November is National Native American Heritage Month. This year as the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around, I’m begging you to do yourself a favor and stuff your face with episodes of Reservation Dogs rather than turkey.
Ahead of its release in August 2021, I wrote about why you should be excited about the show. I severely underestimated how incredible it would be. A dark comedy at its core, the world and characters created by Sterlin Harjo command your attention as the viewer. Here is my review of Reservation Dogs season one.
Reservation Dogs Season One Plot
The show takes place at Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma. We meet the occupants of the fictitious Okern, OK, with the primary focus on a group of teens known as the Reservation Dogs or Rez Dogs. The group consists of Bear, Elora, Cheese, and Willie Jack. The crew is on a chip truck heist to raise money for them to leave their life on the reservation behind for the greener pastures of life in California. There used to be a fifth member of Rez Dogs named Daniel who has passed away. As the story of season one goes on, we learn more about what happened and how it shaped our core characters and their community.
Throughout the season, we see the Rez Dogs work together to raise funds while simultaneously learning about their individual stories. This is where the show really started to exhibit its greatness. Each character’s “solo” episode added so much to each. Our characters also need to decide whether or not they are prepared to follow through with the big move.
Reservation Dogs Cast Performances
I thought I’d enjoy the cast from the limited interactions in the first trailer. I was not prepared for the powerhouse performances of two, in particular, Devery Jacobs as Elora and Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack. When it came to gripping, emotional scenes, these two were a cut above the rest. Keep an eye on each when awards season rolls around because they crushed it.
The background characters also deserve heaps of praise. Performers Lil Mike and FunnyBone steal the scenes they are in with a combination of energy and skills on the mic. Actor Zahn McClarnon plays the local law enforcement Officer Big to perfection. Kirk Fox plays a perfect fence who runs a crew of meth heads. The way he dishes out his “native wisdom” is incredible. Wes Studi and Gary Farmer play local elders to a tee. Finally, we have Bill Burr. This man needs more respect put on his acting chops.
He was great in Breaking Bad, took it up a notch in The Mandolorian, and now we have his performance as Coach Bobson. The seventh episode, “Calfornia Dreamin'”, is an emotional roller coaster. We learn a lot, laugh even more, and shed some tears too. It is the highlight of the series for me so far, and Burr is incredible while Devery Jacobs is out of this world.
Rez Dogs Wrap
If you’ve already seen the show, it’s a perfect time for a rewatch. The football games are gonna be lame, anyway. There is so much in the background to absorb as well. Take the time to read some of the posters/stickers on the walls or the T-shirts some characters have on. It becomes its own little easter egg hunt. You know that Bear’s street address wasn’t a coincidence.
The actors, writers, and directors are all Indigenous, and while it’s perfect for this show, it provides another important reminder. They brought a story to life and made it rich and captivating. For far too long, most would have been overlooked for writing and acting gigs if it wasn’t to play or write an “Indian.” Damn shame, and hopefully, shows like Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls help turn that thinking on its head.
Check out Reservation Dogs on FX on Hulu.
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