‘Reservation Dogs’ Deserved More Emmy Love Throughout Its Run — Now, This Is the TV Academy’s Last Chance to Recognize It


“Reservation Dogs” ended its three-season run back in September, so we’ve had time to accept the sad truth that we won’t be seeing any new stories about this group of Indigenous teens in Oklahoma anytime soon. I would have truly enjoyed another season, and when I get on a Zoom call with series star Paulina Alexis — who played the outspoken Willie Jack — it’s clear she’s also still a bit disappointed that the show has wrapped.

“I feel like I could have went way longer, but not my choice,” she says. “It felt like it was rushed. The questions I get asked now are, ‘ Why is it ending?’ and ‘Are they making another season?’ I’m asking myself that too. I’m like, ‘Why?’ “

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Alexis says she hears from many fans who call “Reservation Dogs” their “comfort show.” But the series, from Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, was actually much more than that: It was a bit of an emotional antidote to these trying times. If you watch “Rez Dogs,” you know that it would frequently have you laughing hard one minute and bawling the next.

When we met Elora (Devery Jacobs), Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Cheese (Lane Factor) and Willie Jack in Season 1, they’re grieving the death of their friend (and Willie Jack’s cousin) Daniel. That loss has a profound impact on their friendship, and it’s the catalyst for fracturing their tightknit bond. At one point, the group is so shattered that they’re barely talking to each other.

But by the end of Season 2, they’ve fulfilled Daniel’s dream of making it to Los Angeles and seeing the ocean. (The final scene, where they’re in the ocean holding each other with Daniel’s spirit, still breaks me.) In Season 3, the pals are back on the rez — and taking what they’ve learning from the elders in their community to each forge their own, new path.

The final episode is a celebration of life, as they honor Fixico (Richard Ray Whitman), who had become a bit of a guiding light for Willie Jack before he passed.

“I like how Sterlin chose to make Willie Jack the one who brought everybody together at the end,” Alexis says. “She’s the one organizing the funeral. And that’s something that you wouldn’t expect from her, from the first episode. There was a lot of character development.”

And indeed, when I talked to Harjo as the series ended, he insisted that he felt like this chapter of the “Reservation Dogs” story had wrapped up — so it was time to end the series as well. Sighs Alexis, “All good things have got to come to an end, I guess.”

And since this is the last chance for “Rez Dogs” to get some Emmy awards attention, and it would be a shame if it didn’t finally get some long overdue recognition.

After all, the power of “Reservation Dogs” can’t be understated. To depict Indigenous stories in this way was groundbreaking, and it comes at a time where we’re finally seeing more, very diverse stories in this place. I love how Zach McClarnon’s Officer Big in “Reservation Dogs” couldn’t be more different than his Joe Leaphorn in “Dark Winds.”

“It just opened so many doors for more Indigenous creators,” Alexis notes. “I think there’s going to be a lot more Native storytelling going on. It’s not over yet. This might not even be the only ‘Reservation Dogs.’”

I hope not — and Harjo hinted as much to me back in September. “I do want to do spin offs. I’m already trying. As soon as we announced the ending, I was like, ‘oh, man, I think I know of a great feature film that I could do, a ‘Rez Dogs’ return. So, I’m already plotting. It’s just that this story needed to end. This story was about loss and grief and coming of age. And this was the arc that we wanted to tell. It doesn’t mean we can’t pick it back up. It could easily come back, but it’ll be something else.”

I’ll be looking forward to that — and it sounds like Paulina Alexis, and I’m guessing the rest of the cast, will be too.

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