This publish incorporates spoilers for “Wahoo!,” this week’s episode of Reservation Dogs, which is now streaming on Hulu.
Among the nice issues about Reservation Dogs is that there aren’t any strict storytelling guidelines. Anything goes in a sequence which simply toggles between kitchen sink drama, magical realism, and broad comedy, sometimes within the same scene. If an concept matches each the wants of a given story and the sequence’ bigger themes about Indigenous tradition, then it’s in, no fuss, no muss. So no person actually worries about why, say, Bear is consistently being harassed by William Knifeman whereas the different three children barely work together with spirits, if in any respect.
“Wahoo!” is about as shut as we get to a proof for that, as the spirit of Elora’s late mom Cookie tells Bear’s mom (and Cookie’s finest buddy) Rita that some households are simply extra open to seeing spirits. But even that’s largely beside the level of one other nice episode, which is equal elements supernatural comedy and emotional catharsis.
In the previous, characters on the present who work together with spirits have tended to be children (or, in the case of Big, first encountered mentioned spirits once they had been children). So Bear is extra keen to associate with the concept that William is again once more to supply half-baked knowledge, or that he’s sharing pie with Deer Lady. When Elora’s grandmother appeared to her shortly after passing away, Elora was not solely younger sufficient to not query it, however very desperately wanted to say goodbye on this means, together with all the others that we noticed all through that episode.
Rita, although, is a middle-aged lady, sufficiently old that her son can arguably be left on his personal (plus some assist from Bev and others) ought to Rita take a profitable promotion in a giant metropolis. To her, the sudden return of her late buddy in spirit type — not ghost type, Cookie clarifies, as a result of “Ghosts are dumb!” — will not be an indication that she is receiving knowledge as a part of her tradition, however a warning that she is shedding her thoughts.
Much of what follows might really feel overly broad or schticky, as if author Migizi Pensoneau (and, for that matter, Devery Jacobs, who directed the episode beneath her full identify, Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs) had spent quite a lot of time bingeing Ghosts, or watching Jimmy Stewart in Harvey, and thought it could be enjoyable to deploy the acquainted gimmick on this present’s context. But its use right here feels simply off-center sufficient to suit into this distinctive present, quite than as a rehash of what’s been finished dozens of occasions in the previous elsewhere. A lot of that’s simply the performances by Sarah Podemski as Rita, and particularly by Nathalie Standingcloud as Cookie, who stays fully a creature of the period when she died, but whose sunny disposition solely serves to extend Rita’s worry that she’s gone loopy. But it’s additionally the means that different folks reply, from Larry the ineffective clinic shrink one way or the other turning Rita’s downside into an excuse to debate his sophisticated emotions about Lou Diamond Phillips and La Bamba, to Cookie with the ability to recreate Bev and Big’s gross intercourse noises, to Rob at the buying and selling publish one way or the other turning Rita’s downside into an excuse to revisit the center faculty dance they attended collectively.
Mostly, although, it’s the means the story pivots towards the finish as we discover out the purpose for Cookie’s go to. If you immediately recall that she’s Elora’s mom, this appears apparent from the begin. If you don’t — and, as with the teenage variations of the elders from the Seventies flashback episode, the present doesn’t maintain your hand relating to names talked about intermittently in previous seasons — then it’s nonetheless clear the minute Elora opens the door, stunned to see Bear’s mom standing there. As Cookie notes, Rita ought to have been there to be an auntie for Elora, particularly since her precise aunt Teenie has been principally absent. What follows is as poignant as it’s easy: Cookie getting an opportunity at a superb take a look at the daughter she by no means actually knew, Rita struggling to search out the proper phrases to say, and Elora principally seeming puzzled by the entire affair. But we all know that Elora can see spirits, and when she admits to Rita that it generally seems like her mom continues to be round — that generally, it simply feels heat — that remark, together with Rita saying that Cookie can be pleased with Elora, is sufficient for all three events.
From there, every thing is about the place the two finest buddies will go subsequent. Cookie scolds Rita for not doing this sooner, and extra ceaselessly, and implores her to take the promotion, since Bear will be on his personal, whereas Rita has earned a extra well-rounded life. But Cookie herself has nowhere to go, since she normally can’t get via to Elora in any respect, but in addition can’t transfer on, leaving her feeling neither right here nor “there.”
And now the roles inside the Smallhill household reverse, as Rita has to show to Bear for recommendation on how one can let go of Cookie, by asking him what he and his buddies did about Daniel in California. The distinction is that the children weren’t actually haunted by Daniel, at the very least not till they had been all in the Pacific collectively. But his loss dominated their ideas at the very least as a lot as Cookie’s has for Rita. An ocean isn’t readily accessible, so Rita, Bev, and their buddy Natalie collect by the bridge the place Cookie died for a goodbye ritual of their very own, mixing rhetoric (Bev calls Cookie “You scorching, vivacious, imply bitch,” which appears about proper based mostly on how Standingcloud performs her) with bodily acts of letting go. We already noticed Cookie vanish from Rita’s automobile just a few scenes earlier, nevertheless it’s clear that this impromptu farewell will make sure that Cookie received’t stay trapped on this world any longer. And proper earlier than the episode is in peril of getting too treacly, Rita pronounces that she’s taking the new job, and Bev calls for her telephone to make her a Tinder profile.
As has been the case all through this season — all through the total sequence — “Wahoo!” is a formidable emotional balancing act, and simply nice TV.