This season, most episodes of Reservation Dogs have centered on the story of Maximus, a former Okern resident who was transformed into a recluse after a run-in with aliens (or, as he calls them, star people). The extraterrestrial encounter drove a wedge between Maximus and his friends, as Bucky, Brownie, Irene, and Mabel dismissed the sighting as mere hallucination, whereas Maximus insisted that what he had experienced was real. And given that visitations of spirits and otherworldly beings are a fairly regular occurrence in Reservation Dogs, it feels like viewers are obliged to at least consider the possibility that aliens are “real” within the world of the series and believe that there’s a kernel of truth in what Maximus claims to have experienced.
Even before this, Maximus was already losing his faith in people because of a long-simmering beef between himself and his “cousin-brother” Fixico, whom, up until this season, we have known as “Old Man” Fixico, a healer who vends outside of the Indian Health Clinic. Back when Fixico was a young man on track to become a healer, Maximus claimed that his relative had repeatedly failed to acknowledge key differences in their upbringing, which for Maximus was a sign that Fixico was perhaps not yet ready or deserving of the acclaim the new position was garnering his relative.
Ever since, Fixico and Maximus have held onto their grudge, each man bearing partial responsibility for their ongoing feud. But they are not the only responsible parties. As we saw in the episode “Deer Lady,” Residential schools severed the ties between elders and youth, and those relationships have only now started to be rebuilt. These schools, both IRL and within the world of the show, also led to decreased self-esteem, increased rates of suicide, and increased rates of drug use within communities. We also know that such problems continue to plague Okern, given the tragedy surrounding Daniel, which was the focus of the last two seasons of the series. Given how deeply interrelated each element is, it’s hard to point the finger at one particular moment or person as the source of a character’s trauma.
Through these interlocking narratives, Reservation Dogs has been asking an important question: How do we heal from a violence that has never ended? In her poem, “I am graffiti,” Leanne Betasamosake Simpson writes of Indigenous Peoples, “We are the singing remnants / left over after / the bomb went off in slow motion over a century instead of a fractionated second.” As we’ve seen this season, the issues faced by the Rez Dogs are echoes of those faced by their parents and elders. How do we make it stop? And likewise, how do we take responsibility for our actions when we operate under conditions of constant stress? How do we call home all those things that have been missing (but were never lost) in an honorable and ethical way? And how do we make home an accommodating space for those who ran away? And all while living in a constant blast zone, as it were? Reservation Dogs can’t give us all the answers, but it offers moments of humor and relief as it models possible interventions. So: This week’s episode brings the story of Maximus to its conclusion by bringing the man home, but it’s no easy (or legal) feat to do so.
“Send It,” primarily told through flashbacks of the “heist,” which has already happened, opens on a series of interrogations that Big is conducting with Elora, Bear, Cheese, Willie Jack, and several members of Jackie’s gang, including White Steve, Wheeze, and Bone Thug Dog. Some kind of crime has been committed, and Big is intent on sorting out exactly what went down. It’s Willie Jack who finally spills the beans on part of the plot, telling Big that “it all started at elder breakfast,” where she was serving as the plus-one for old man Fixico while “learning his wizard ways” (and scoring some free food in the process). Shortly after being caught up on the spat between Fixico and Maximus (which it seems like Fixico is still pretty sore about, calling his cousin-brother a “mean son of a bitch”), Willie Jack witnesses the healer Fixico have a heart attack.
Cut to the Rez Dogs and Jackie’s bandits united for the cause of breaking out Maximus from the Tulsa hospital. They’ve approached Kenny Boy, who is the local junkyard owner and purveyor of stolen goods throughout town, for help. Kenny Boy, or Uncle KK, is happy to oblige since it means he gets to step into a mentorship role with the youth, which he definitely shouldn’t be taking on. And just like that, the crews load into a bus and take off for Tulsa.
Seemingly inspired by the pep talk she received from Rita last episode, Elora tells Willie Jack she’s proud of her and the plan she’s concocted to help out an elder in need. Finally, the crews are using their powers for good instead of stealing copper pipes or robbing chip trucks. The two have a heart-to-heart about the recent losses they’ve incurred. Elora shares that she wishes she had more time with her grandma Mabel and Willie Jack says she is worried about losing Fixico after only just starting to learn from him. The two make a pact to be there for each other until the end.
We get a snapshot of the plan when the bus finally arrives in Tulsa. White Steve and Bone Thug Dog are supposed to create a distraction by requesting a tour of the facility. Meanwhile, Elora, Jackie, and Cheese are to cut the phone line. Wheeze will send a text message and scream. Bear and Willie Jack will locate this missing uncle (Bear doesn’t realize that this is the guy he ran into on his journey home from Los Angeles). And Ansel and Kenny Boy are the getaway drivers. Everyone is made an honorary Rez Dog, and everyone takes off to complete their part of the plan.
Except everything goes differently than planned. White Steve and Bone Thug flail their way through their distraction plot but get saved by the fact that Elora, Jackie, and Cheese successfully cut the phone lines. Things continue to spiral when Bear spots Maximus’s file and realizes that this is the guy they are after. Maximus informs them that he’s choosing to stay in the hospital to “stabilize” and get back on his medication. And Maximus seems totally unbothered by the impending demise of his relative.
A very fed-up and learned Willie Jack finally breaks, delivering a brutal wake-up call to Maximus: “All you elders got robbed of your feelings, and now you can’t even admit or express them anymore, so you just sit in your room and stare out the window. I’m sorry whatever happened to you … I get it. But us young people, we know things too.” Then, in a moment that echoes Cookie’s confrontation with Rita last episode, Willie Jack tells Maximus that he’s making a huge mistake squandering time he could have spent with his relative and that she would “give anything to see [her] cousin Daniel again.” Her lecture works, and Maximus peacefully checks himself out of the hospital. Then, not so peacefully, their getaway bus explodes into a bazillion pieces right on the edge of town.
Kenny Boy takes the fall for the heist plot and the bus explosion, insistent that the kids have done nothing wrong in trying to bring the two elders back together. “Sometimes we take the heat, but it’s all in service of each other … all of us,” Kenny Boy tells Big. He adds that he’s stayed sober since that acid trip in the woods where Big and Kenny hallucinated the ED-209 and stopped a white supremacist catfish cult. The final shots show Fixico and Maximus reunited, now in a different hospital, with the community all sitting just outside.
With the Maximus plotline all wrapped up, that just leaves a few loose ends in the series. The next episode is titled “Elora’s Dad,” which means we’ll finally get a reveal of her paternity (I have absolutely no idea who will be playing the role — comment your best guess down below). And how will it all end? Will Fixico recover? Will we get a look into the futures of each Rez Dog, as we’ve seen the pasts of many elders? What I do know we can expect is more thoughtful representation, characters, and stories that feel authentic, and great, relatable lessons to chew on for two more weeks. Aho!
Willie Jack’s Deadly Meat Pies
• What do we make of the fact that Jackie and Bear are sitting next to each other? All season long, there have been hints that they are getting closer, texting in secret and whatnot. Will this be the second romance to emerge, following the union of Big and Bev?
• Paulina Alexis’s ability to play Willie Jack so naturally and casually is astounding, and she really carries this episode. Can’t wait to see where she appears next!