‘Reservation Dogs’ Doubles Down on Snark (and Heart) in Season 2

No one makes the words “Love you, bitch” sing quite like the cast of FX’s Reservation Dogs—and although the show’s gang of four teenagers were in a bit of a rough spot by the close of its stunning debut, there’s still plenty of love to go around in Season 2.

A comedy-drama with touches of magical realism created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the series opened its first season on a group of Indigenous teenagers mourning the loss of their friend Daniel to suicide. The teens, who live on a reservation in rural Oklahoma, dream of moving to California—a hopeful source of inspiration so strong they’re willing to steal trucks and knock off potato chips to do it. By the end of Season 1, however, the grand plan had mostly fallen apart and Elora (Devery Jacobs), among the most practical in the group, eventually made her off with their money.

While Reservation Dogs‘fuel first season explored its characters’ escapist fantasies, its sophomore return—which debuted its first two episodes Wednesday on Hulu—offers a necessary counterpoint: the healing power of community.

Last season, we watched as the taciturn scene-stealer Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) realized that she wasn’t ready to leave her family just yet—especially her father, who always took her and Daniel, her cousin, on hunting trips. This season finds the character buckling down at home to learn some of life’s important lessons from her elders on the reservation. The first among them? How to lift a curse she regrets. On board to help, as always, are Officer Big (Zahn McClarnon), Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer), and most importantly of all, William Knifeman—a wise-cracking spirit guide played by Dallas Goldtooth who appears to characters in visions.

A sample of this so-called “warrior’s” wisdom, when asked if a curse has been successfully lifted? “This most sacred-est of ceremonies is complete… But the effects of this curse will linger on until they deal with the guilt inside.”

Uncle Brownie’s translation for the kids is a little more concrete: “It’s gone. But you kids gotta stop being shit-asses.”

In the dead warrior’s estimation, that’s evidently close enough. It’s time to stop being shit-asses and figure out how to move forward.

Actors Jacobs (who plays the group’s most passionate member, Elora) and Goldtooth both joined the show’s writers room this season—which finds Elora on the run with her gloomy frenemy Jackie (Elva Guerra, also seen in the AMC thriller series Dark Winds).

The girls’ trip goes awry almost immediately; as their tenuous path to the West Coast crumbles, Elora, too, begins to shatter. Jacobs’ performance feels especially fragile this season, as does actor D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai’s. His character of him—the group’s de facto leader, Bear—is struggling to cut through his anger at Elora to understand why she left him behind.

As scattered and restless as these teens might be at the start of the season, they’re taking necessary steps toward processing their survivor’s guilt. once again, Reservation Dogs excels at interweaving and juxtaposing the humorous and the sincere, the sarcastic and the spiritual. This is, after all, a series whose patron warrior spirit missed his chance for glory in battle by tripping over a gopher hole.

Once again, ‘Reservation Dogs’ excels at interweaving and juxtaposing the humorous and the sincere, the sarcastic and the spiritual.

Some performers, like Farmer, have more to do this season; others, like Lane Factor, who plays the group’s fourth surviving member, Cheese, get a little lost in the half-hour episodes. The new episodes also feature a welcome array of guest stars, including Megan Mullally, Marc Maron, and viral TikTok skateboarder Nathan Apodaca—aka Doggface, aka the guy who skateboarded down the highway drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” in 2020 (He’s great in this!)

Thanks, once more, to its rich cast of idiosyncratic characters and beautifully detailed world, Reservation Dogs is a deeply felt comedy that reminds us why all the funniest tales have their roots in the serious stuff of life. Last season, these teens were locked in a flailing struggle against the ties they thought were holding them back. This season, they’re discovering the value of reinvesting in our connections—to our friends and families, to the places we came from, and to the people we’re all becoming. That, Reservation Dogs compellingly argues, is where the real growth happens.

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