Reservation Dogs: Hunting
September 7, 2021 8:22 AM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Continuing to focus on the individual characters in their own episodes. This week we get Willie Jack hunting with her dad, Leon, who has some issues of his own.

https://www.vulture.com/article/reservation-dogs-recap-season-one-episode-6.html

We get to see and hear Daniel for the first time and see what must have been his final few moments. We learn that Leon wishes he could have helped Daniel more, that Willie Jack maybe isn't all in on going to Cali and it turns out Big may be right about that whole Bigfoot thing.

There's been a fair amount of discussion online and in recaps about Daniel and the possibility of him being tied to the spirit in the woods and the fact that he was out alone with Elora just before his death.

Themes include grief and how each character deals with it (or doesn't), patience, the concept of home and land sovereignty.
posted by kaiseki (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Leon calls the spirit in the woods "Tall Man". In the Seminole tribe (they speak Mvskoke) he is known as "Esti Capcaki", which literally translates to "Tall Man". There is another spirit called "Tall Man" or "Walking Sam" in Lakota belief, but he has nothing to do with Bigfoot. Interestingly the Lakota spirit is one that lures those that see him to despair and suicide. He may also be one of the inspirations for the internet sensation of the '10's: Slenderman.

I'm not sure if the spirit has anything to do with Daniel, although it seems that that may be the case as it seems (as I recall) that Bigfoot activity picked up on the reservation after Daniel's death.

I got the impression that the spirit had something to do with the land. Leon talks about it having belonged to his family, but then being sold off in the 1930's. If this is the case the land was most likely given to the family as part of allotment prior to Oklahoma statehood an then sold under duress or in hard times (the same thing happened with my family's land from allotment after the Dawes Act and it's a common story). It's now owned by rich investors from Texas.

Leon has only seen the spirit on his family's land, it follows them as they hunt and watches them leave. It makes me think the spirit may be tied to that land, but this is pure speculation on my part. Nothing else in the show that I can recall supports this.

Another theme I noticed was being watched. Leon is being watched by Tall Man in the opening scene. Daniel and White Jesus are watching over Willie Jack at the beginning. Tall Man watches them in the woods. The trail cams watch them in the woods. They watch the Texas Ranchers (amazing dialogue, btw). Leon makes it clear that he watches over Willie Jack and that he wishes he had done better at watching over Daniel.

Finally, bringing tears to my eyes is the graveside performance of "Heleluyan" a Mvskoke Creek hymn. God damn, that is beautiful. There is a long tradition of Cherokee and Creek hymns in Oklahoma and Sterlin Harjo directed a film about Creek hymns, "This May Be the Last Time", in case anyone is interested in these unique songs.
posted by kaiseki at 8:42 AM on September 7 [16 favorites]


So I was going to ask about the gravesite - is the body left out to decompose normally, or is it a modern take on a traditional gravesite?

I laughed out loud at the Texan conversation, all sketched in as stereotype: "Longhorns, got to be." "Damn coach." "Stock market." "Dow's down." "Cattle prices." "Feed price up." "Mexicans." "Yeah, investments." "Cancel culture." "Taxes." "Wokeness." "Government overreach." "Don't forget the gays."
posted by Kyol at 11:41 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


Paulina Alexis, the actor who plays Willie Jack, was absolutely mesmerizing in this episode. The relationship between Willie Jack and Leon felt so genuine — love and silliness and kindness even with this shared pain. I loved that they were blocked back to back for their most serious conversation, turning to one another. And the shot of Willie Jack in profile preparing her shot for Chunk and Leon out of focus behind her saying, "Breathe," was lovely, and I am also super glad we didn't see any more than that.

Leon is a really good dad. I'll bet he does cool things with that trail cam.

I'm not sure if the spirit has anything to do with Daniel

I don't know either, and I'm okay with the show never telling us. But I did notice that when we see Daniel approach Leon on the night before he died, as he comes out of the shadow, Leon says, "Can I help you?" — the same thing he says to the Tall Man. And, he couldn't help Daniel, but I think it says something wonderful about Leon that he opens a conversation with a stranger that way.
posted by gladly at 2:55 PM on September 7 [4 favorites]


I had to go back and rewatch the Daniel/Leon scene after gladly's comment, because my memory of not Leon, but Daniel saying "Can I help you?" was so strong, and that was the part that I got hung up on. Yes, Leon offers help at the beginning (before he knew who he was talking to), but I feel like the turning point was Daniel asking if he could help Leon with loading up the truck, and Leon said no. And I bet he's kicking himself for that more than anything else. Daniel offering help was really his way of asking for it himself, and it didn't work.

This episode got to me--the show does dark comedy so well I forgot about the real sadness at its core, and this episode was completely about that.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:44 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


I also laughed outloud at the Texas rancher conversation. The perfect way to show respect for them.

These serious parent-child conversations (this one and the one Bear's mom has) feel like the writers writing what they needed to hear at one time or another, which is a gift to the audience members who also need to hear them. <3

It was so hard to hear Daniel offering (needing) help. He looks so young and vulnerable. I wanted to shout to Leon "Wait! This baby needs help!"
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:08 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Another moment I appreciated - when Leon is advising Willie Jack to hit animals that run out in the road and you think he's a mean dude - and then he continues and you find out it's because he's all about safety.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:51 AM on September 14


Another moment I appreciated - when Leon is advising Willie Jack to hit animals that run out in the road and you think he's a mean dude - and then he continues and you find out it's because he's all about safety.

For me, it was just another recitation of the same shit my dad told me over and over when I was a young driver. That's what made it real.
posted by Quonab at 9:58 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


For me, it was just another recitation of the same shit my dad told me over and over when I was a young driver.

We never got to the squirrel dodging lesson as we were permanently stuck in talking about not driving in the middle of a gravel road when you can't see what's over the hill. And of course, checking your blindspot.
posted by Emmy Rae at 5:55 PM on September 17


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