Elora Danan Postoak (Devery Jacobs) takes her driver’s test with her former high school basketball coach Garrett Bobson (Bill Burr).

Spoilers Below

In Reservation Dogs Season One Episode Seven,” California Dreamin,” directed by and written by Tazbah Rose Chavez, Elora bounces between her last night hanging out with Daniel (Dalton Cramer) and the present day. She is attempting to earn her driver’s license for the fourth time. Director Chavez is part of the Nüümü, Diné, and San Carlos Apache tribes. She writes for several television shows, including Rutherford Falls and Resident Alien. Chavez used to be a performance poet but now directs and writes for television. The episode focuses on two events. First, the last night Elora spent with Daniel as they wandered around town. Second, Elora and Garrett helping each other out emotionally during a driver’s test. In ” California Dreamin,” Elora re-connects with the caring aspect of her personality while dealing with the grief over losing both her mother Cookie and best friend, Daniel.

Bill Burr transformed himself to perform as coach Garrett Bobson. Burr often plays characters that are like his stand-up persona. They are often abrasive and loud. Garrett is a different type of guy. He may swear a lot in front of Elora, but he is constantly apologizing for it. Garrett wants to curse less. Garett softens the second Elora pretends to freak out about parallel parking. Burr captures the “panicked father about dealing with emotions” look perfectly. Garrett makes jokes, but they’re more like folksy Dad humor rather than Burr’s non-politically correct stand-up. Garett even laughs when he learns that his old friend Cookie’s nickname for him, Chukogee, means “toilet” instead of “great white warrior.” Many stand-ups can only perform as characters that are versions of themselves, but Burr proves he can act in this role.

The shift in Elora’s wardrobe from a year ago to the present day shows how finding Daniel’s body changed her personality. A year ago, Elora had shoulder-length hair with a middle part. She wore stylish jackets, simple tops, black jeans, and boots. Her fashion was strait-laced, but she cared about looking chic. Back then, Elora more easily showed how much she cared about other people. Elora distracted Daniel with a walk around town when she heard yelling coming from his home. She was also a primarily law-abiding citizen. She didn’t like seeing Daniel attempting to break into cars. Based on Garrett’s comments, we know that she was one of their small town’s best high basketball players. But Elora dropped out of school after Daniel died.

Elora now has a tough girl persona that’s expressed through her clothing and hairstyle. Elora dyes her hair with dark red streaks.  She pulls back her hair in a messy ponytail. Her new grunge style shows how she is trying not to care. Elora wears a black hoodie, a dark-lettered grey t-shirt, and torn black jeans in this episode. Instead of shining as the star basketball player, she steals money from patrons at the local casino. She illegally drives around in her grandmother’s dirty, broken trash-filled car. Elora’s controlling, sometimes cold behavior comes from losing one of her best friends to suicide. She couldn’t protect Daniel from himself. In the fourth episode, she yelled at Bear for using up most of their California money because she was desperate to save herself and the rest of her friends from that same fate. California is their way to safety. Elora reveals her softer side in ” California Dreamin” when she offers to help Garrett look for his opioid-addicted daughter Ashley and promises not to tell the local DMV about how he shot a drug dealer in the leg. Her “gangster” persona is just an act to protect herself.

Reservation Dogs deals with suicide in a sensitive manner that doesn’t glamorize the act but still reveals the damage the person’s death leaves in its wake. The best thing Chavez does is not show Daniel’s body or him actively killing himself. Elora finds him in the abandoned building way after he died. The camera only captures his legs hanging from the ceiling. We can infer that Daniel hung himself by Elora’s heartbreaking response to finding him. She pushes up his feet to save him but quickly breaks down in tears. This seventh episode suggests that Daniel’s death will negatively impact Elora’s life. Elora’s feelings are reflected in Garrett’s speech about losing his friend and her mother, Cookie, at a young age. He speaks about how since Cookie died, sadness has permeated his life. There is no need to show Daniel dying to make that point, especially since young people will be watching this show. Statistics prove that showing graphic scenes of suicide on screen like Thirteen Reasons Why did increases suicidal ideation and behaviors. Reservation Dogs decreases the possibility of copycats by discretely showing the aftermath of a suicide and ending the episode with a positive message. ” California Dreamin” ends with a message about calling the National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline if you or somebody you know is in crisis. The inter-title even contains the number for the hotline and calls for viewers to take care of themselves after watching. Hopefully, if anybody needs help, this episode will encourage them to reach out.

Watch FX’s Reservation Dogs Season One on Hulu!