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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Powers Stengel

Waititi Tea TV

Break me off a piece of this tv bard!


Spoilers For: Select tasty treats from recent Waititi TV.

Two FX shows dominate my senses of recent. They are hilarious, emotional, and VERY different pieces of TV from Taika Waititi. Reservation Dogs and What We Do in the Shadows fuck the rules of genre and pack the mundane with the surreal. Sprinkles of blood, encounters with spirits, the shame of accepting change and loss unite them. In both, Waititi loves to take the piss out of living and dying.

Reservation Dogs

"I just want to feel sexy again."

Rita, a.k.a. Bear's Mom (played in a tour de force performance by Sarah Podemski), whines these words as she pees in bathroom stall at an Indian Heritage Society conference. She is tragically self-aware, knows the limitations of her life as a single teen mom on a reservation. Yet she embraces every part of herself--native, woman, mom, sexual being, advocate, giver of love, and taker of no bullshit.

Bear's Mom gets down at the IHS conference.

THE WAITITI TEA (What makes this show binge-worthy):

-A cast that won't quit. Every character matters.

-A world I've never seen before use strategies I've never seen on screen.

Hail falls from the sky. Big wet loud tears slide down cheeks with no resolutions offered. Spirits walk among us and talk to our main characters liberally. Rituals and prayers and curses and pussy-revivification ceremonies make actual causal changes to the plot's movement. Magic is real, baybeeeee.

-Bear's Mom. You'll see/you get it.

-A strong focus on the freedom and inevitability of death and grief.

-Letting go of and evolving your dreams can be poetic. These characters show us how to fail up, down, then up again.

What We Do in the Shadows

I keep expecting WWDITS to fall from grace, its wild flights of fancy to prove grating with time, but I stand astonished four nearly perfect seasons later.

Season four we've got a baby on board--the aging antics of the young Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch aging rapidly from baby to accountant). Laszlo steps up to the papa plate as a stage five clinger. Nadja's ambition and love of blood alcohol knows no satiation as she enters and cocks up the nightclub game. Great new world to explore! Guillermo was a full human this season--a family man, a sexual being, a grifter, and dealmaker. Cursed magical wishes and male bonding rituals and resuscitated spouses abound, but the central ethos is always the same--

Life's short, even if it's eternal. So let's fuck, let's eat, and let's not deny ourselves a good time.

THE WAITITI TEA (What makes this show binge-worthy):

-There's something about a deep dive into undeath that highlights everything wrong with the living.

Nandor gets it. More magic. More problems.

-Licentiousness flies free. Gay is good. Sex is normal. Be yourself is the only sexual identity that matters in this world. Yas!

-This show knows--you can't run from yourself.

But you can hide from yourself in plain sight. There are always consequences for self-abnegation on the show. So, day walkers, take note, you are the monster holding yourself back. Be honest, feast on your desire, and bloody do life right. Else you might as well be stuck in your casket early.

Waititi's Secret Tea Mixture

  1. He's often in his own work. Bonus points for his beautiful face and zany charisma. More Taika cameos please!

  2. The average and the extraordinary constantly blend. Such as in real life.

  3. The directorial pacing enables the character's stakes to raise and change gradually in a manner that serves the plot as opposed to feeling like arbitrary plot devices. His characters breathe.

  4. Expect the unexpected in structure, style, format, and sequencing. You will be surprised.

Special Tea Bag Shout Out Goes to Our Flag Means Death.

This might be Waititi's gayest show yet (and truly stars him!), a feast for the senses with swashbuckling romanticism and much to say on performing your true identity as opposed to couching yourself in the standards society might foist upon you. 9/10. On HBO Max.

What's your tea on TV by Waititi?

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