'Reservation Dogs' Has All the Makings of a Classic Teen Comedy

Created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi

Starring D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Lane Factor, Paulina Alexis

BY Alex HudsonPublished Sep 23, 2021

Reservation Dogs opens with a gang of teenagers pulling bandanas over their faces and frantically stealing a truck while the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" blares. But this fast-paced introduction is a red herring for what follows, as the first season of Reservation Dogs shifts into a quiet meditation on friendship and the ennui that comes from growing up in a small town with nothing to do but get into trouble and dream of a different life.

Created by Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, Reservation Dogs follows Bear (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor), four teens trying to rustle up enough money to leave their reservation and move to California. They feel guilty about their crimes and get into turf battles with like-minded gangs — but the real focus is not on their teenage troublemaking, but in the quiet malaise between events.

Case in point, Bear gets into a fight, breaks his nose and then spends nearly an entire episode trying to get an appointment at the medical centre. He brags endlessly about the fight, gets frustrated about the wait time, and then he finally has a brief appointment with a doctor who has a crush on Bear's mom.

The charismatic sweetness of these teens is complemented by the hilarious comic relief of the supporting cast. Laugh-out-loud moments come from real-life hip-hop brother duo Mike Bone (who swoop in with wisecracks as the fast-talking Mose and Mekko), Zahn McClarnon (as the even-keeled and unobservant Officer Big) and Bobby Lee (as the jaded, flirtatious Dr. Kang).

The exact circumstances of Reservation Dogs are extremely specific, but in showing life on this Indigenous reservation, the show tells a story that feels timeless and universal. After all, who hasn't been young and aimless, finding comfort in your friends when it feels like the rest of the world doesn't understand you? If this first season is any indication, Reservation Dogs is a classic teen show in the making.

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