‘Reservation Dogs’ Season 1 Recap: A Refresher Before Season 2

Here’s where Bear, Elora, Willie Jack and Cheese left off


“Reservation Dogs” Season 2 arrives on Hulu August 3, and now’s a great time to catch up (or get a refresher) before the new season. Created by Taika Waitit and Sterlin Harjo, the show follows four Native American teenagers growing up on a reservation in Oklahoma. 

The comedy series stars D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear Smallhill, Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan Postoak, Lane Factor as Cheese and Paulina Alexis as Willie Jack. Elva Guerra plays Jackie, and Lil Mike and Funny Bone appear as dynamic duo Mose and Mekko. Matty Cardarople plays Ansel.

Read on for our “Reservation Dogs” Season 1 recap for a refresher before diving into Season 2.

It All Started with the Gang Stealing a Truck of Chips

The first episode plunges viewers into one of the “Reservation Dogs” gang’s more major thefts: that of a transport truck full of Flaming Flamers chips. Bear Smallhill (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora Danan Postoak (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor) have become the best thieves on the reservation, stealing anything and everything to sell to the “Meth Heads” led by Ansel (Matty Cardarople) and Kenny Boy (Kirk Fox). The kids are desperate to leave their reservation life behind them and run away to California. They mourn their friend Daniel who died, and lone policeman Big (Zahn McClarnon) is on the case. 

The Indian Mafia

A rival gang who call themselves the Indian Mafia starts stalking “The Reservation Dogs” named by Mose (Lil Mike) and Mekko (Funny Bone). First comes an ambush of paintballs, after which Bear passes out and has a vision of a Spirit (Dallas Goldtooth) who advises him to use his crew’s influence for good instead of ruining lives like the truck driver’s. The Spirit also tells Bear he was present at the Battle of Little Bighorn, but he didn’t kill General Custer. Instead, his horse tripped in a hole and the spirit died under the crushing weight of his horse.

Later on, when the foursome is eating catfish, they overhear the driver describe the truck theft messing up his life. Bear wakes up and tells his friends about the vision. Elora brings her cut of the money to him later and they try to go buy the truck back, but all that’s left is the bottom platform and wheels. 

The NDN Clinic

Rival gang led by Jackie (Elva Guerrera) tracks down Bear and beats him up, sending him away with a bloody nose. The foursome accompany him to the NDN clinic, with Willie and Elora selling Willie’s homemade meat pies while Cheese goes in search of candy to eat, getting sucked into an eye examination. Following his test, he wears glasses to protect his dilated pupils, and runs into his grandma in the hospital. Later in the episode he wheels her outside for fresh air.

Elora checks herself in at the clinic because her stomach hurts, and the same doctor who examines Cheese’s eyes consults her as well as Bear. Dr. Kang tells Elora her stomach is probably inflamed because she eats too many packs of spicy chips. It should be mentioned that Bear’s mom Rita (Sarah Podemski) works at the clinic. The doctor as well as policeman Big have their sights set on her since she separated from Bear’s dad. She hears of Bear’s first fight, and then she runs out of the clinic to break up another potential skirmish when the Indian Mafia comes to the clinic to confront Bear and Co.

Uncle Brownie

On the way to see Elora’s Sonic-loving Uncle Brownie, the kids pick up a dead deer that white drivers hit off the site of the road. They want it to make backstrap. When they find Uncle Brownie, the group asks him if he can teach them how to fight so that they can defend themselves against Jackie and her crew. Willie also brings along a bag of the rival gang’s hair in case Uncle Brownie can put a curse on it. Uncle Brownie digs up some really old weed he buried 15 years ago in a jar, and in exchange for fighting lessons, he asks the kids to drive him into town so that he can sell his weed. He also wants $30. 

As they drive around town trying to sell off the old weed, dead deer hanging out of Elora’s grandma’s trunk, Elora asks about her mom Cookie, who was her uncle’s cousin. He tells her that he is glad he got out of the house, even after an attempt to pull the deer out of the car spatters blood all over his face. He realizes that the people at a bar that he was at last had a crazy night and would probably appreciate his weed. Elora loves to tell the story that he beat up 10 people there, and he says it was 20 including a cop. The hostess ups it to 30 people and two cops. They end the reunion with beer and backstrap.

Punkin Lusty

Bear’s mom Rita learns that her work booked Bear’s dad, rapper Punkin Lusty — whose hit “Greasy Fried Bread” is quite catchy — for a fundraising gig. She calls him and tells him to shape up and not bail this time. Bear is so excited to see his dad that he uses the California funds to buy “Godzilla” to watch with his dad and a microphone jewelry medallion, made by Willie’s aunt. Rita sleeps with a rich white doctor, but he starts telling her about his family history and she leaves his nice mansion. Bear’s dad calls him and lies that something came up and he can’t make it out to perform. Bear and his mom share a tearful moment

While at the grocery store preparing for Punkin Lusty’s arrival, Elora runs into Jackie, who works there. Jackie offers for Elora to jump ship and join her crew, but Elora resists. Later when Punkin Lusty doesn’t show up and the foursome watch “Godzilla” with Bear’s mom, Elora looks at the things Bear bought (some might say uselessly) and leaves.

Why Big Became a Lighthorseman

Big takes Cheese on a ride-along around town and the reservation, dealing with the day to day criminals and bad guys. Cheese wants to be a detective when he’s older, which is why he is doing this. First Big sees an old friend Bucky on the street sleeping on a bench, so he wakes him up and asks what he’s doing. Bucky says he fell asleep reading a book. When Cheese asks where the book is, Bucky realizes it was stolen and he tells the pair to look out for a book on String Theory. Then two white cops pull up and make fun of Big. 

