10 Best Things About Reservation Dogs

FX series Reservation Dogs, created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Thor: Ragnarok), follows the lives of four Indigenous teens in rural Oklahoma. The show has become incredibly popular since its first nine-episode season was released in 2021. Reservation Dogs boasts so many great elements that it’s been renewed for a second season, which will premiere this August.

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Reservation Dogs effortlessly combines the realities of growing up as an Indigenous teen in America where they continue to be dominated. The comedy-drama series features impressive performances from its cast and masterful writing from Harjo, Waititi, and the rest of the creative team.

9 It Casts Indigenous Actors

Reservation Dogs follows Indigenous characters, but it also boasts an entirely Indigenous writing and directing team, and most of its cast and production team are also Indigenous. This is important for Indigenous actors who can gain opportunities for future Native roles, and for future roles that aren’t written with a specific background.

Actors can embrace their Indigeneity. This lack of authenticity has been seen in projects with Indigenous storylines like The Twilight Saga or yellowstone, where it was revealed that only some actors were Native.

8 It Makes A Point To Cast Novice Actors

Before being cast in Reservation Dogs, most of the main cast, like Paulina Alexis and D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai, were relatively unknown. Providing start-out actors with lead roles can grant them an incredible opportunity to move forward in their careers, especially for Indigenous actors who might have a harder time getting more mainstream.

Casting lesser-known actors has provided a natural, organic feel in Reservation Dogs, which has helped the series receive praise for its authentic and believable nature. Additionally, this casting helped bolster the cast’s careers, as was seen with Devery Jacobs (Elora Postoak) landing a role in the upcoming Marvel Echo series, which is currently filming.

7 Doesn’t Shy Away From The Harsh Realities Of Being An Indigenous Teen

While Reservation Dogs is known for its dry and realistic humor, it doesn’t shy away from portraying the harsh realities of growing up as an Indigenous teen in rural America. The writers don’t pull any punches when it comes to making the show audience feel organic and grounded, showings what life is like for those who have been oppressed because of their race and ethnicity.

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Some viewers are used to series shying away from depicting the real-life truths of marginalized communities, but Reservation Dogs manages to masterfully and tactfully write these plot points. The series avoids being too exploitative while avoiding brushing the realities under the rug.

6 Reservation Dogs Doesn’t Use Indigenous Stereotypes

Another perk of having a cast and crew full of Native people is that Reservation Dogs doesn’t play into Indigenous stereotypes to further its drama or its humor. The series uses fresh and unique plot points to drive the story and make viewers laugh, but never at the expense of its cast’s Indigenous background.

Like Reservation Dogs, Other series have excellent indigenous representation and effective management to lean away from harmful or offensive stereotypes. These series include Letterkenny (which shares some cast members with Reservation Dogs), Trickster, and Rutherford Falls.

5 It Has A Talented Team Of Writers

One of the many great things about Reservation Dogs is the impressive writing. The writing doesn’t rely on tropes or cheap plotlines like many series currently airing today, and the show treats the tough storylines and themes with respect. The characters are well-developed, managing to elicit the audience’s sympathy while they battle a life of alienation and poverty.

Thanks to the talent in the writer’s room, including Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, Reservation Dogs keeps audiences entertained with fresh and interesting stories. Both fans and critics are eagerly awaiting the next season to find out what happens to Bear, Elora, Willie-Jack, and Cheese.

4 It Has Unique And Effective Humor

Coming from the mind of Taika Waititi, it’s no surprise that Reservation Dogs is filled with his unique style of humor. It translates perfectly onto the screen thanks to the performances from the main cast, who embrace the comedy in the script and equally embrace their characters’ arcs.

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The humor in Reservation Dogs is also accentuated by guest roles from comedians like Bill Burr (Elora’s driving examiner) and Bobby Lee (the clinic physician). They both give incredibly funny and nuanced performances in their limited screen time.

3 The Score And Soundtrack Capture The Vibe Perfectly

The music in Reservation Dogs sets the series’ tone perfectly. Mato Standing Soldier is credited as the show’s composer, and Tiffany Anders is the music supervisor. Together, the pair combine Mato’s theme music with Anders’ carefully selected combination of rap, punk rock, and country to capture the vibe of being an Indigenous teen living in the outskirts of an Oklahoma town.

True to form, the soundtrack in Reservation Dogs features many Indigenous musicians and Oklahoma greats. When speaking with Saving Country Music, Anders spoke about the importance of representing artists from Oklahoma. She stated: “I’d say it might have been the most important musical aspect of the show, was representing Oklahoma artists, whether Native American or otherwise, and spanning all sorts of different time periods and genres.”

2 The Performances Carry The Show

The writing and direction of Reservation Dogs wouldn’t be what it is without the top-tier performances from its ensemble cast. The core four, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Lane Factor, and Paulina Alexis, carry each episode with their stellar performances as the Bear, Elora, Cheese, and Willie-Jack.

Other impressive performances come from series regulars. Zahn McLarnon plays the town cop, Officer Big, and Gary Farmer portraying Elora’s eccentric Uncle Brownie, a reclusive man who has the record for most knock-outs at a local bar.

1 It Has A Perfect Ending

While many of the eight episodes of Reservation Dogs can stand on their own by telling the stories of the individuals, the final episode of season one ties their stories together perfectly. As the town hunkers down in the local church’s basement to wait out a tornado, emotions are expressed and the four have second thoughts about their move to California.

In the season finale, each character gets their time to shine and the ending that they need, even if they don’t know it. There’s still plenty of room for the characters to grow, which Reservation Dogs will do in its second season, but it’s incredibly satisfying for the stories to be wrapped up.

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