Reservation Dogs burst onto the scene in 2021, a new comedy series on FX created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. On the surface, it may seem an odd show – focusing on four indigenous teenagers living on a rural Oklahoma reservation as they commit petty crimes while dreaming of escaping to the glamorous promised land of California. But despite its unique setting, Reservation Dogs connects with universal themes about family, community, and the struggles of youth.
At its core, Reservation Dogs is not about the plot or the capers. It’s about family – both biological and chosen. The four main characters – Bear, Elora Danan, Willie Jack, and Cheese – have formed their own makeshift family unit, bound by lifelong friendship and looking out for each other as they navigate adolescence and grief. Their close bond reminds us that family is defined not by blood but by those who lift you up through life’s ups and downs.
Moving into season three especially, the show focuses on the interplay between generations. The youths’ parents and elders in the community play integral roles, guiding the teens as they try to find their way in the world. There is a respect for the wisdom of elders and a bridge between older traditions and modern teenage life. These relationships remind us that every generation relies on those who came before them while also forging their own path.
In season three the script flipped. It was about how elders rely on youth and how this cycle is important for keeping the community strong. The show went everyone working on an escape plan to leave the community to one where staying isn’t settling. I found that fresh and realistic.
Though set in a specific location, Reservation Dogs touches on universal themes that resonate with all close-knit families and communities. It reminds us that older and younger generations need each other. The teens make mistakes but have their community there to gently guide them back on track. We all long for the comfort of those who unconditionally understand and support us through life’s journey.
With its quirky but lived-in characters, unpredictable storylines and amost singular setting, Reservation Dogs is an unexpected miracle of a show. It goes against the grain of typical teen dramas. So much so it stopes being one.
The show never relies on cliches or stereotypes. Instead, it paints a groundbreaking yet relatable portrait of youth, family, and community. Reservation Dogs reflects the truth that we are all flawed but the bonds of family and friendship can lift us up and help guide us through.