Next he takes Cheese to a place that looks a lot like the hideout where the Reservation Dogs hang, and he tells Cheese about the cut-up bits of catfish he found in the grass. Big measures what looks like a footprint after telling Cheese that Bigfoot’s real, he’s just a spirit and he disappears because he doesn’t want people to see him. 

Big flashes back to when a strange lady with hooves for feet, who he had seen once before, hands him toilet paper in the mart’s bathroom while two men are trying to rob it. Big came out of the bathroom to see the robbers gutted on the floor.

Big and Cheese also stop by the scrap yard run by Kenny Boy where they ask about all these copper figurines that they’ve been finding hanging around the reservation. No luck there, but a baby blue pickup truck that was reported stolen over the radio crosses their path, so Big chases it down to see that Bucky’s driving it, and he’s wearing a very artistically styled copper headband to ward off microbes and cholera.

First Big doesn’t want to answer Cheese’s question of why he wanted to be a Lighthorseman. When he was younger, Big had several encounters with “The Deer Lady,” but he didn’t really talk with her until a later memory. She told him he had nothing to worry about because he was a good guy, and she killed bad men. This inspired Big to go after bad guys, and he didn’t arrest Bucky because he’s one of the good ones.


Willie wakes up super early (4:30 in the morning) to take her dad hunting. While she sips her coffee and waits for her dad to wake up, she talks to a picture of Daniel (Dalton Cramer), their dead friend, telling him she misses him. Her dad hasn’t been in the mood to hunt since he saw a strange creature when he was putting corn out for the dear. Daniel used to go hunting with them too. 

Willie tells her dad they don’t have much time left to get out hunting, and he asks her where she’s going. She tells him her friends (Daniel included) want to go to California. He tells her she can’t do weird stuff with her friends there. All this time they sit behind a tree stand waiting for deer to approach. A wild turkey startles them. They also come across a trail cam from which Willie printed out a picture of their target animal Chunk, the buck they’ve been hunting since before Daniel’s death.

They then reminisce about Daniel, and her dad tells her about the creature. They both get sad about Daniel’s death, and Willie’s dad has a flashback of when he gave Daniel his coat one night because he looked cold. Then Chunk appears, and Willie gets him with a clean shot. They visit Daniel’s grave to tell him of their success.

Elora Gets Her Driver’s License

Elora attempts to get her driver’s license for the fourth time. She flashes back to the night she and Daniel went to the honky tonk. She got him to dance and then he started dancing by himself before bumping into another man and leaving. Earlier that day Elora had taken Daniel on a walk because his family was fighting in his house. After the honky tonk he tells her he’s going to walk around because he can’t go home. She tells him to text her if he needs her.

Back to the driving test, Elora’s instructor turns out to be her old school basketball coach, who grew up with her mom, Cookie. She tells him she left school because she works at the casino now. They drive around until the coach asks her to parallel park in a space that’s too small for her car. He then tries to do it, but can’t. He gets a mysterious phone call and tells Elora they have to take a detour. 

The drive to a motel where the coach reveals he has a gun in his sock and he tries to chase down his daughter, who got involved with some people that do meth. His daughter ran away, and he tells Elora. A man comes out of the motel and shoots Elora’s grandma’s car’s tail light. She knows that Kenny Boy and Ansel at the scrap yard can fix it, so she brings the car there and she and the coach shoot hoops while they wait. She asks her old coach about her mom and how she died, and he tells her it was a drunk-driving car wreck. 

Elora flashes back to going to find Daniel the next day after they went to the honky tonk, and she can’t find him anywhere. She was the one to find him at the hide-out where he died by suicide.

California Dreamin’

The day the foursome is supposed to leave for California, the spirit appears again to Bear, hinting that he has some unfinished business to take care of. It’s Willie Jack’s parents’ anniversary, and she stole a casino giftcard to give to her dad because he forgot. 

Elora says thanks to her grandma, who only says to fill the car with gas when she’s done. Brownie zooms into town on a hardware store motor vehicle and shows his shaking arm to the kids, telling them it’s a sign that there’s a tornado coming, and all he needs is an axe to reverse the direction. At the hideout, Willie confesses she doesn’t want to go to California. She gives her cut of the money to Elora. 

The tornado strikes just as Big is about to arrest Brownie for stealing the hardware store vehicle. Hail starts to fall, and everyone gathers in the church basement to shelter from the storm. Brownie finds an axe in a garage and climbs on top of a roof to perform his medicine. 

In the church basement, Mose and Mekko start a rap battle with the white kid in the Indian Mafia, Bear hears that Elora snuck upstairs to talk with Jackie, and he confronts her about it. She tells him she feels like he’s mooched off of her the whole time in saving up money to go to California. Willie stands up to announce her parents’ anniversary and that she wants to stick around. Cheese announces that he’s not going to California either.

After the storm (crisis averted), Bear finds that his mom is okay, and she plans to make them dinner. He has packed bags waiting out on the front porch of their house for the trip. Elora goes to the hideout and sits by Daniel’s memorial. She then goes and picks up Jackie, who says the city is better because everyone keeps to themselves.

Brownie wakes up stark naked with the Spirit approaching him to explain what happened. The spirits heard Brownie’s call, and they took his clothes instead of his life in exchange for sending the tornado away.

“Reservation Dogs” Season 2 starts streaming on Hulu Aug. 3 with the first two episodes.