Reservation Dogs: House Made of Bongs
August 24, 2023 8:53 PM - Season 3, Episode 5 - Subscribe

It's 1976 on the last day of the school year with high school versions of some elders we know from previous episodes - particularly Maximus (the "star people" elder Bear met on his walkabout), and also Irene, Mabel, Brownie, Bucky and medicine man Fixico. The kids get high, trip, talk politics, dream, fight and philosophize.

Den of Geek has a good recap and an explainer for the minor characters we know as elders in previous episodes - Mabel is Elora's grandmother, Irene is now Cheese's adopted grandmother, etc. There are also quotes from a discussion with director Blackhorse Lowe, who notes Two-Lane Blacktop and Over the Edge as 70s cinematic reference points.

Callbacks: If you go back to "Maximus," episode 2 of this season, the home movies the elder Maximus shows Bear are of the young actors we see in this episode. Their conversations in that episode take on new richness after we learn Maximus' early history.

The Saint Nicholas Indian Training School the kids attend is the same school Deer Lady was abused at decades earlier in episode 3.
posted by mediareport (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Liked this one; it avoided some of the worst acid trip scene cliches, even as the obvious Dazed and Confused-esque story felt very familiar, and it was fun to compare the interactions of these slightly older kids to the kids we know in the present and to feel the links and community connections. Maximus's story got even more poignant when I rewatched the previous scenes with Bear where he talks about getting electroshock therapy. Tough arc for that kid.

I'm enjoying the unpredictability of the show, but this episode felt like a bit more of a detour than usual. The themes of family and identity are there, but did we need to see them refracted through these new characters instead of through the kids we already know? Maybe so. Will we get follow-up with the elder versions of this crew, now that we've seen them as teens? Or was this a one-off thing? I'm curious to find out what we see of Grandma Irene next, knowing her youthful politics, e.g.
posted by mediareport at 9:19 PM on August 24, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm curious to find out what we see of Grandma Irene next, knowing her youthful politics

Irene's rant in the car was focused heavily on the need to restore the pairing of elders and children, so her taking in Cheese and watching over him seems to have a direct throughline to you youthful beliefs.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:24 PM on August 24, 2023 [11 favorites]

It just hit me that the episode title is a reference to N. Scott Momaday's 1968 novel House Made Of Dawn, about life on the Jemez Pueblo reservation. It won the Pulitzer.
posted by mediareport at 3:50 AM on August 25, 2023 [9 favorites]

The actor they got to play young Brownie was amazing. He really seemed like the Brownie we know and love just in his early days.
posted by downtohisturtles at 4:41 AM on August 25, 2023 [11 favorites]

That Den of Geek article is FANTASTIC, thanks for including that in the writeup. One of the things I love most about this show is that it always continues to surprise. For me, these detours are some of the best parts of the journey. I love the core story, but getting the edges filled in with more color and detail makes this the best storytelling on TV for the past 3 seasons. It's also impressive just how many incredible performers there are - even "minor" side characters that are so rich and interesting - I'd happily watch a whole show just about them. And they've only been on screen for, like, 10 minutes!
posted by ssmith at 9:08 AM on August 25, 2023 [3 favorites]

This was not a favorite episode for me, but I am aware my feelings are colored with knowing this is the final season and I like watching the kids so much.

That said, the show has earned my trust much more than any show I can think of, and I’m willing to let it tell the story it wants to tell at the pace it needs.

“It’s all connected.” This ep is that theme, lived. And any show that works with this much care and diligence to say “the story of our youngest is also the story of our oldest”, and not in the Dynasty-esque form of capital/patriarch models - or the one episode ‘flashback to Roseanne as a high schooler” kind of thing — is refreshing.

A kudos to the actor who plays young Brownie!! At his first spoken line, I wondered if it had been dubbed in, he so perfectly nailed the intonation and cadence of his older counter-part.

And I did like the Den of Geek article — up to the part where the author said that “obviously” Maximus suffered from some form of mental illness. I don’t think he did.
posted by Silvery Fish at 10:48 AM on August 25, 2023 [2 favorites]

My read was that Maximus didn't have any mental problems, and that his willingness to believe his own experience seeing aliens and not lie about it is the only thing that set him on his road to isolation and electroshock.

It's clearly only a tiny slice of the story and ambiguous, of course.

My first impression was that he didn't want to do LSD, had a bad experience, and damaged his brain. Tragic, but maybe this was a different kind of tragedy.

I also kept thinking he was Bear, and I'm pretty glad that Bear seems to be able to talk about his visions without becoming institutionalized.
posted by Acari at 3:57 PM on August 25, 2023 [4 favorites]

Random questions that I haven't seen in a recap -- what book did Bucky hand to Maximum to read before they left the dorm?

Was the school football coach anyone? He seemed nice and caring.

I also thought that the younger actor for Brownie was dubbed at first. He's an amazing mimic and actor in his own right. Each of the young actors was brilliant.

For me, these detours are some of the best parts of the journey.

This episode made me miss this show before it's even gone. Maximus felt to me somewhere between Daniel and Bear, heartbreaking to know what that night does to him. I love how the stories all pay off. Every moment is earned.
posted by gladly at 5:00 PM on August 25, 2023 [4 favorites]

what book did Bucky hand to Maximus to read before they left the dorm?

I paused on that, too; the title is "Mirrors Made of Millennia", it says "A Novel" on the cover, and the author's name, partly covered by Maximus' hand, starts with T and ends with "ampson." Nothing by that title comes up at or google, so it's invented? After stopping to catch the title I recall noticing a couple of references to mirrors in the dialogue, but I'll have to watch again.
posted by mediareport at 5:23 PM on August 26, 2023 [3 favorites]

Mirrors Made of Millennia

I think this is a fictional version of the novel from which the episode takes its name, per mediareport's comment. The cover is even a sort of negative image of the first edition of House Made of Dawn (which I'd never heard of, and just put on hold at the library).

This show is just so damned good.
posted by heteronym at 8:02 PM on August 26, 2023 [4 favorites]

Mirrors Made of Millennia

Vulture's recap talked about this, too: At one point in this episode, Bucky hands Maximus a book titled Mirrors Made of Millenia: A Novel. I could hardly make out the author’s name, but it looks like it was written by someone named T. Sampson. All of my searches for a book under that title came up with nothing, but that language of mirrors comes up again in Bucky’s high ramblings that he shares right before the Star Person visits with Maximus. (Bucky says, “In the book, there’s a passage: ‘When you look out across the length of the open road, you are a person who deserves to pursue as many firsts as it takes to determine your self-worth.’”) My best guess is that the last name Sampson is an allusion to Will Sampson, a Muscogee actor many of you would recognize from his role as Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Throughout the series, books have appeared over and over as clues (I’m thinking about the text on “man moons” that circulated around town last season, and Deer Lady’s poetry book from earlier this season) and because of this, I suspect that this won’t be the last time we catch sight of this particular novel.

The actor they got to play young Brownie was amazing.

Something I really loved about this episode is not only the connections between the generations that we get from the glimpse at the older characters' lives, but the fact that the actors are also connected. That great young actor who played Brownie? Nathan Alexis, real-life brother to Pauline Alexis (Willie Jack). Young activist Irene? Quannah Chasinghorse, real-life partner of D'Pharaoh Woon-a-Tai (Bear). Young Mabel? Shelby Factor, sister of Lane Factor (Cheese). I feel a little silly for grooving on this, but I really like the small-world Native actor aesthetic. I've felt it in this show before (the three Podemski sisters playing the main characters' moms/aunties) and this just reinforced it.
posted by dlugoczaj at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2023 [2 favorites]

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