Reservation Dogs (Season 3) Episode 9: The final season of Reservation Dogs is shaping up to be one of the finest comedy dramas from the year. A majority of this season focused on the relationship between the young and the old Native American residents from Okern. After going to California as a way to fulfill Daniel’s wishes, all the rez dogs spent their time soul-searching. Their pasts collided with their present to mature their understanding as adult human beings.
Bear went on a solitary journey to understand the importance of his supportive friends. Cheese also realized that his friends wouldn’t leave him behind no matter what. Willie Jack decided to learn from Old Man Fixico to take over his work after him. Now, the penultimate episode of its third season shows Elora meeting her dad for the first time. The episode explores the delicate relationship between the two after years of distance.
Reservation Dogs (Season 3) Episode 9 “Elora’s Dad” Recap:
While returning from California, Elora (Devery Jacobs) learned something shocking about her life. She realized that her father was still alive, unlike what her mother had told her. At the time, Elora did not know how to react to this news. Should she go meet him in person after years of distance? Or should she just forget about him? At the time, she prioritized her future over these things from her past. She planned to go to college and study further. However, during her application process, she had to face a challenge that she had not anticipated. The ninth episode follows her journey to tackle the same issue.
Elora waits for the person in charge at the university to talk about the available courses. Her friends Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Cheese (Lane Factor), and Jackie (Elva Guerra) arrive there in support. They joke how the college may be more for snagging than studying. Eventually, Debbie (John Parker) invites Elora to their office to speak about the course she would be interested in. She talks about wanting to study mental health so that she can help people with it in the future.
Unfortunately, most of the scholarships were handed out to students who were relatively younger than Elora. So, Debbie tries to find another way to help her out. Turns out, Elora will get the money only if she finds her father to sign her admission documents. Besides, he needs to not be doing well enough to pay the college fees himself. This comes as a challenge for Elora, who learned he was alive just a week or two earlier. Knowing this is the only option to get into college, Elora plans to meet her father, Rick. Although the rez dogs offer to join her, she plans to go by herself.
Elora Meets Her Father
In a supermarket, Rick Miller (Ethan Hawke) buys something and pays for those items. From his dialogue with the cashier, we sense that he frequently visits this shop and has a good rapport with the locals. So, it seems like he has lived in that neighborhood for a while. Elora quietly keeps an eye on him without letting him notice her. It’s less of ‘she is spying on him’ and more of ‘she does not know how to initiate a conversation with him.’ Anyhow, she keeps following him outside through her car. Rick soon senses that and stops by a gas station. He then directly walks up to the driver to know who they are. The moment he sees Elora’s face, he understands who she is.
Elora looks uncannily similar to her mother, which is why Rick recognizes her in an instant. Their conversation starts off just as awkwardly as one would suspect. He says she looks just like her mother. Elora mentions she has already heard that throughout her life. She comes across as a tad confrontational toward this man, who may have just abandoned his responsibilities towards his family. Turns out, he did try to know about Elora online but kept his distance. Finally, because of Elora’s college forms, they got a chance to meet in person. But Elora keeps trying to patronize him in one way or the other.
Rick expresses his nervousness over their first face-to-face encounter. Elora stoically hands over the college papers for him to sign over. She also asks him to write down his email if any documents are needed later. Once the job is done, she plans to leave. But Rick is restless. He does not want to let go of this chance, after ages, to form a connection with his daughter. So, he walks up to her car and asks if she can drop by his house before leaving. Upon reaching there, Elora learns that Rick now has three children with a woman who had to go to rehab because of opiate addiction. So, he got their custody and started taking care of them as a single father.
Elora asks Rick if he is ‘full white.’ He explains his genetic test results, which make him guilty of being 99% European. That dialogue almost feels like Elora is trying to form a connection with her father after learning his racial identity about a week ago. Anyhow, he whips out her photo as a baby from her first birthday. That is when he saw her for the last time. He also speaks fondly of Elora’s mother despite all the years that passed by. But there is less bitterness and more of a longing for connection between him and Elora. Both Hawke and Jacobs play these cues so subtly that they never feel even the least bit sappy.
Reservation Dogs (Season 3) Episode 9 “Elora’s Dad” Ending Explained:
Why did Rick leave Elora and her mother in the past?
After handing over Elora’s photo from when she was a baby, Rick asks her if she will tag along to bring his kids back home. After some slight hesitation, she agrees. During their walk, Rick talks about his early years of love for Elora’s mother. He acknowledges leaving the responsibility of a child behind for having a baby at a young age. Instead of making excuses for his behavior, he accepts that he is imperfect. He regrets not trying to meet her before the way she did. Anyhow, he tries to correct his mistakes by parenting his three kids.
Elora and Rick talk about their interest in sports. She mentions learning basketball under coach Bobson, whom Rick knew pretty well. Eventually, he opens up about why he decided to leave her behind. He did not want to take her away from her own people, which, in retrospect, he agrees to have been more because of his cowardice. Elora gets a much clearer perspective on her white father, whom she had never met before. Eventually, she joins them for Rick’s family ritual of a pizza meal. Before leaving, she agrees to come meet them once in a while. So, even if she is distancing herself from her home in Okern, she finds a new family in Rick’s.