- Kate Wolford
Kate's Pick: Reservation Dogs
This week's pick: Watch Reservation Dogs Tonight!
Sure, I know books and other forms of the written word better than anything else, but what you may not know is that I am a dedicated TV lover. In addition to asking me about books and other reading material, people who know me well ask me for TV and movie recommendations all the time—these are my only super powers. Today, I’m giving you an unqualified recommendation: Reservation Dogs on Hulu.
Why would I, the editor of a zine about fairy tales and folklore, be recommending a TV show about Indigenous teenagers committing petty crimes on an Oklahoma reservation? Because it’s the most charming and entertaining show I’ve seen in a long time. Despite the fact that we meet Elora (Devery Jacobs), Bear (D'Pharoah Woon-A-Tai), Cheese (Lane Factor), and Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) stealing a snack delivery truck in the first episode, they are deeply likeable characters struggling to grow up in the aftermath of a dear friend’s suicide.
But what brings the whole show together is how deeply embedded in Native American culture and folklore it is. There’s a recurring cast of really strong supporting characters, and Zahn McClarnon (Officer Big), who you may know from Longmire and Fargo: Season Two, among many other roles, is a true standout. There’s also a hilarious and frequently insightful “spirit guide,” who died at the Battle of Little Bighorn, William "Spirit" Knifeman (Dallas Goldtooth). How much help Knifeman is to Bear is debatable, but the way the ghostly spirit guide is just part of the show, no big deal, is evidence of the remarkable community of Reservation Dogs.
People are poor on the Res Dogs reservation, but they laugh, celebrate, suffer, work, love, interfere in other people’s business, see spirits, raise family and just live—like everyone else. Reservation Dogs is part of a thrilling mini trend in entertainment: Stories of Indigenous people being told by Indigenous people, acted by Indigenous people, directed, and written by Indigenous people. Creators Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi bring a light touch to every episode, no matter what the subject matter. Since the show is not in the hands of white creators, it lacks the guilty condescension that entertainment featuring Indigenous people has frequently had in the past.
Look, the show is just good. It’s entertaining, and heartwarming. Perhaps most importantly, it recognizes that our four heroes are still children, for all that they are 16 and getting up to shenanigans. In season one, they are trying to scrape up money to go to California, which was the dream of their deceased friend, Daniel (Dalton Cramer). In season two, which is currently airing, the gang is pretty split up so far, but we’re only a few episodes in. What might happen? Who knows? It will be entertaining, and you need to watch this show.
One more thing: Tom Petty alert! If you, like me, still miss Tom Petty, then you’ll really love episode two, season two of Reservation Dogs. Another new episode debuts on Wednesday, Aug.17.
Reservation Dogs is rated TV-MA, and does definitely have strong language and, sometimes, tough situations. You can only find it on Hulu, which does require a subscription, but you can get a 30-day free trial. We love Hulu, and watch it all the time. And yes, the show title is a tip of the hat to Reservoir Dogs.
See you next week!