August is my busiest month, which is why my Reservation dogs abstracts died last year. But I try again, because the exploits of Cheese (Lane Factor), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) and Elora Danan (Devory Jacobs) are worth it. Last year’s short season saw our foursome struggle to make ends meet and fund a move to California in a community where petty crime is the only thing that pays. Driven by the memory of their friend/cousin Daniel who committed suicide rather than continue to feel trapped, the foursome saw their goals change as the threat of a tornado brought the community together. Cheese and Willie Jack decided to stay and help their friends and neighbors, while Bear remained determined to leave. Elora Danan, fed up with Bear’s constant mooching, moaning, and inability to take care of himself, abandons him and flies away with NDN mob boss Jackie (Elva Guerra). The two drive off in Elora’s grandmother’s car with dreams of golden California filling their heads.
Needless to say it doesn’t work. After collapsing not far from home, the two find themselves at the mercy of a rotating cast of white people ranging from a preacher, possibly evangelical rapist to a newly divorced McMansion owner and the kind of terrifying rednecks who cost the life of Ahmaud Arbery. Reservation dogs‘Sterlin Harjo and her writers excel at delivering the kind of nonsensical white guest stars that cringe as Megan Mulally revels in playing, and she’s in fine form as recent divorcee Anna, who seems to be gently losing her mind in the Oklahoma sticks. It’s weird that Bill Burr, a guy I often find obnoxious in real life, is the only guest star I’ve been able to watch without squirming so far. I think it’s called “playing”. Elora feels guilty about the way she and Jackie take advantage of people on the road and wonders if she made the right decision.
Things are better for those who remain on the reserve, for a given value of “better”. Willie Jack is convinced that the curse she put on Jackie is the reason the tornado hit and his friends are fighting, and a Texan billionaire buys all the land including the RD hideout and where Daniel got away. hanged. Cheese is still Cheese, socially conscious and so open-minded it’s a miracle his brain doesn’t fail. I like the guy. Bear still sees his spirit guide (Dallas Goldtooth), who remains one of the funniest elements of the series. Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer) sees this now too, since he’s convinced himself he’s a powerful wizard after he “banishes” the tornado. He spends a lot of time outside in his birthday suit, which makes me itch every time I see him. Maybe Oklahoma has fewer mosquitoes than Massachusetts. Brownie and Bucky’s recurring friendship is a big part of the early episodes, and I for one could listen to Gary Farmer and Wes Studi bicker for hours. It reminds me of hunting with my male parents, sitting around a fire and listening to my uncles go after each other rather than try to shoot deer.
Bear is still trying to figure out what it means to be a man. His spirit guide isn’t much help, even if he tries. It turns out that taking care of your people isn’t easy, especially when you’re broke and unemployed. The drumbeat of extended family and community continues to resonate this season. Bear learns he owes the people around him even more than he’s known since truck driver Miles (Rhomeyn Johnson) and store owners Rob (Macon Blair) and Cleo (Darryl W. Handy) knew. from the beginning who had stolen the chip truck. “Build things, boy. Don’t put them down,” might be the best advice anyone could give to another human being, and Bear seems to take it to heart.
A few other quick things as this season begins to move forward: I miss the methheads. This may be the first time everyone has used this phrase, but it’s true. I miss Big too, but if his absence has anything to do with Zahn McClarnon’s resounding success on dark winds I can’t blame him for the time. It’s taken McClarnon too long to get the recognition he deserves. I guess Cleo’s “Oklahoma Freedman” shirt is meant to identify him as such, and perhaps an indication that Sterlin Harjo listened to viewers who found the lack of Black Indigenous representation alarming. Hopefully that improves as the season progresses. I’m on the long haul anyway, even though I’m already an episode late!
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