Taika Waititi is a very busy man. Not only does the filmmaker have projects like Thor: Love & Thunder coming up, but he’s putting his footprints in the television landscape as well thanks to What We Do In The Shadows and now, Reservation Dogs. The show follows four Native American teenagers (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear Smallhill, Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan, Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack, and Lane Factor as Cheese) who are desperately trying to escape their poverty-stricken neighborhood on a reservation in eastern Oklahoma. Obviously, Reservation Dogs is a play off the Quentin Tarantino classic, Reservoir Dogs, but don’t get it confused as a knock-off of the 1992 classic. The show made its debut back in August 2021 and luckily, season two has been officially confirmed by FX and Hulu. Of course, does it mean that the show is worth watching? Well, I can’t speak on the full season yet, but if it’s anything like the pilot then we’re in for a wild and fun ride.
Right now, we’re currently in the golden age of television. There are so many great television shows that some managed to slip under the radar. Granted, a second season confirms that audiences haven’t ignored Reservation Dogs and the show has received recognition from the Independent Spirit and Critics Choice Awards. However, the heat for the Taika Waititi project doesn’t have much chatter amongst other programs such as Squid Game or Only Murders in the Building. It’s a shame too because Reservation Dogs achieves a feat that is somewhat of a rarity in television today: It’s original. These Native American teenagers are criminals. Not gang bangers or something along those lines, but little thieves who are apparently the best thieves in town. The show starts off with a bang by having the foursome highjack a Flamin Flamers truck. The gang is successful in stealing the truck, but their interactions is what makes them stand out. Each personality is showcased throughout the daring high-speed theft: Bear is concerned with Elora’s safety by repeatedly requesting for her put on a seatbelt, even though they’re stealing a chip truck. Bear is clearly the leader spearheading the entire operation. Willie Jack is the rough-and-take no crap kid. And Cheese is just a chill guy. The entire sequence of the car theft is fun and hilarious, and the writers managed to make the cast likeable despite their antics.
Following the heist, we go into deeper exploration of their lives and why they’re stealing trucks. The simple reason is that they’re trying to escape their hellish neighborhood. One of their friends, Daniel, was killed because of the place that they live, so the foursome is doing whatever it takes to get out of the dump. The focus of the first episode is mainly on Bear, whose home life isn’t all that great. His mother isn’t exactly a strong role model and he’s the one that feels the most compassion over the crimes that he’s done. The pilot does an excellent job of explaining who these kids are, yet not excusing their actions for what they’ve done. It’s not hard to relate to the teenagers because their story is pretty simple, yet complex at the same time.
In general, they’re good people. Despite the crimes that they’ve committed, they’ve never physical hurt anyone and the only reason they’ve resorted to theft is to escape a bad situation that they desperately want to escape. The best element is the colorful number of characters in the world of Reservation Dogs. The biggest standouts in the supporting character field is Lil Mike and Funny Bone, twins who aspire to rappers, but sort of are gangsters. The energy of the duo is great and their rapport between the core cast and themselves is extremely funny. At its heart, the story of Reservation Dogs is actually sad and depressing, but Taika Waititi and his writers manage to keep the show light and funny. You’ll be able to invest in this world because its something new, yet the story is the type of journey that most people can relate to. Reservation Dogs manages to perfectly check off the boxes required for a strong pilot. It focuses on the episode at hand, but it never forgets the easter eggs necessary that keep you coming back to the next episode. This could be considered a light-hearted version of Reservoir Dogs as we are following a band of criminals, but the pilot successfully carves its own unique path that makes you want to continue to watch the adventures of Bear, Elora, Willie Jack, and Cheese.