Elora Danan Postoak (Kawennahere Devery Jacobs) takes the Reservation Dogs to meet her recluse Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer).
In Reservation Dogs Season One Episode Three, “Uncle Brownie,” directed by Blackhorse Lowe, the three teenagers hang out with Uncle Brownie as he attempts to sell his ancient weed and teach them how to fight. The director Blackhorse Lowe is an award-winning Navajo Nation filmmaker. After Bear Smallhill (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) was beaten up in the “NDN Clinic,” Elora decides to take him and Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) to meet up with her uncle cousin Brownie whose known for knocking out loads of people at once at Ol’ Muggy’s Bar. Brownie is Elora’s deceased mother’s cousin, but they were raised together like siblings. “Uncle Brownie” re-writes what it means to be a warrior.
The dramatic opening sets up a powerful motif that is woven throughout “Uncle Brownie.” An older White couple driving along a highway argues over whether indigenous people in Oklahoma deserve their land back. Distracted, they crash into a deer on the road. The screen goes black. Then there is a wide shot of the dead deer in the foreground and right behind it, on the highway, looms Elora’s Grandmother’s car. Elora, Willie Jack, and Bear climb out of the vehicle. Elora correctly states that “old white people did this.” Bear says that they should take the deer with them in the truck. So they can cook the backstrap tonight. Elora, Bear, and Willie Jack carry the deer in their trunk throughout the entire episode.
At first, the way awkwardly transport the deer reveals that these indigenous teenagers still have a lot to learn. When Uncle Brownie comes out to hitch a ride into town with them, he notices the dead deer in the trunk. The smelly deer carcass has gotten bigger, probably because it’s swelling in the heat. Uncle Brownie spats in disgust. Bear explains they found it on the side of the road and plan to make backstrap out of it. Uncle Brownie wisely explains that they needed to gut it and butcher the deer first. That way, they could safely transport the meat. These teenagers know the value of a dead deer, but not the steps to bring the meat home safely. Now the venison is probably spoiled. In the final scenes, Elora uses the promise of the backstrap to convince Uncle Brownie’s old friends at the local bar to forgive him. Elora and Uncle Brownie bond while trying to get deer blood off their faces. Their plans to have backstrap for dinner are a tool to move the story forward since it reveals how the teenagers need Uncle Brownie’s teachings and then bring people back together.
Uncle Brownie shows an alternative way of being a warrior. Like the viewers, Bear and his friends are influenced by Western Media’s views about what an indigenous warrior or fighter looks like. In many ways, Uncle Brownie appears to be the opposite of a traditional stoic muscular leather-wearing warrior. He is a large man who spends a lot of his time smoking weed and lounging around his remote cabin. He wears a leather vest with a marijuana patch, a hat, a black t-shirt, a grey button-up shirt, and jeans. Uncle Brownie says he lives off the land, but his home is full of Sonic fast-food wrappers. Though at the same time, his knock-out left hook is legendary—we flashback to a younger Uncle Brownie at Ol’ Muggy’s Bar knocking out one person after another. Uncle Brownie was always drunk or high during these moments, but his strength is still impressive. Brownie is a flawed human being but a true warrior to Elora and her friends. They call him uncle as a sign of respect.
The Reservation Dogs with Uncle Browning drive around town trying to sell his dried-out weed. Uncle Brownie coaches them on the warrior mindset. Bear keeps on bugging the elder to teach him fighting techniques. Finally, Uncle Brownie swings at Bear from the front seat. He advises the teenagers always to be ready. Throughout the episode, Bear tries to catch Uncle Brownie off guard. Bear points out that he still needs to train them on how to fight correctly. Uncle Brownie explains that indigenous don’t teach like White people. They don’t hand out books or have structured fighting lessons. Instead, the elders talk, and the young people learn by listening. Uncle Brownie has been teaching them this whole time.
The warrior teaches the youth that sometimes, one needs to get beaten up to become stronger. A warrior is somebody who gets back up after they fall. Until now, Uncle Brownie hasn’t truly lived by example. He hid from the world. When Willie Jack sees the animal skulls nailed to the trees outside his cabin, she calls him a shapeshifter. He spits at her to reverse the curse, but The Thing movie poster on his wall suggests he feels like a monster. The 1980’s horror movie is about a shape-shifting alien. Shapeshifters appear to be bad luck in the series; associating Uncle Brownie with them suggests he is in a dark place. But in the eyes of the Reservation Dogs, he is a hero.
Watch FX’s Reservation Dogs on Hulu!