Our post–peak streaming TV era has created space for nearly every kind of show you can imagine. Baking competitions? There are a dozen. (Plus one.) Vampire shows? A bloody ton. Reboots? Try parodies of the idea of reboots. Buried in the nonstop carousel of programs, there’s even something you’d never expect to find: a great show.
Reservation Dogs premiered on FX on Hulu in 2021 but reached a new creative height with the release of its second season in 2022. Created by filmmakers Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the show is loosely categorized as a teen comedy set on a Native reservation in Oklahoma. In truth, it’s nearly impossible to sum up Reservation Dogs.
It’s a look at life “on the rez,” through the eyes of kids who long to escape to California. It’s an intergenerational story that reaches back centuries, featuring ancestors who appear at will. It’s a deconstruction of Native representation in pop culture, from western movie stereotypes to contemporary Indigenous rappers. It’s an Easter egg–laden sight gag machine in the spirit of The Simpsons that rewards frequent pausing and repeat viewing. (One example of hundreds: one of the kids’ house numbers is 1491.) It’s a rebuke to every show creator who ever thought “representation” meant including a single nonwhite character on a show employing zero nonwhite writers.
Every half-hour episode of Reservation Dogs is so packed that it feels like a short movie, not surprising given Harjo’s and Waititi’s film backgrounds. Waititi, a New Zealander of mixed Māori descent, has a particular knack for getting into the minds of his young protagonists in films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016). The lack of condescension in the writing of Reservation Dogs’ young cohort is noteworthy, especially at a time when most shows only feature teens to induce moral panics in adults or (worse yet) traffic in try-hard “How do you do, fellow kids?” cluelessness.
This season, the teen plotlines were balanced with entirely kid-free episodes about the main characters’ parents, a cop, and other adults who struggle with the past and yearn for escape—whatever that means for grown-ups who can’t just run away from home. Episode 4 (“Mabel”) was particularly compelling—a tender look at a grandmother’s death in which her entire community gathered at her home to pray for her as she transitioned to the afterlife. That this was never played for cheap tears—and even managed some laughs—is a credit to episode cowriters Harjo and Devery Jacobs, a series cast member. A new season of Reservation Dogs has been green-lit; you should start watching the show now so you can brag to your friends that you’ve always been a fan.
One More Thing: Video replay
Led by surprisingly empathetic and stellar performances and pitch-perfect production design re-creating ’90s Los Angeles, Hulu’s Pam & Tommy was addictive, but not for the obvious reason. Was it about the punchline-producing (for Pamela Anderson, at least) fallout from a sex tape? Yes, but the bigger message highlighted what the advent of the internet has meant for society at large (spoiler alert: not good).•