Reservation Dogs – Season 2 Episode 6 “Decolonativization” Recap & Review

Decolonativization

Episode 6 of Reservation Dogs Season 2 takes place entirely at the clinic, which hosts the annual youth summit, NARDS (Native American Reclamation and Decolonization Symposium). 

Bear is still upset that Elora hasn’t apologized for what she did. If she leaves again, he tells his mom, they’re done. Rita disagrees. She says that’s not how family works.

The symposium begins, and Willie Jack keeps a good distance from Jackie. The speakers, a couple of native influencers, hand out notebooks and ask everyone to write about a time when they were happy.

One of the speakers, “Miss Matriarch,” encourages Jackie to share her story among her friends. When Jackie insists these people are her enemies, Miss Matriarch says, “That is a colonized way of thinking.” Back in the day, they didn’t have enemies among themselves. “These are your people,” she says. So, Jackie reads about when she was little and her brother taught her to ride a bike. 

Next, the teens go through several activities. Jackie and Bear and paired up for a potato dance, which they struggle through but ultimately win. Willie Jack becomes upset and makes fun of Jackie, so Cheese berates her with a trademark sage remark. He says everyone is having fun here except for Willie Jack.

Next, Elora guides a blindfolded Bear through an obstacle course that represents how they need to rely on their own people.

Elora asks Bear if he can respect that she’s trying. “Are we good?” she asks. Bear says he doesn’t know yet. But he smiles when he sees they’ve crossed the finish line.

Next, the speakers take Willie Jack and Jackie aside for a trust fall. Jackie falls, but Willie Jack purposefully doesn’t catch her. She tells her that maybe her brother should put her training wheels back on.

Jackie storms out, and others inform Willie Jack that Jackie’s brother died. “I didn’t know that,” Willie Jacks says.

Later, Cheese asks the speakers about what decolonization is since it’s such a focus of the summit. How are the things they did today meant to do anything to decolonize? The speakers are vague with their answers, but encourage the young people to keep asking questions and challenging themselves.

At the closing remarks, Willie Jack leaves. She finds Jackie at the front desk, sitting alone, and greets her. “Sorry about before,” she says. “I didn’t know you lost a brother.” Jackie tells her to watch her back. 

Elora comments to Cheese and Bear about how what Willie Jack did was messed up. Bear scoffs. She can’t fault Willie Jack for being loyal. After all, that’s not something Elora knows anything about. He says she just left them and expected them to still be there for her. In one last scathing remark, he says she’ll end up just like her grandmother–alone.

Elora is mad now. She tells Bear he’s living in a drama and can’t see outside himself. She’s sorry she hurt him–but not sorry she left. Before leaving, she tells him not to talk to her for a while.

Later that night, Elora watches TV alone, ignoring a text from Jackie. But she turns the TV off when she hears singing in her grandma’s room. She goes in and turns on the light. It’s quiet. Looking around the house, she notices she’s completely alone.


The Episode Review

The comedy in Reservation Dogs is wonderfully subtle and never overplayed–its strengths due as much to the writing as it is to the delivery of the incredibly talented young actors, who are equally adept at playing out intensely emotional moments.

Here we have another episode with a beautiful balance of humour and compelling emotional conflict. “Decolonativization” manages to take a couple of rocky relationships and really dig into them–not resolving issues but exploring the hard feelings and changing the landscape of these relationships once again.

The script has been flipped to where Willie Jack and Bear are now feeling culpable for their actions. Can the Rez Dogs take what their community has been trying to teach them all along? To rely on each other, and hold one another up?

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