Reservation Dogs comes from the minds of Indigenous creatives Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo. The story centers around Bear Smallhill (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), and Cheese (Lane Factor). These kids live in Indian Territory Oklahoma in a neighborhood they call the village. A year ago, their friend Daniel died. It was Daniel’s dream to leave Oklahoma and move to California. Now Daniel’s friends want to honor him by living his dream. They need money to make the move, so they do the only thing they know how to do. 

This episode is directed by Sterlin Harjo

Spoiler Alert.


Bear starts his day listening to the radio and meeting up with his friends, Elora, Willie Jack and Cheese. The four teens prepare to steal a delivery truck full of chips. As soon as the driver enters a store, the kids take off and prepare the truck for take off. Elora and Bear jump in the front and fight about wearing seat belts. Willie Jack and Cheese try to put the ramp back up, but take too long. They close the back door and take off, with the ramp dragging behind.

Elora decides to take a short cut but the path she takes puts them in the path of Big (Zahn McClarnon), the tribal Lighthorseman who always has his eyes on them. Luckily Big is too busy watching conspiracy videos on his phone to notice the truck go by. 

The kids drive the truck to a salvage yard and the known hangout of the local meth heads. Ansel (Matty Cardarople) greets them by asking if they were followed. He directs them to Kenny Boy (Kirk Fox) to complete the transaction. Kenny Boy likes the kids. He says they’re the best thieves in town … but it’s a small town. Kenny Boy asks for their names. He’s taken back a little when he meets Elora Danan. Yes, she was named after the baby in the Ron Howard film Willow. Kenny Boy knows a lot about that movie.

Lane Factor stars as Cheese in Reservation Dogs

RESERVATION DOGS “Pilot” Episode 1 (Airs Monday, August 9) — Pictured: Lane Factor as Cheese. CR: Shane Brown/FX
Copyright 2021, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved

Cheese is in the truck watching the boxes of chips. Ansel approaches him and Cheese tries to talk to him. All Ansel has to say is that he too is Native American.  Meanwhile, Kenny Boy dismisses the kids but they have one last request. They want to keep the chips. Kenny Boy charges them a dollar for all of the chips in the truck. Not bad.

Aside from stealing trucks, Bear is also into making films about life in this small town and the people who he seems to like. He talks about his friend Daniel and how he and his friends are holding a memorial for Daniel later that week. They are also raising money to leave towns and move to California. Bear’s teacher is not amused.  

Willie Jack, Cheese, and Elora Danan sell the stolen chips in Bear’s front yard. Lots of neighborhood people stop by to buy a bag for 50 cents, including Mose (Lil Mike) and Mekko (Funny Bone). The duo are rappers and debut their latest song for the trio. Elora sees a trio of new kids across the street watching them. The kids don’t look friendly and eventually leave.

Bear keeps his cut of the California money in a box under his bed. He takes some of the money and puts it in his mom’s wallet. His mom, Rita (Sarah Podemski) gets ready to go out, teasing Bear about getting him a new dad. Bear’s real dad is a rap artist, but he’s not very successful and he hasn’t been around much.  But Bear likes him. 

Bear joins his friends in the front yard and Big drives up. He tells them about a stolen chip truck in town. The kids act like they know nothing. Big says crime has increased lately. Someone stole two cars, took out the copper in 20 street lamps, stole all of the steaks from the local grocery store, and took an old lady’s edible gummies. There’s also been a lot of graffiti lately. Yes. These kids did all of that. 

Zahn McClarnon as Big on Reservation Dogs

RESERVATION DOGS — Pictured: Zahn McClarnon as Big. CR: Ryan Redcorn/FX

Big says he’s not too worried about the crime. He’s more concerned about the supernatural stuff going on. Someone said they saw Deer Lady in the area. The kids are phased though. Willie Jack even mentions that her uncle was married to Deer Lady for three years. The kids know he’s just saying these things to scare them, but it doesn’t work. Before he leaves, Big asks Bear about Rita. It’s obvious that Big likes Rita. Willie Jack teases Bear about Big trying to snag his mom. 

The kids decide to go for a bite to eat. Along the way, Elora figures out their money situation. She figures that they should be able to move to California in two months. Bear is surprised. He thought it would take longer to raise enough money. While they talk a black Malibu approaches. They watch as the windows roll down, revealing the new kids. The new kids pull out guns and aim for Bear and his friends. They start shooting paintballs at them, hitting Bear multiple times and hitting Cheese in the head. As the new kids drive off, they declare that the town is their territory now. 

Bear passes out and sees a spirit warrior named William Knifeman (Dallas Goldtooth). He fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Well, actually he didn’t fight, but he was around. His horse hit a hole and rolled over William, killing him. He tells Bear that being a warrior isn’t always easy and asks what Bear and his friends are doing for their people. William says it’s easy to be bad, but it’s hard to be a warrior with dignity. In his time they gave everything. They died for their people and their land. What will Bear fight for? He tries to leave but his horse decides to sit down. 

