‘Reservation Dogs’ Creator Sterlin Harjo on ‘Resetting’ Stories in Season 2

Reservation Dogs Season 2 D'Pharoah Woon-a-Tai and Paulina Alexis
Shane Brown/FX

Reservation Dogs is back and throwing the teens at the center of the series on Hulu plenty of challenges in Season 2.

As viewers see in the opening two episodes, Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and Cheese (Lane Factor) work on breaking a curse they unleashed on their “enemy” Jackie (Elva Guerra), who took off with their friend Elora (Devery Jacobs). Told that any bad medicine will come back to haunt them, the curse also has an effect on Jackie and Elora’s intended journey to California.

Reservation Dogs Season 2 Elva Guerra, Megan Mullally, Devery Jacobs

(Credit: Shane Brown/FX)

Car troubles, predatory travelers, and dangerous countryfolk lead the girls to the front door of a lonely divorcee named Anna (played by Megan Mullally). There, she feeds them and grants access to showers, beds, and more, but after some concerning comments, Elora and Jackie bounce before the morning comes, boosting Anna’s truck for a drive back towards the home they know.

It’s a big juxtaposition from Season 1’s tight-knit quartet of friends coping with the loss of their buddy Daniel (Dalton Kramer), as Season 2 sets up two separate journeys, at least in these episodes. And it was intentional on the part of co-creator Sterlin Harjo.

“I think the bad version of a Season 2 is if everyone’s back together, and it’s, like, ‘OK, let’s redo Season 1 again,’ you know? And I didn’t want that,” Harjo told reporters during FX’s Summer 2022 TCA presentation. “I felt like they needed to be in a different place altogether, individually, mentally, and even physically.”

Betrayed by Elora’s decision to leave them behind, it’s clear that there needs to be some kind of reconciliation between her and the rest of the gang if they want to move forward with their friendship. “I needed something stylistically to feel different, which, hopefully, the first two episodes feel that way,” Harjo added.

Reservation Dogs Season 2 Gary Farmer, Wes Studi, Paulina Alexis

(Credit: Shane Brown/FX)

The separation of characters and stories is like “resetting this whole story again and giving them a new journey to go on,” Harjo said. “So, that was important for me to have them kind of be fractured because that’s where we ended.”

Episode 2 ended with the curse Willie Jack believed she created being broken with the help of Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer) and Bucky (Wes Studi). Singing a song to drive away the bad vibes, the older and supposedly wiser men invoke Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” a song that Cheese notes isn’t that old.

“When we’re in the writers’ room, we would be doing Zooms, and for some reason, I kept playing that song, and I would sing it whenever we were stuck,” Harjo remembered. “And it just became a joke.” Thankfully, the show’s music supervisor Tiffany Anders had a personal connection to the artist’s estate as Harjo shared she’s “friends with Tom Petty’s daughter.” So getting the rights to the song was fairly easy.

“It’s pretty rad to have a song by him in the show,” Harjo marveled. It’s just one of the many surprises to be uncovered this season as FX’s Reservation Dogs streams on Hulu.

Reservation Dogs, Season 2, New Episodes, Wednesdays, Hulu