Reservation Dogs Season 2 perfectly captures the void of influencers

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 2 of Reservation Dogs.

In TV and film, works that actually have a deep understanding of the intricacies of how the internet can influence their stories are rare. While they can sometimes understand some of the broad strokes, most of them lack the nuance to navigate how online culture has shaped the offline world. Too often, they end up feeling like the narrative equivalent of “how are you, other kids?” without having much incisive to say. The last episode of Reservation dogs is the one who gets that right by gently but thoroughly exposing the modern-day peddler who is making a name for himself online. She doesn’t do it with explosive sequences where the lie collapses around them; instead, it reveals the abundantly awkward ways in which they can quickly work their way into positions of authority that are all built on a house of cards. Entitled “Decolonization”, it is centered on characters that we have not yet met in the series: Augusto (Elisa Pratt) and Miss M8triarch (Amber Middle of Thunder).


They came to visit the other main characters of the reserve to share their deep wisdom in a kind of symposium. What gives them this authority to give lessons on how to live and navigate a difficult world? Well, these are influencers who have built a reputation online that has effectively tricked adults into thinking they are somehow experts in a way that no one else is. The only people who seem to be aware of the fallacy of all this are characters like Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) who his mother Rita told he had to attend the summit (Sarah Podemsky) after throwing a party while spending her free time in the latest episode. After helping with the installation, he sits in one of the folding chairs where he shows a deep lack of interest just in the way he sits. Her mother then gives an introduction over a microphone that nearly shatters their eardrums with commentary. Shortly after, another man informs them that they will welcome “two exceptional models” that he “DMing” for two years. It’s a hilarious and bizarre statement (why would they need to spend so much time messaging?) that already has Bear skeptical.

What follows is an episode confined to one location, largely taking place in one room, while still retaining vast comedic potential. Midthunder, in a fun comic twist that shows off its range after this year’s Prey, mostly steals every scene she gets. She begins with an acknowledgment of the earth that starts off fairly ordinary before taking a turn where she expresses her appreciation for the dinosaurs. Midthunder delivers the line quite sincerely, which makes it all the more entertaining to watch the quiet bemusement already gripping the audience. Cheese (Lane factor) looks at Bear in confusion while Willie Jack (Pauline Alexis) nods silently, as if holding back a laugh. Midthunder continues to bring a thunderous level of unconsciousness that is matched by Pratt, who delivers a speech about how his character is, among other things, an actor and a role model. The relevance of his career to whatever he’s ostensibly here to talk about is something he never even tries to explain, which makes it all the more ridiculous as his bizarre boastfulness is met with near-total silence. from the ambivalent public.

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It’s only the beginning of Reservation dogs‘ exploration of the personal importance of these characters, which manifests itself in a false intellectualism. They’re so lacking in depth that the young characters immediately timed them when the adults couldn’t. However, they all want the promised gift cards that serve as kickbacks to hold up. So they do and the absurdity continues. Midthunder and Pratt convincingly deliver all the right buzzwords needed to keep the act going, ensuring that it remains endlessly comical to see the main characters toying with their growing absurdity. While there were plenty of stories that tried their best to poke fun at influencers, this episode stands out as the best. “Decolonativization” shows how great Pratt and Midthunder are at creating characters who have completely bought into their own bullshit, painting a portrait of the influencer as their true, superficial selves.

As they lead all bewildered attendees through a day of glorified team-building exercises, it reveals just how empty those who build a personal brand around being influencers can be. The episode doesn’t do this in dramatic moments, but by letting the actors embody believable but no less comical characters so thoroughly that they almost feel real. They never overdo it, instead they are understated how well they play every scene. This extends to when they sit down to lunch and Pratt continues to hold the microphone to his face. His character even has the audacity to claim he inspired one of the contestants to grow out their hair – though, as he is immediately pointed out, all of them only met earlier in the day. Rather than answer, he ignores her and changes the subject to protect his ego. Likewise, Midthunder plays his character with just the right amount of subtle pretension that ensures his attempts to connect with children fall flat with humor.

Each is a master of spin, able to deflect even the most basic questions to ensure they continue to appear informed when they are merely pompous. Both of their performances are able to capture the charisma and grimace that lie at the heart of the characters. They manage to walk the line between being genuine enough in their delivery to fool adults and self-centered enough in their actions that kids see them for who they really are. They continue to dig deeper into the comedic depths of the premise that most other shows only scratch the surface of. It all culminates in a big final conversation where Cheese steps in to wonder what the purpose of everything they did that day was. It’s followed by a long painful pause before Midthunder delivers a perfectly timed “well…” before being interrupted by Pratt whose character then gives a nonsensical response. When called about it, it just folds into an equally nonsensical explanation that can be summed up as “this wasn’t supposed to make sense and we’ve now given you the opportunity to ask questions”. Of course, they receive one last message: follow us on Instagram. It’s the icing on the cake of an episode that could easily be overlooked in all the other greats of Reservation dogs so far. Even so, “Decolonativization” remains one that captures a narrative wavelength that resonates with comedic perfection.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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