Another episode of Taika Waititi’s (What We Do in The Shadows) and Sterlin Harjo’s (Mekko) Reservation Dogs is out. This week’s episode, “What About Your Dad”, proves tremendously exciting, revealing, heart-warming and, as usual, hilarious.
“Greasy Frybread” goes the song that marks this week’s story. The track introduces a new character to the reservation’s cast: Bear’s Dad. AKA: Punkin Lusty (Hip-Hop artist Sten Joddi in his acting debut). The “Native Jay-z” gets invited to the clinic’s Anti-Diabetes Wellness fair, a decision that Bear’s mom (Sarah Podemski, Tin Star) considers O.K for his job but dangerous for his son. After a phone conversation with him, we learn that Bear’s father doesn’t send any money nor calls his son on a regular basis. We also learn that they haven’t seen each other in two years and that this “artist” continues to prove a disappointment to his son. He is an absent man that lives far away in an over-romanticised version of Los Angeles. While the audience knows how un-attractive this man’s life is, Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Tribal) seems to idolise the remote figure that is his dad.
While this absence might explain why Big Bear (as he is called right now) might have dreams of moving to California, it also goes on to shed a light on why Rita goes out at night and tries to find a suitable male figure to influence her very-loved son. And she is very close to that too! Following the disappointing day at work, Rita decides to drown her sorrows in a bar, where she catches the eye of a very attractive man. She wakes up at David’s (Garrett Hedlund, Tron: Legacy) house and everything is so dream like. In a nicely-decorated-bacon-smelling house, Rita finds out that the night who she spend the night with is a Doctor. Not only that, but a sports medicine doctor with a private practice. Score! But oh, not so fast. The handsome doctor reveals a chilling tattoo: a confederate flag with feathers. Yikes. The thing is, he’s “a big Skynyrd fan” and he loves Indians too. Like, for real. The house is in Indian land. But before we get any wrong ideas, his great-grandfather bought it honestly from and Indian and he even let him stay in the land! Not close to him obviously, but far far away. But hey, he let him come for dinner to the house. Sometimes. Apparently, Doctor David comes from a very long line of progressive people. Which explains why his best friend is Lakota and why he’s always been attracted to Native women. With that, Rita leaves the house and her dream of being married to a well-off doctor.
Alas, this is not the only disappointment that the episode showcases. With the impending arrival of his dad, Big Bear requires the help from the gang to get everything in order. From food to movies and a medallion, Bear is willing to put a big part of the gang’s money into his dad. He decides to get a beaded medallion for him, but in order to do that he needs to get to Auntie B (Kimberly Guerrero, The Glorias), a scary woman who does beaded work. The gangs swallows their fear and order a microphone for the rapper. Not without spending 90 dollars, slowly but surely Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs, American Gods) begins to get tense with each dollar. The fact that earlier that day, the enemy’s gang member Jackie (Elva Guerra, Rutherford Falls) approached her and remarked how no one in the Rez Dogs was taking going to California as seriously did not help. Once that Elora comes to terms with this reality, Jackie will welcome her with open arms (metaphorically speaking, of course) to the NDN mafia. This short moment of mental tricks at the supermarket either shows the cracks in the gang or achieves it mission to divide and conquer. Perhaps both. Once the idea is planted on Elora’s mind, she can’t help but notice each dollar that is spent on not-California stuff, like the Dad fantasy. Everyone sure is comfortable to spend her money. Their money, well in her mind is hers. The offer might have gone to her head.
Perhaps the worst part of this situation, is the fact that Bear’s dad definitely didn’t show up. His flight got cancelled, he tells bear as he walks through his messy LA apartment. Punkin Lusty keeps the charade up as Bear ends the phone conversation with an “I love you dad”, to which he receives an impersonal answer then anyone could give. It is at this moment in the car where Mom decides to be real with her son. While his dad might do something cool for a living, she remarks how that man has never nor ever will prioritise being a father. If Bear is open to having him in his life, he needs to understand it will never be under his own terms. Yet if he decides that this is too complicated for him, she will cut all communication with the man and get him away of their lives. He just needs to decide what he needs, so she asks. What does Bear needs? In a heart-warming moment, he just says that he loves her. She answer that she does too. While Bear might not have a father, he surely has one heck of a mom.
This week’s episode was notoriously good for several reasons. Particularly for the great moments that Rita gave the audience and the advice she gave to Elora. In a moment where both of these women were disappointed by the men in their lives, both of them because the other has proved selfish. Bear’s mom remarks to Elora how they’re both Indian women and that means that the men go off and play, while they deal with the reality. They’re the ones that have to make it work. The message is eye opening, yet remains cryptic. At the moment we don’t know how these words might affect Elora. But what’s for sure, the gang’s unity is on thin ice.