This week’s episode of FX’s ‘Reservation Dogs‘ is a funny-weed-infused trip brought to you by Taika Waititi (What We Do in The Shadows) and Sterlin Harjo (Mekko). “Uncle Brownie” follows the gang’s Odyssey of learning how to fight against the rival gang who has beaten the Rez Dogs up on two previous occasions. In order to turn the situation around– Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Beans), Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs, American Gods) and Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis, Beans) search for Elora’s mythical uncle. While this episode doesn’t propel the story forward, it again provides a splendid backstory for one of the gang’s members: Elora Danan. Not to mention funny.
“Uncle Brownie” begins with a different visual. An older white couple drives pass the reservation while discussing their ideas regarding the Native Americans. The man (Gary Sievers, Public Enemies) can’t seem to wrap his mind around the idea that the Natives want “the whole thing” (and by thing he means land) back. The woman (Louanne Stephens, Instinct) argues how the whites did kill a lot of people and took all the land. America ought to be ashamed, she says as she decides that the conversation is no longer fun and ought to end. The scene ends with the couple killing a deer that the Rez Dogs will pick up and put in the trunk. Only after guessing, rather correctly, that a white couple killed it and left it to die.
With a quasi-rotten deer strapped to the trunk, three-quarters of the gang drive to the outsides of the reservation to find the one man who might be able to teach them to fight. Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer, Dead Man) is said to have knocked out ten people under two minutes. Perhaps it was twenty and one cop or thirty and two cops. Whatever it was, Elora, Bear and Willie Jack arrive to a brought-down land full of dead animals and a not-so friendly sign that predicts the uncle’s unfriendly disposition.
Yet in a moment of tenderness, the audience finds out in a conversation that Elora’s mom died when she was only three years old. She asks Brownie to tell her some stories about the mom that she doesn’t remember but he isn’t willing for he would start crying. He then tells them that kids just slow you down, and so the gang understands that this was a waste of time. But not so fast!
Uncle changed his mind. He will teach everyone how to fight if the Rez Dogs give him thirty dollars and a ride to town to help him sell his 15-year-old weed. Yes, the weed is as old as the kids. After a sort of Mr. Miyagi sort of moment where the uncle tells the kids that the first lesson is patience, everyone ventures into the mission of selling un-sellable weed. While there is no success in locating someone willing to pay for such a vintage batch of hash, Brownie does give a small fighting lesson to the kids. 1) Always be ready. 2) Strike first. 3) Aim for the back of the head, because out the face only gives a black eye. That’s it. That’s the lesson.
In this episode’s last scenes, the audience finds out that Uncle isn’t exactly proud of his past. If anything, he feels ashamed of a somewhat-drug-and-aggression fuelled past, where he hurt people along the way. He apologises to everyone at the bar for the ass-kicking and the broken noses. Finally, he makes promises of beer and backstrap and says to Elora how he appreciates her calling him uncle even if they aren’t blood related. On a rather sweet note, the episode ends defining family as whomever we think belongs with us.
Although “Uncle Brownie” is the second episode that fails to move the story forward, it also is the second episode that gives the audience a glimpse into a member of the gang’s past and, hence an understanding on, why they feel like leaving for California is the only choice. Hopefully, we will see the whole gang move forward soon.