In the third episode of the third season of the FX original series Reservation Dogs, Bear and Deer Lady go on a road trip together as Deer Lady confronts her abusive past and origins.
Recap and review of Reservation Dogs season 3 episode 3
Deer Lady looking fabulous in a fur coat and groovy shades goes into a gas stop store and heads straight for the restroom. Inside she washes off blood from her antler knife. Or more like a stiletto.
We flashback to a group of native kids looking despondent in the back of a truck. There’s hay on the floor so it’s probably a poultry or cattle transport. The shading of the scene gives it an early 1900s look.
They arrive at what looks like a boarding school but it’s run by nuns. It’s called the St Nicholas Indian Training School. The driver delivers them to what must be the mother superior.
We focus on a girl with pigtail braids, who must be a young Deer Lady. If this is her well she must be close to immortal since she doesn’t look a day over 30 in the 2020s. Inside the facility, the nuns make the kids all line up and then they cut off their long hair. Afterward, another nun douses them with what might be baby powder.
A good thing to note here is the nuns seem to be speaking German to one another but when the native kids hear them they sound like gibberish.
Then Deer Lady pulls into a roadside diner and orders two whole pies, apple and cherry.
Continually throughout the episode, Deer Lady gets flashbacks to her past at St Nicholas and the abusive nuns. These black-clad sisters maul and demean the kids in every way, from punishing them for speaking in their native tongue to outright beating them.
Clearly, this episode is about how Deer Lady became a supernatural avenging force with deer hooves for feet and it’s also an unflinching glimpse into the colonial past of the Americas when the Europeans invaded and subjugated the tribes and what they did to “re-educate” the next generation into their brand of civilization.
This is a hard watch at times, especially if you’ve had a history of abuse but it’s a great insight into Deer Lady’s origins and how exactly the native kids were treated at these kinds of “training” schools.
At the school, the young girl meets a boy, someone who arrived at the school a year previous, who advises her on how to survive. They bond and quickly become friends, finding ways to talk to each other through traditional hand speak aka sign language.
Until one day the boy, screaming in terror, is literally dragged off from his bed by a nun. Who knows where the evil nuns took him. He certainly knew he wasn’t going anywhere good.
Back at the diner in the present day, Deer Lady spots Bear come in and get refused when he wants to borrow a charger. She asks him to sit with her and shares her two pies with him.
Eventually Bear realizes who she is when she drops her book accidentally on purpose. He’s terrified. But she is kind to him and even offers him a ride back to Okern in Oklahoma.
On the way, they make a stop at somewhere called JM Ranch. JM stands for James Minor, the driver who picked up native kids like Deer Lady when she was young and brought them to the Indian Training Schools.
Looks like Deer Lady is finally going to bring justice to the man’s misbegotten head. Also, Deer Lady drives a real swag red Ford pickup truck. Mr. Minor is an old man now when she comes in.
Bear opts to stay in the truck while she wraps up her business with old man Minor in a big white house. Good choice, kid. Also, he finally gets to charge his phone.
Once inside, Deer Lady is hesitant as the memories of her mortal childhood and abuse flood back, but eventually, she kills the old man when his back is turned. She uses her deer antler stiletto, stabbing him until he’s dead.
Deer Lady flashes back to the night her friend was taken away. The night she also fled the nuns’ school and, as she stumbled in the dark of the woods, she encountered a talking deer with luminous eyes who gave her swiftness and escape by imbuing her with hooves.
She killed some of her pursuers, but, decades later, only Mr. James Minor remains of Deer Lady’s original abusers. And now he too has been served justice. Beside him is a very old, very faded photo of the St Nicholas Indian Training School with the young Deer Lady in the batch, with students and nuns and James.
As Deer Lady steps back, her hooves make trail marks from James Minor’s puddle of blood. Her coat and her hands are bloody, too.
True to her word, she drives Bear back to Oklahoma and drops him off at Okern. Bear is terrified all the way because she hasn’t washed Minor’s blood from her coat or hands.
Still, that’s one way to finally get back home to mom.
As the episode ends, Deer Lady stops at a cemetery and we learn that her friend’s name was Koda Littlebird.
You can watch seasons one to three of Reservation Dogs on Hulu.