RELATED: GGA Indigenerd Wire: Reservation Dogs Review

Bear wakes up a little confused. Mose and Mekko stop by and fill everyone in on who the new kids are. The new kids call themselves the NDN Mafia. They were both red and blue because they couldn’t make up their minds if they wanted to be bloods or crips. The mafia is made up of leader Jackie (Elva Guerra), her cousins Bone Thug Dog (Jude Barnett), Weeze (Xavier Bigpond), and their friend White Steve (Jack Maricle). Apparently Jackie was the leader of her gang in the City. They came down and initiated her cousins. Now they live with Jackie’s auntie. Mose and Mekko are sure they’ve killed people. They warn Bear that the mafia is looking for them. 

Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan on Reservation Dogs

RESERVATION DOGS “Pilot” Episode 1 (Airs Monday, August 9) — Pictured: Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan Postoak. CR: Shane Brown/FX
Copyright 2021, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved

Bear doesn’t quite get why they want to fight with them. It’s probably because Mose told the mafia that Bear and his friends are the Reservation Bandits and they are the toughest in town. Cheese always wanted to be in the gang. Now the NDN Mafia wants to take out the Reservation Bandits and take over the territory. They even invited Mose and Mekko to join their gang, but the duo want to see who’s going to win first. Mekko tells Bear to be careful because Jackie seems serious. 

The “reservation bandits” go to their favorite restaurant. The clerk, Rob (Macon Blair) asks Cheese to let him know if he’s going to steal something so he can write it off on the books. Cheese picks a lollipop and gets a nod from the clerk. While the kids eat, the driver of the chip truck walks in. They overhear him tell the clerk that he lost his job, his wife left him, he’s diabetic and will probably lose his foot, and now he’s bankrupt. Bear feels so bad he sinks down in his seat, trying to be invisible. The driver stops by their table on his way out and tells the kids to enjoy their life and enjoy the little things that make you happy. Because one day a ruffian can steal your truck and life can take a different turn. Ouch.

They go back to their hideout and Bear sulks. He feels bad for what they did to the driver and practically giving him diabetes. He says they ruined the guy’s life. Elora Danan and Willie Jack don’t feel bad and are kind of mad that Bear feels bad. Bear suggests that they give the money back. Elora disagrees and says she’s not giving anything back. 

Elora says the town they live in sucks. They don’t owe anything to anyone. Daniel is gone because that place killed him. Elora is determined to get out, with or without them. She leaves and Cheese gets depressed. Later, Elora returns to the hideout and stares at a photo of Daniel. Meanwhile, Bear returns home later that night and sees someone standing under the street light. He calls out to Daniel and looks away. When he looks back, the person is gone.

RESERVATION DOGS “Pilot” Episode 1 (Airs Monday, August 9) — Pictured: D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear. CR: Shane Brown/FX
Copyright 2021, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved

The next day Elora wakes Bear up and gives him a meat pie, courtesy of Willie Jack. Elora decides that she’s not mad at him. She gives him her cut of the money to give back to Kenny Boy for the truck. She thinks they can buy the truck back, deliver it back to the store and save the driver’s life from diabetes. Bear’s all in.

When they get to the salvage yard, the truck is torn apart. Kenny Boy says they lost this battle, but they live to fight the next one. He tells them “hoka hay” as he walks away, meaning it’s a good day to die. Willie Jack points out that they aren’t Lakota to which Kenny Boy says, no one is perfect. 

The kids meet back up at the hideout, dressed in black suits. They burn some cedar and stand in front of Daniel’s photo, putting different items next to his picture. Willie Jack gets emotional, saying it’s been a year since Daniel died. She tells Daniel that Cheese got shot in the head and wishes he could have seen it. They all miss him and hold onto each other to tell Daniel that they love him. 

As they leave the hideout, Jackie and her NDN Mafia drive by again. This time there’s a white kid driving the car, that can only be White Steve. He drives slow enough to let them know they are the NDN Mafia as Jackie stares at them from the back seat. Cheese notices that they have copper in the trunk. The NDN Mafia is stealing from their turf. 

Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack in Reservation Dogs

RESERVATION DOGS “Pilot” Episode 1 (Airs Monday, August 9) — Pictured: Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack. CR: Shane Brown/FX
Copyright 2021, FX Networks. All Rights Reserved

The foursome walk home, pass a guy on a horse. Mose and Mekko ride by and warn them that the NDN Mafia told everyone that they are at war with them. Mose also gave them a new gang name, the Reservation Dogs. It’s fixin’ to go down!

Elora is annoyed and suggests they pull their money together and leave now. Bear won’t let Jackie and her crew chase him out of town. He wants to stay and protect his home. He suggests they become vigilantes instead of criminals. Cheese likes the idea of being a vigilante, but Willie Jack doesn’t. Bear says they have to protect their home and walks away. Willie Jack changes her mind and says okay. Elora likes the name Rez Dogs. Cheese asks if he can be Mr. Camouflage. 

As the credits roll, Big investigates a bunch of fish in a field. When he tries to leave, he discovers he locked his keys in the patrol car. 

Watch the Reservation Dogs premiere on FX on Hulu.


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