This post contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Reservation Dogs, “Send It,” which is now streaming on Hulu.
If you’re a Reservation Dogs fan who didn’t know that there are still two episodes to go, it would be hard to blame you for assuming that “Send It” was the series finale. In both its plot and its specific mix of tones, it feels like a summation of everything that Sterlin Harjo and company have been doing for the past three seasons. If those remaining episodes didn’t exist, it would be among the more perfectly appropriate series finales we’ve seen of any show in quite some time. That we’re not quite done with this world and these characters yet only makes me curious and thrilled to see what Harjo still has up his sleeve.
“Send It” seemingly ties a bow on Season Three’s ongoing thread about Maximus, Old Man Fixico, and what the Okern elders were up to as teenagers in the Seventies. When Fixico suffers a heart attack, Willie Jack decides to reunite him with his estranged brother-cousin, Maximus. Because all the elders refer to him by his youthful nickname of Chebon, none of the Rez Dogs realize that this is the same man Bear encountered earlier in the season. With help from Jackie’s crew, Kenny Boy, and Ansel, they head to Tulsa in an old school bus(*) to spring Chebon from a mental hospital.
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(*) As Kenny’s loading everyone onto the bus, we hear “Angry,” the new Rolling Stones single, which only came out last week.
It is one more caper from a group of would-be criminal masterminds who are anything but. Bear has concocted a plan that relies on skills that his friends don’t possess. And the whole thing proves unnecessary when Maximus explains that he’s in there voluntarily, and can sign himself out whenever he wants. (The cops only came for him in “Maximus” because he had gone off his meds again and was becoming a danger to himself.) So the rest of the plan — Elora, Cheese, and Jackie cutting the phone lines, White Steve and Bone Thug Dog providing a distraction by suiting up(*) and asking for a tour of the facility, etc. — turns out to be a lot of wasted, if amusing, energy.
(*) White Steve in a suit, calling himself “Mr. White,” takes us back to the series premiere’s Reservoir Dogs allusions. Plus, that scene provides the best joke of the whole mental hospital sequence: White Steve presents the charge nurse with a “business card” that is handwritten on the back of a punch card for Rob and Cleo’s market back on the reservation.
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The fake heist is not only a callback to the hijacking of the chip truck from the series premiere (which also gets discussed later), but the end of the series-long hostilities between the Rez Dogs and Jackie’s group. Bear invites the others to join their gang, which their former enemies are more than excited to do.
And all of the silliness of the heist inevitably takes us somewhere sadder and more profound. When Maximus shows no interest in saying goodbye to Fixico, it’s Willie Jack — who has gradually become the emotional center of the show — who changes his mind, by invoking the pain of losing Daniel and her desire to see him one more time. That’s followed by the bus exploding on the way back to Okern — the event that inspires the episode’s framing device, where Big(*) interrogates everyone about what happened — before we get to the episode’s beautiful tearjerker of a climax.
(*) On the one hand, it should not be surprising that an actor as gifted as Zahn McClarnon is able to play two Native lawmen who are as different — in smarts, skill, and general affect — as Big and Joe Leaphorn from Dark Winds. On the other, having the two seasons overlap once again creates a remarkable showcase for how versatile McClarnon is. How can the same guy embody both a stoic hero and this bumbling clown?
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Jude Barnett as Bone Thug Dog, Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan, Jack Maricle as White Steve, Elva Guerra as Jackie, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear, Lane Factor as Cheese, Xavier Bigpond as Weeze, Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack, Kirk Fox as Kenny Boy in ‘Reservation Dogs.’
Big interrogates Kenny Boy, who decides to take the fall for the entire escapade as a way to protect the kids. And suddenly the emotional, thematic closing argument of the episode, and of Reservation Dogs as a whole, is being delivered by one of the series’ more overtly ridiculous figures, as Kenny Boy explains, “That’s what we do. We show up for each other. We’re a community. You know that.” While he monologues, we see Maximus visiting Fixico, the estranged brother-cousins finally reunited and holding hands, Fixico being just alert enough to realize that this chasm between them is finally closing. If you did not at least get a little choked up at the contrast between the two, you might want to ask your doctor if you are in fact made of stone. This is all that Reservation Dogs has been trying to say for three seasons, summed up beautifully in a silent exchange of looks, and in an eloquent speech delivered by the man from whom you’d least expect it(*).
(*) Not that Kenny Boy isn’t prone to speechifying, as the creative team recognizes that actor Kirk Fox is very good at talking at length. (See also his recounting of all the famous people and things that originated in Tulsa.) It’s more that all those previous instances were played entirely for laughs, and this is not at all.
And if “Send It” didn’t already feel like a full-circle conclusion, the mid-credits scene has Big confronting the original Rez Dogs with video footage of them stealing the chip truck. The kids lamely try to deny it, but he appears to have the goods on them. Maybe that’s where the show goes from here: the kids all go to prison? Probably not, but “Send It” is seemingly such a definitive ending that the series could do almost anything over the next two weeks and it wouldn’t feel wrong.