rather than plot points, and avoids making any grand statements about American Indians.

They present glimpses of a modern Native American reality that goes beyond the familiar narrative of victimization and misery by utilizing their characters' everyday lives. The show's characters are vibrantly alive, despite their poverty and fractured family backgrounds.

In addition, there are episodes - such as Cheese riding around with Officer Big; Willie Jack hunting with her father; or Bear learning how to become a roofer - that glow with a warmth and wisdom that is rare on television. No other show conveys a better sense of what it means to live in a community that feels like a community than this one.

Throughout Reservation Dogs, you will encounter age-old tribal curses as well as gender pronouns, and references to Star Wars and hip-hop sit alongside references to Crazy Horse. With its clever humor, it makes light of classic tropes, such as a stoic and taciturn Indian.

Nevertheless, these jokes come from the inside. The show embraces Native American tradition while also honoring it, as in this season's touching tribute to Elora's grandmother where everyone participates in a death watch.

Willie Jack talks about the seemingly uncontrolled number of dogs roaming the streets in Season 1. No one cares about Rez dogs," she declares, referring as much to herself and her friends as to their four-legged namesakes. However, she is incorrect. You will feel cared for by this show, and I am sure that you will feel the same.

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