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Rez Recaps: Reservation Dogs Ep. 6

8:04 AM EDT on September 8, 2021

In case you haven't heard, Reservation Dogs the groundbreaking series created by Oklahoma filmmaker Sterlin Harjo and New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi,  has officially been renewed for season two.

Starring Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan Postoak, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear Smallhill, Lane Factor as Cheese, and Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack  as the titular dogs, this show has exceeded all expectations to firmly plant itself as not just entertaining television, but as a visual record that, in the 21st century, Indigenous people aren't dead. We're not going anywhere.

Easily moving between broad comedy to pointed drama without sacrificing any of the show's tone, with only two episodes left, I can honestly say that this is only the beginning of Natives taking back yet another trope–their lives–that was stolen by them from Hollywood and bastardized by much of the world.

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Episode 6: “Hunting”

The Plot: A episode focusing exclusively on Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) and a hunting trip with her father Leon (Jon Proudstar) who, apparently, came across the ominous Tall Man last year as he was setting some feed down for the area’s deer.

Though the sighting has left him physically shaken, he takes her out as she hunts for a legendary—to her anyway—deer named Chunk and throughout the episode, comes to terms with her place on the rez, her father’s feelings, and their collective emotions about the apparent suicide of Daniel (Dalton Cramer).

The Review: Willie Jack has been the biggest enigma of Reservation Dogs and this episode peers deep into her soul, much like last week’s focused on Cheese. Her dad, having been spooked by the Tall Man last year, hasn’t done much hunting since. As he comes to terms with this unexplained sighting, we delve even deeper into Willie Jack’s psyche and learn her reasons for wanting to leave the rez, which are countered—beautifully, I might add—by her father’s reasons for staying.

I think that, especially as we grow up, our first instincts are to move out and move on to, what we assume, are bigger and better things. In an effort to run away from my problems—and forget they even existed, really—I did it myself, spending about a decade in Colorado where, yes, I did get my shit together but, still, eventually came back to Oklahoma because, as I would learn, it’s my home and probably always will be. I’m now okay with that.

While many of the cryptid-obsessed white boys are still frothing at the mouth about the mythical Tall Man, for many of the Indigenous people watching this episode, the Tall Man is merely the vessel for the idea to either leave our places for a better world, or to stay where you are and try to make this place a better world. It’s a painful decision, and one that definitely leaves its marks—some good, some bad—but it’s the realest monster that eventually many Natives must face.

As she’s faced directly with that choice, at his grave, Willie Jack gives a heart-wrenching goodbye to Daniel, as a mysterious turkey that befriended them sits in the back of the truck next to the dead carcass of Chunk. As they drive off, a Creek choir sings a hymn to Willie Jack, Daniel and, I’d like to believe, every Native that has ever had to make those same decisions.

It’s never easy.

Best Line: “We’re Indian. We don’t own land.” - Leon

Funniest Moment: A pair of white Texas ranchers walk through the hunting grounds reciting a list of topics that piss them off which include—but are in no ways limited to—Mexicans, cancel culture, wokeness, government overreach and “don’t forget the gays!”

Oklahoma Soundtrack Pick: Jimmie Rodgers – “Daddy and Home” (Not an Oklahoman, but the sentiment, like last week, is there.)

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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