Pop Culture Is an Important Aspect of Reservation Dogs — Just Look at the References
The importance of pop culture on Reservation Dogs is ingrained in its very name, which is a take on Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. "Pop culture is important, because in these rural places, especially now with the internet and everything, that's what you have," creator Sterlin Harjo said to Entertainment Weekly. "They know Wu-Tang Clan, they know Tupac, they know all the movie references, they know Quentin Tarantino. They're fans of pop culture and they kind of recreate it where they're at." Whether it's a shot-for-shot remake or a cheeky character name, ahead we've broken down some of the biggest movie and TV references featured on the show.
Reservation Dogs Episode 1 Easter Eggs
- Smoke Signals: The opening with the radio host in the background is a callback to the 1998 film's radio announcer, Randy Peone.
- Willow: Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs's Elora Danan is named after the baby in the 1988 fantasy film. Nearly everyone that meets her makes a reference to the film, including sharing some behind-the-scenes tidbits about the twin babies who portrayed the original character.
- Platoon: While being hit with paintballs, Bear reenacts the death of Willem Dafoe's Sgt. Elias.
- Reservoir Dogs: Dressed in black suits for the memorial of their friend Daniel, the group's slow walk is a visual callback to the opening of Reservoir Dogs. The group's nickname and the show's title are also a reference to the Quentin Tarantino film.
- Futurama: While Mose and Mekko explain that the "Indian Mafia" wears red and blue because they couldn't decide to be Bloods or Crips, they call them "Blips" and "Cruds." This is a reference to the season 10 episode, "Assie Come Home," where Fry, Leela, and Bender make a delivery to rival blue-and-red-wearing gangs called the Blips and the Cruds.
Reservation Dogs Episode 2 Easter Eggs
- Willow: When Elora introduces herself to Bobby Lee's Dr. Kang, she confirms that she was named for the baby in the 1988 film. Already picking up on the reference, the doctor immediately replies, "Oh, you mean the knock-off Lord of the Rings, because they couldn't get the rights?"
- CNN's Breakdown of 2020 Presidential Election Statistics: While Elora is discussing her stomach pains with the receptionist, played by Rutherford Falls's Jana Schmieding, the receptionist writes her issue down as "something else." This is a callback to CNN's coverage of the 2020 presidential election, where they referred to voters who were not white, Latinx, Black, or Asian on-air as "something else"
- Hunt For the Wilderpeople: After talking with Bear about sugar being "white man's bullets," Big purchases a Skux energy drink. Not only is this a reference to cocreator Taika Waititi's Hunt For the Wilderpeople, where Ricky says "the Skux life chose me," it's also a nod to Waititi's New Zealand roots, since "Skux life" is Kiwi slang for "thug life."
Reservation Dogs Episode 3 Easter Eggs
- Gary Farmer: In the episode, actor Gary Farmer makes a cameo as Elora's Uncle Brownie. Farmer is a notable actor in Indigenous films, and is well-known for his role in 1995's Dead Man.
- "Land Back" graffiti: In one scene, the show playfully touches on ridiculous urban legends about Indigenous people when an old white couple get into an argument about graffiti that reads "Land Back" and eventually hit a deer.
- The Thing: A poster for John Carpenter's 1982 film is prominently displayed in Uncle Brownie's home. It's fitting since Willie Jack accuses him of being a shapeshifter and The Thing is about a shapeshifting alien.
Reservation Dogs Episode 4 Easter Eggs
- Sten Joddi: After being mentioned in previous episodes, we're finally introduced to Bear's dad, rapper Punkin' Lusty. In real life, Joddi is an award-winning Mvskoke Creek Nation hip-hop artist. He almost missed out on appearing on Reservation Dogs because he thought the show's request was spam. "I almost swiped it, like deleted it, because I just thought maybe it was one of those spam things or something," he told The Tulsa World.
- Pulp Fiction: Bear decides to get his dad a special gift before his show and ends up at a beadworker's home for a hand-made pendant. Eventually, he picks up a small box and his face is bathed in a golden light upon opening it. This is a callback to the infamous silver briefcase from Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. In the film, contract killers Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega attempt to recover a briefcase for their boss, Marsellus Wallace. Much like the box on Reservation Dogs, whenever the briefcase is opened, it emits a golden light. While we never actually get to see the contents of the briefcase in the 1994 film, on the show, the box holds a hand-made beaded pickle pendant.
Reservation Dogs Episode 5 Easter Eggs
- Redbone: The rock band Redbone plays a big role in episode five. Not only is the episode titled after the band's hit song "Come and Get Your Love," but the track also plays at the end of the episode as Cheese and Big are in the car.
- Movie theater: In the scene where Big and Cheese encounter Bucky sleeping on a bench, the list of movies currently screening at the movie theater are actually titles that involved the production team of Reservation Dogs, including Sterlin Harjo's Barking Water, Sydney Freeland's Drunktown's Finest, and Tazbah Rose Chavez's Your Name Isn't English.