FX’s newest show ‘Reservation Dogs’ has been released this August the 9th on Hulu. The pilot “F*ckin’ Rez Dogs” introduces a crew of teenagers that live in a place not often seen on TV: a Native American Reservation in rural Oklahoma. Willie Jack, Elora Danan, Cheese, and Bear are a group of high-schoolers that have spent the past year committing crimes to leave for sunny-mecca-like California.
Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) and Sterlin Harjo (Mekko) give the classical coming-of-age genre several twists. The first time the main characters enter the scene, they are seeing the heist of a truck full of chips. After a discussion of whether to put the seatbelt or not, it just doesn’t scream bad-ass, the ruffians succeed in getting the bounty to a group of meth-heads led by Kenny Boy. As the episode goes on, we find out how this group of not-even-legal kids has stolen two cars, the copper out of street lamps, steaks from the grocery store, and Lady Louise’s edibles for her cataracts. They’ve also drawn some graffiti of, yeah you guessed it, a penis. Waititi and Harjo remind us that although they are the best thieves in town (it’s a small town) they’re still kids.
The reason for this wave of criminalities finds its origin a year back when the group’s friend Daniel died. Whilst the audience doesn’t know just yet what happened, Elora Danan (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, Rhymes for Young Girls) reminds Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Tribal) that this place killed their friend. The reservation is a dog-eat-dog world and they have to leave before it’s too late for them too. They can’t care about the town nor the people in there.
Here’s where the interesting twist in the genre comes in. After being attacked by the rival new gang, the NDN Mafia, Bear falls into a dream sequence that exposes the moral dilemma that he faces as a Native American. William Knife-Man, the ghost of a former warrior-ish, tells Bear how their people used to die for their land and for their people. So, what is he fighting for? The scene showcases the ethical predicament that will plague the natural leader: Is he being a good native American? Is he being a good guy?
An attempt to answer is found at the end of this segment. The newly-baptized Reservation Dogs gang will no longer be a group of criminals but vigilantes. Even if this forsaken place took their friend’s life not so long ago, it’s still the Rez Dogs’ home. And they will not give it up without a fight.
With a first episode full of misbehavior, gen-z humor, and paintball attacks, we know that, while the gang’s path probably won’t be an easy one, it will be an amusing one.