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“Reservation Dogs” offers a beautiful beginning of the end.

“Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi’s Indigenous comedy returns for a dreamy and penetrating final season.”

“People cycle in and out of our lives. Sometimes their departure is slow and gentle, like a song’s final chorus fading into silence. Other times, they’re gone in an abrupt and shocking instant, leaving a psychic crater that will take years to fill.

The first two seasons of Reservation Dogs — the gloriously unique coming-of-age comedy from Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi — followed the titular quartet of Indigenous teens as they reeled from the latter kind of loss, after their dear friend Daniel (Dalton Cramer) died by suicide. In the dreamy, penetrating final season (premiering August 2 on Hulu), the kids are ready to accept the past and even start looking toward the future.”

Paulina Alexis, Brandon Boyd, Lane Factor, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, and Devery Jacobs on 'Reservation Dogs'

\Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), and Cheese (Lane Factor) finally made it to California in last year’s finale, wading into the ocean to realize a dream Daniel never got to fulfill. Now Elora’s aunt Teenie (Tamara Podemski) has arrived to bring them back home — where they’ll have to figure out what’s next. “I think we’re meant to live how he would have wanted to live,” says Elora. She’s considering going back to school to study “psychology or something,” while Willie Jack turns to the reservation’s elderly medicine man, Fixico (Richard Ray Whitman), for guidance. Bear takes an unexpected detour through the desert and ends up with Maximus (Graham Greene, achingly tender), a hermit whose present life is bizarre — he lives in a heavily tin-foiled trailer and grows eggplant for the “star people” — but whose past Bear finds profoundly familiar. As for Cheese, he gets new glasses. It’s a charming callback to season 1 and his first encounter with Irene (Casey Camp-Horinek), the woman destined to become his grandma.

The past is a constant presence. “You’re the same person you were when you first opened your eyes. Except when you’re an adult, you have baggage,” Teenie tells Elora. “So you gotta deal with your s—, get rid of it, or you just keep carrying it.” For Indigenous people, of course, a lot of that s— is generational. During his walkabout, Bear crosses paths with the spirit of a Conquistador, one of thousands who decimated his ancestors in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Deer Lady (Kaniehtiio Horn), a spirit who enacts vengeance on amoral men, returns for an episode focused on the U.S. government’s abduction and abuse of Indigenous children through federal “boarding schools.” In her downtime, the Deer Lady reads Joe Brainard’s I Remember, a stream-of-consciousness memoir that stitches together a tapestry of the author’s life using hundreds of disparate recollections tangled up in his soul.

RESERVATION DOGS -- “Maximus” -- Season 3, Episode 2 (Airs Wednesday, August 2nd) — Pictured: (l-r) D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear, Dallas Goldtooth as Spirit.

Reservation Dogs has a similar feel. Every season, Harjo and his writers sketch out a linear narrative and then adorn it with bursts of incidental color: Cheese, played with transcendent sincerity by Factor, drawing a medieval-themed cartoon in his notebook on the long bus ride home. “That’s me on horseback,” he explains to a chatty and curious passenger (Ryan RedCorn). “Although I’ve never ridden a horse before. And that’s a trebuchet.” Bev the wry IHS receptionist (Jana Schmieding, brandishing a narrow gaze that could level buildings) flirting audaciously with Officer Big (Zahn McClarnon, low-key hilarious) in the clinic’s waiting room. “You’ve always been dumb as s—,” she purrs. “And I like that.” Every scene with William Knifeman (Dallas Goldtooth), the ebullient spirit guide who routinely pops up to offer Bear enthusiastic, if not always helpful, words of encouragement. “I can only give you cryptic aphorisms,” he explains. “I don’t like it either, but I’ve gotta report to the Spirit Counsel.”

The central quartet aren’t together much in the four episodes made available for review, but “Friday,” streaming August 16, assembles the characters in interesting pairings — Bear and Jackie (Elva Guerra), Bev’s sullen niece; Elora and Leon (Jon Proudstar), Willie Jack’s kindhearted father; Willie Jack and Cheese, platonic soulmates — for a day of punitive chores at the IHS. Still, the new season reminds us that our rez dogs — and the ones that came before, and the ones that will come after — are always together in spirit.

“Everything’s connected,” Maximus informs Bear. “It’s all connected,” the dude on the bus tells Cheese. “I’m here to continue the story,” announces William Knifeman, who serves as narrator for the season premiere. “A story that happened yesterday. Or maybe it happened last week. Or maybe, it has yet to even happen.” It’s too early to say goodbye to this little marvel of a show; there will be plenty of time for tears in September when the final season wraps. Reservation Dogs is happening now, and it’s a blessing.

Reservation Dogs season 3 premieres with two episodes Wednesday, Aug. 2, on Hulu.

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