Reservation Dogs Recap: Free Fallin’
The rifts that had grown between the members of our primary cast of Reservation Dogs were exposed in the previous episode. Cheese, Elora, Jackie, Bear, and Willie Jack are still drifting apart in the second episode of season two. The teenage Rez Dogs are discovering that the adult world is a sad place to be as they each fight to find their place in it as emerging adults. All the adults in the series are preoccupied with escaping the past, while the Rez Dogs are doing their best to avoid their current obligations as soon-to-be adults.
Bear is still struggling to understand. He runs across Mose and Meeko after leaving Willie Jack and her preparations to undo the curse that has been wreaking devastation on the hamlet. Bear laments the fact that the other members of the group are “out doing child things,” as though sitting alone in the middle of the street sobbing isn’t considered “kid shit.” He appears preoccupied with the performative aspects of adulthood, such as getting a job, which Mose and Meeko promise to help him obtain in exchange for “free exposure” rather than a payment. Bear hasn’t wholly realized that without the crucial components (such as reflection, personal development, and respecting kinship relationships), the task he does manage to accomplish won’t be as significant to himself or the community.
Later, when Bear suggests to Rob and Cleo that the three of them start a business together, he struggles with his lack of self-awareness when Rob points out that Bear has already stolen more than his fair share from the store. Bear becomes skeptical of the proposal when Cleo gives him the chance to volunteer for them to atone for his previous wrongdoings. Following this conversation, Mississippi Miles (the truck driver the group stole from the Flaming Flamer in the show’s pilot) makes an amusing reference to season one. Bear learns from Miles, Rob, and Cleo that they knew that Bear and the other Rez Dogs had stolen the truck but had chosen not to report it to the authorities because “we don’t need no more young folk in jail.” Miles informs Bear that “it’s easy to take things down, but a lot tougher to build them up” in a bizarre yet heartwarming dialogue. Bear finally looks prepared to get it together and to start giving back to the community that has lovingly sheltered him for so long after having some real wisdom placed on him by his elders for two episodes in a row. Hopefully, it will stick!
While this is happening, Willie Jack and Bucky connect with Jackie’s former team in quest of some of Jackie’s old belongings that they can use to lift the curse. There may be some truth to Willie Jack’s hypothesis since Bone Thug, Weeze, and White Steve also claim to have been affected by the curse. After an intense battle between him and Bucky, Uncle Brownie shows up, and the two decide to work together to help break the curse. I can’t help but wonder if the statement made by Uncle Brownie and Bucky that they “haven’t seen each other in a long time” isn’t some allusion to the fact that Gary Farmer and Wes Studi haven’t shared a screen since the 1989 movie Powwow Highway.
Whenever I see the two seasoned Native actors on television together, I feel like I’m wearing a warm blanket. As the episode goes on, the conversations between Bucky and Uncle Brownie only improve. It turns out that the two guys had avoided one another since Brownie allegedly snagged Bucky’s ex-girlfriend while the pair were having trouble. In a humorous scene, Willie Jack and Cheese watch as the two shout not-so-subtle prayers about each other to Creator to settle their disputes. Bear’s conversation with Rob, Cleo, and Miles serves as a reminder that while there may be problems to solve, the community is ultimately stronger when everyone works together. The two say their prayers and then decide to sing an “old song” to close the ceremony. They then launch into a performance of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” which was the perfect climax to the scene that had me in tears. Native people are so funny, as actress Pauline Alexis said during an appearance on Jimmy Fallon earlier this week: “It’s like the first time it’s been seen before.” Moments like these between Farmer and Studi, two guys who have been working tirelessly to advance Indigenous representation for a long time, are what truly distinguish the program.
The last episode’s cliffhanger saw Elora and Jackie being pursued by a vehicle load of armed rural town residents. The girls almost escape the encounter after a frightening chase across a hayfield, only to find themselves in the orbit of a strange white lady. Elora and Jackie, also known as “Mariah” and “Carrie” (I am 100 percent on board with this pop-singer name-swap thing, FYI), are discovered resting in a field by a local empty-nester named Anna, who provides them a hot shower and a warm supper. Anna tells Elora about her recent divorce from her husband. The episode’s overarching topic of previous regrets is hinted at when Elora remarks that the family looks joyful in all of their photos. Anna looks to be the kind of person who would believe what they see on the outside, only to be rudely shocked by the frightening realities beneath. It’s a scene that connects to Bear’s narrative, and it appears that Elora and Bear are having trouble figuring things out now that they are apart.
Daniel pays Elora a dream visit twice in the episode. When Elora asks Daniel what’s wrong with the first dream, he sighs. Daniel is shown standing at the end of a long, straight road. Elora has another vision about Daniel asking her why she didn’t take him to California later on as she is sleeping at Anna’s home. The dream is torn up with scenes of Daniel’s burial, Elora learning that Daniel committed suicide, and a vulture eating a dead animal. Bear, who has changed into Daniel, asks Elora once more why she didn’t bring him to California. Elora now feels like she has abandoned two of her closest friends, as her remorse over Daniel seems to have worsened. These are the past sins that plague Elora, and it appears that her persona will have to choose between her personal needs for independence and her sense of obligation to her friends this season.
Elva Guerra’s acting in the episode is intriguing, although her character is largely mute. Jackie’s character has continued to evolve this season. When Jackie finds Elora during her breakdown, it initially seems as though she has also made up her mind to leave Elora. Fortunately, Jackie decides to wake up Elora and take her along before she departs in Anna’s truck. After traveling via Jackie’s hometown, they stop at Jackie’s mother’s house. There is a problem in Jackie and her mother’s relationship, which is made worse by the loss they have both experienced. It is another silent conversation. Jackie doesn’t appear to care if she steals any additional money from her mother’s wallet. When Jackie is asked if she feels bad about stealing the truck, she initially appears to brush the incident off, but the last shot reveals that Jackie likely spent some money to get back Elora’s grandmother’s car. Is the Los Angeles skyline that we can make out in the distance?
The episode finishes with a scene of Willie Jack speaking to a picture of Daniel and telling him that even if the curse has been lifted, the town is still filled with a gloomy vibe. There are still issues that need to be resolved, and while there is still a chance that the Rez Dogs will succeed, a lot might go wrong in the remaining eight episodes.
Deadly Meat Pies from Willie Jack
• I’m thrilled to see Jackie’s character develop. There are many possible possibilities for the connection between Jackie and Elora on the show because the character wasn’t introduced until much later in the production of the series.
• In a subtle but startling change of character, Anna says that Jackie and Elora are a couple of “sluts” as she watches them leave in her (ex- husband’s?) truck. I’m curious to see where Hajro, Goldtooth, and RedCorn take these concepts as the season progresses. This scene, the cliffhanger chase scene with the townies, and the shots in the gas station that I wrote about in episode one encapsulate many flavors of racism that Indigenous peoples experience.
• There hasn’t been much cheese this season so far! Especially because Willie Jack indicated he’s been spending more time with a mysterious uncle who may or may not be a good influence, I’m eager to see what he’s been up to.
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