On the first season of Rutherford Falls, the titular small town is embroiled in controversy when the local government decides to relocate a statue honoring the colonial founder of where they call home. An ancestor of the founder, Nathan Rutherford, fights to keep the monument in its rightful place citing tradition and history. This puts him at odds with his best friend, Reagan Wells, a member of the Minishonka Nation who originally inhabited the lands where the town sits. Tomorrow, the series returns once again to address complicated sociocultural issues utilizing a character driven comedy.
The first noticeable aspect of season two is the growth of its main cast. After arriving back into town, Nathan acknowledges his own privilege and makes a concerted effort to be more mindful and sensitive to others. There is a less cringey feel to him as he doesn’t have the entitlement, regardless of how well meaning, that he had previously. With the less selfish attitude, it allows his friendship to Reagan really flourish and feel mutual. The pair’s connection is endearing now that Nathan is overcoming his white fragility.
Reagan herself becomes more assertive in what she wants and continues her efforts to better her people based off of her experiences. Meanwhile, Terry serves a contrast to Reagan through his approach of improving the lives of the tribe. His main concern is still acquiring wealth and power, but we see a more multifaceted character this season.
Starting with the first episode of Rutherford Falls, he exhibits a more personable and human side during his birthday celebration. Terry is also not averse to learning new things when he sees the potential in them and proves he can think outside the box. Michael Greyeyes is exceptional in the role. The highlight is a moving speech while interviewing a candidate for Reagan where he captures the frustration towards people wrongly occupying indigenous spaces. It is filled with so much passion yet delivered calmly and sternly, and proves how hardcore Greyeyes can be.
Bobbie provides youthful energy and has their own new challenge to face. They exhibit so much charisma connecting with people in their own way. In addition, like any series in their sophomore season, the show plays with group dynamics creating different pairings even including the casino employees, Wayne and Sally. It’s very effective and results in good comedy.
Rutherford Falls’ storylines cover cultural issues including appropriation and insensitive portrayals. Although through a Native American lens, other people of color can relate. There is even more universality as it addresses government bureaucracy and inherent sexism within our systems. It approaches the humor in a smart way with an awareness of the silliness of the situations and being in on the joke. But it does still keep it real with some of the outcomes of the biggest offenders not quite receiving their comeuppance.
The season long narratives are interesting and inject a little drama. A new antagonist is introduced, Feather Day, who doesn’t agree with Terry’s approach for the Minishonka. Furthermore, we explore the relationship between Nathan and Mayor Chisenhall. It’s a cute little romance that isn’t without its own complications. The people really make the series and the small-town feel accentuates how even if there are differences of opinion, people can come together when needed, instilling a sense of community. The plot can also keep you on your toes. While things are being set up going one way, sometimes it zags in the other in intriguing and ultimately satisfying ways once they become fully developed.
The biggest gripe of this season of Rutherford Falls is the finale. Despite establishing conflicts and directions to pursue in the future, how Nathan’s journey ends leaves a sour taste in your mouth. The writing and Ed Helms’ portrayal do an admirable job restoring the character’s image and displaying his maturation. However, his poor decisions seem out of character and negate most of the growth we’ve seen.
Season two continues the sharp commentary on relevant sociocultural topics through the use of clever writing and humor. Though ultimately, it’s the amiable cast of characters that inhabit the town that provide the warmth and heart and make you invested in the show.
The second season of Rutherford Falls will be released June 16, on Peacock.
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