Friday 24 March 2023

Reservation Dogs: Season 2

The Rez Dogs have split up. Elora has taken off for California without the rest of the crew, who are dealing with their own hardships. Her inevitable returns sparks both joy but also anger and jealousy. The crew also have to deal with wayward curses, the need for full-time employment, family bereavements, an energetic Native conference, Bear's unreliable spirit guide and a sinister "Catfish Cult" up to no good in the woods.

Reservation Dogs' first season was a perfectly-formed unit of television. It set out to do what it wanted to do - combining comedy, drama and fleeting moments of horror on a modern Native American Reservation - and executed it flawlessly. 

Annoyingly, because I'd already maxed out the score-metre on the first year, the second season establishes a new goal - all of the above, but better - and then executes that flawlessly as well.

The season opens with the gang scattered after the Season 1 finale, and it takes a couple of episodes for everyone to reform. Even when they do, the shadow of mistrust lies heavily on the group and it takes some cathartic emotional releases (thanks to a family bereavement and a pair of deranged social media influencers with a horrible line in cultural appropriation) for them to regroup properly.

A new theme then develops and it's hard to suppress a groan at the cliche even as it's written down: the gang has to grow up. They're out of school, the older members are now in full-time work and are struggling as they mix their new-found adult friends with the existing group. These are all familiar tensions and they've been done to death, but Reservation Dogs treats them like they're the newest ideas in town.

The show also continues its fine line in sometimes just rolling in an anthology story for the sheer hell of it. One episode revolves around Bear's mother and her friends as they attend a Native conference, both to discuss Native affairs but, more importantly, to party and look for prospective boyfriends. Another episode follows local cop Big as he inadvertently teams up with junkyard owner Kenny Boy, even more inadvertently takes a lot of drugs and then finds himself up against a sinister cult in the woods.

As I said about the first season, Reservation Dogs' mix of drama, comedy, occasional horror and pathos is unlike anything else on television apart, maybe, from network-mate Atlanta. In this second season, the show adds a little bit more heart. If the first season ultimately drove the group apart, this second year brings them back together and things like forgiveness and cooperation are a lot more in evidence. The show hasn't gone all gushy or overly sentimental, but it's definitely a warmer show this time around, culminating in the gang joining forces for a major road trip. The season's ending is surprisingly final, to the point that I wondered if the writers had been told to wrap things up for good, but a third season has since been commissioned.

Reservation Dogs' sophomore season (*****) is outstanding television, being smart, funny, occasionally biting and always compelling. The show is available to watch on FX and Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ in much of the rest of the world.

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