The narrative backbone of season three of Reservation Dogs has been, surprisingly, the connection between the older (elder!) generation and our eponymous protagonists. We’ve had not only Dazed And Confused-esque flashbacks, but we’ve seen the likes of Rita, Fixico, and, yes, even Maximus, getting their own due. This has allowed the show to string together a strong sense of intergenerational community in the Rez, acknowledging how collective and individual past traumas still trickle into the everyday lives of these teenagers today.
“Send It” fits quite neatly into this storytelling frame by putting Old Man Fixico at its center—and by getting the younger generation (both the Reservation Dogs and members of the NDN mafia) to rally around the mending of a past rift. The rift between Old Man Fixico and his cousin Maximus was first hinted at in the pseudo apocalyptic episode where we saw Bear trying to get back to California (“Maximus”) and later fleshed out in the 1970s set “House Made Of Bongs.” And, as if wanting to similarly play with genre, “Send It” goes The Usual Suspects route, starting us off with a series of interrogations that sets up a would-be kidnapping and an unplanned arson moment.
Except that kind of structure (with the episode divided into several chapters, ostensibly framed by the interrogation scenes that open this week’s installment), makes this one feel a tad disjointed, as if the generic confines it’s trying to ape and subvert are ill-fitting wares. Which is to say that the playfulness of its storytelling ends up running counter to the rather affecting message about forgiveness the episode careens toward. I guess maybe a self-aware riff on a heist film that constantly draws attention to its own inability to live up to the slickness such a genre requires felt, to me, like a needless way to blunt the emotional core of what is, at the end of the episode, a touching reunion and a celebration of the elastic vision of family and community Reservation Dogs constantly illustrates.
To recap: Bear, Elora, Cheese, Willie Jack, White Steve, Bone Thug Dog, and Jackie are being interrogated by Officer Big. At first it’s unclear why; there’s talk of a kidnapping all the way in Tulsa but surely our young protagonists wouldn’t be that brazen, would they?
Alas, it turns out that they are—and were. They all banded together to help Willie Jack fulfill a self-imposed task: help Old Man Fixico mend things with an old friend of his he wronged many years ago. All they know is this other Fixico is in a psychiatric home in Tulsa; what they must do is break in and break him out to bring him back to where Old Man Fixico is now. That’d be the hospital, following a heart attack. It’s a sweet gesture from all of them, but it’s obvious that Willie Jack is particularly invested in this reunion; she’s taken her role as Old Man Fixico’s protégé very seriously.
The plan has many many holes in it. First off, it requires a vehicle. Enter: Kenny Boy.
Our favorite local junkyard owner wastes no time in trying to leverage this moment for his own benefit. Finally, all these kids will have to address him as “Uncle” and put him one step closer to feeling part of the close-knit Native community he’s long coveted. At least in exchange he offers everyone a school bus which is arguably the most laughable kidnapping getaway car the show could’ve devised.
And so, armed with a makeshift plan that involves White Steve playing decoy and Elora “cutting the phone lines” (hard given she has no knowledge of what chords to cut or where to even do such a thing), our fearless teens head to Tulsa in search of Old Man Fixico’s cousin. Who, yes, if you’ve been following this season, you know is a familiar face: Maximus.
And while White Steve and Elora eventually do right by their respective tasks, it’s soon clear this entire heist had the lowest stakes imaginable. Maximus doesn’t need to be taken away by force (let alone in secret): He’s allowed to leave the facility whenever he wants. But why would he want to visit his cousin?
It’s then the episode gives us one of its most affecting scenes, with Willie Jack admitting that one of the reasons she’s so hell bent on getting Old Man Fixico to mend his rift with his cousin is driven by the way she wishes she could, even if just for a moment, spend some time with her own cousin, Daniel. Sure, she knows their generation hasn’t had to deal with the trauma of, say, boarding schools, but that doesn’t mean they don’t understand the importance of keeping those bonds alive (even if that requires burning an entire school bus).
And so we return back to the interrogation scene where, of all people, Kenny Boy, further stresses the episode’s themes: “We’re a community,” he tells Officer Big. Some they like. Some they don’t. But that still means no one is left behind: As ever, Reservation Dogs stresses that the bonds between them (between mothers and daughters, Uncles and nephews, grandmothers and granddaughters, mentors and protégés) are equally important to bridging a collective. “We hold each other accountable. And sometimes we take the heat, but it’s all in service of each other. All of us.” It’s a beautiful sentiment made all the more evocative by the images of the faces of the teens who so fearlessly found a way to reunite Maximus with Old Man Fixico. And so, even while this episode felt a bit contrived, there’s no denying its final moments packed a punch (and that’s before we get to final Kenny Boy punchline that closes it out).
- Love the way Kenny introduces the kids to Tulsa: “Home of Leon Russell, Gary Busey, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and American classic, UHF.” Those last three films would make an ace Oklahoma-set triple feature.
- Speaking of Kenny Boy: What’s your favorite of his preferred nicknames? Uncle Kenny? Uncle Boy? Uncle K? Uncle KK?
- Cheese going on about how Gojira became Godzilla was all too brief! Where is the hour-long TED Talk about how he feels about this?
- White Steve (Jack Maricle) continues to be a fitting one-note character joke that refuses to be flattened into its namesake moniker.
- There were, no doubt, a number of great one-off lines I loved but my favorite may have been “This is Indian land; I want my lawyer and my grandma!”
- The brief moment between Willie Jack and Elora on the bus (“Look! They’re hugging!”) was a tender reminder that the two rarely share enough scenes together. Indeed, one of the joys of the episode came from seeing so many of the teenaged Rez kids interacting with one another in pursuit of a united goal (rather than fighting with one another).