The last episode of Reservation Dogs exposed the rifts that had developed between our main cast of characters, and in season two’s second episode, it seems like Cheese, Elora, Jackie, Bear, and Willie Jack are continuing to drift apart. As each of the teenage Rez Dogs struggles to find their place in the world as burgeoning adults, they are quickly finding that the grown-up world is a sad, sorry place to be. While the Rez Dogs are doing their best to dodge their present responsibilities as soon-to-be-adults, all of the adults in the series are busy running away from the past.
Bear … still doesn’t quite get it. Having ditched Willie Jack and her plans to reverse the curse that’s been wreaking havoc on the village, he ends up crossing paths with Mose and Meeko. Bear laments to them that the rest of the gang are busy “off doing kid shit,” as if moping down the middle of the street by yourself doesn’t qualify as “kid shit.” He seems to be caught up in the performative aspects of adulthood, like finding a job, which Mose and Meeko offer to provide him in exchange not for money but for “free exposure.” It hasn’t quite dawned on Bear that without the important bits (things like introspection, developing personal values, and honoring kinship relations), whatever work you do manage to get done won’t be quite so meaningful to yourself and your community.
Bear later struggles with his lack of self-awareness when he pitches to Rob and Cleo that the three of them go into business together, only for Rob to remind Bear that he’s stolen more than his fair share from the store already. Cleo offers Bear the opportunity to volunteer for them in order to make up for his past transgressions, but Bear seems skeptical of the arrangement. This exchange is followed by a rather endearing callback to season one when Mississippi Miles arrives (Miles is the driver of the Flaming Flamer’s truck that the gang stole in the series pilot). Miles, Rob, and Cleo break it to Bear that they’ve known all along that Bear and the other Rez Dogs stole the truck, but that they didn’t tell the police because “we don’t need no more young folk in jail.” It’s a quirky yet touching exchange, and Miles reminds Bear that “it’s easy to tear things down, but a lot harder to build them up.” After two straight episodes of having some legitimate knowledge dropped on him by his elders, Bear finally seems ready to get it together and to start to give back to the community that has compassionately protected him for so long. Let’s hope it sticks!
Meanwhile, Willie Jack and Bucky meet up with Jackie’s old crew in search of some of her old stuff that they can use to break the curse. Bone Thug, Weeze, and White Steve report that they’ve been experiencing the effects of the curse too, meaning that there may be something real to Willie Jack’s theory. Uncle Brownie arrives and, after an epic standoff between him and Bucky, the two agree to collaborate on helping to break the curse. I can’t help but wonder if the exchange between Bucky and Uncle Brownie that they “haven’t seen each other in a long time” isn’t some kind of subtle reference to the fact that actors Gary Farmer and Wes Studi haven’t performed on screen together since the 1989 film Powwow Highway.
In any case, it feels like I’m wearing a warm blanket whenever I see the two veteran Native actors are on screen together, and the exchanges between Bucky and Uncle Brownie only get better as the episode continues. Come to find out, the two men have been avoiding one another ever since Brownie apparently snagged Bucky’s ex while the couple were on the rocks. In a hilarious sequence, the two resolve their differences by shouting not-so-subtle prayers about one another at Creator while Cheese and Willie Jack look on with confounded astonishment. Like Bear’s exchange with Rob, Cleo, and Miles, it’s a reminder that even though they may have issues to sort out, the community is ultimately stronger together. After completing their prayers, the two decide that the way to cap off the ceremony is to sing an “old song,” whereupon the two burst into a rendition of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” a perfect button on the bit which left me howling. As actress Pauline Alexis shared in an interview on Jimmy Fallon earlier this week, “Native people are so funny and, like, it’s the first time it’s been shown before.” It’s moments like these between Farmer and Studi, two men who have been doing the hard work of pushing forward Indigenous representation for a long time, that make the show as special as it is.
Elora and Jackie’s plot ended on a cliffhanger last episode with the pair being chased down by a truck full of armed rural townies. After a tense chase through a hayfield, the girls narrowly escape the encounter, only to find themselves in the orbit of a really weird white lady. A local empty nester named Anna finds Elora and Jackie aka “Mariah” and “Carrie” (I am 1,000 percent on board with this pop-singer name-swap bit, FYI) lying in her field and offers them a hot shower and a warm meal. Anna shares with Elora that her husband recently left her. Elora comments that the family looks happy in all their pictures, a moment that seems connected to the episode’s broader theme of past regrets. Anna seems like the type of person to trust surface appearances, only to be rudely confronted by the disturbing truths that lie beneath. It’s a moment that resonates with Bear’s story line, and it seems like both Elora and Bear are struggling to find their way now that they’ve separated.
Twice in the episode, Daniel visits Elora in her dreams. In the first dream, Daniel stands at the end of a long, straight road, and when Elora asks what’s wrong, he just sighs. Later, when Elora is asleep in Anna’s house, she again dreams of Daniel who asks her why she didn’t take him to California. The dream is intercut with the scene of Elora discovering Daniel has committed suicide, Daniel’s funeral, and the image of a buzzard eating a rotting animal. Daniel transforms into Bear, who again asks Elora why she didn’t take him with her to California. Elora’s feelings of guilt about Daniel seem to have intensified, and now she feels that she’s abandoned two of her best friends. These are the past transgressions that haunt Elora, and it seems like this season, her character will have to reconcile her own desires for freedom with her sense of responsibility for her friends.
Jackie’s character continues to develop this season, and Elva Guerra’s performance in the episode is compelling, despite her character remaining mostly silent. Jackie catches Elora mid-breakdown, and it initially seems that she’s decided to abandon Elora too. Luckily, before she takes off with Anna’s truck, Jackie relents and decides to wake up Elora and take her along. The pair pass through Jackie’s old town and make a pit stop at her mom’s place. It’s another quiet exchange — there’s clearly something amiss in Jackie and her mother’s relationship, exacerbated by the loss they’ve both experienced. Jackie seems unbothered about making off with some extra cash from her mom’s purse. Later when Elora asks if Jackie feels guilty about stealing the truck, she seems to shrug off the whole situation, only for a later shot to reveal that Jackie probably used some of the money to retrieve Elora’s grandma’s car. And, is that the Los Angeles skyline we see off in the distance?
The episode ends with a shot of Willie Jack talking to Daniel’s photograph, telling him that while the curse has been lifted, there’s still a heavy feeling permeating the town. Things still need to be straightened out, and while there’s hope that the Rez Dogs can turn it around, there’s still a lot that can go wrong in eight more episodes.
Willie Jack’s Deadly Meat Pies
• I’m so thrilled to see the evolution of Jackie’s character. The character was only added later on in the development of the series and there are a lot of directions the show can take Jackie and Elora’s relationship.
• As Anna watches Jackie and Elora take off in her (ex-husband’s?) truck, she whispers that the two are a couple of “sluts” in a quiet yet shocking turn in character. This moment, the cliffhanger chase sequence with the townies, and the shots in the gas station that I wrote about in the episode-one recap really encapsulate many flavors of racism that Indigenous peoples experience, and I’m interested to see where Hajro, Goldtooth, and RedCorn take these ideas as the season develops.
• So little Cheese in this season so far! Can’t wait to find out what he’s been up to, especially since Willie Jack mentioned he’s been spending more time with a mysterious uncle that may or may not be a positive influence.