Sheriff Joy In ‘Outer Range’ Season 2 Explained: Will She Seek Justice For Shoshones?

It’s rare to have a compelling heroic arc in sci-fi thrillers, and that’s especially true in a series like Outer Range, where the majority of the characters exist in the gray area of morality. Therefore, in the second season, the portrayal of Native American Sheriff Joy Hawk deserves special attention, especially because her character growth complements the overarching plot and the time-travel-oriented narrative. Additionally, the fact that the makers have emphasized on a strong representation through the character in the second season, without sacrificing the intrigue of the storyline – by integrating it seamlessly with the narrative, is something worth mentioning as well. 


Spoilers Ahead

Sheriff Joy Provided Innovative Potential for Storytelling

Since the first season of Outer Range, the makers have pushed the boundaries of the neo-western theme of the narrative, and Joy’s character allows them to do that in a proper way. With changing times, the old-school ways and traditional family values fade away, as seen through the Abbots. Similarly, the traditionalist approach prevalent in Western stories is scrutinized by putting a gay, native woman, Joy Hawk, in a position of authority—and how the existing social structure reacts to that. The first season had already revealed that, despite being a competent, perceptive investigator in her own right, Joy didn’t receive the same respect she should have, and that the way her identity and social position are perceived by a bunch of bigoted minds is the biggest hindrance in that regard. This was evident from the incident in the first season when a homophobic priest insulted Joy and her wife Martha in public, and Joy couldn’t protest, probably due to her being hesitant to challenge the decaying social structure. 


In the second season, Sheriff Joy is given a much more prominent role in the narrative as she embraces her cultural identity and ancestral heritage, as seen during her journey to the late 19th century. From being someone who was willing to put up with bigotry to proudly connecting with her roots and identity, Joy’s character development in Outer Range is significant and memorable. 

Joy’s Connection to Her Ancestral Tribe 

In the very beginning of the second season, Joy finds herself transported back in time and amidst her ancestral tribespeople, the Shoshones. However, Joy quickly realizes that she has been stranded during this time and gets distraught after finding no way to return to her family. Except for the kindred spirit Falling Star, another time-displaced native woman from the 70s, she finds no one else to share her predicament with and has a hard time coping with the realization that she might have to spend her lifetime among her ancestors—away from the people she cared for and loved. 


However, gradually Joy settles in with the Shoshones, learns their ways, integrates with their culture through the course of the four years she spends in the past, and, just like her friend Falling Star, acts as a translator and negotiator among the tribespeople and the European settlers. It is important to remember that Joy and Falling Star know that the European settlers who are asking for grants and permissions from the native tribes will eventually turn on the native people and seize their land forcefully—plunder and massacre them. It’s a painful position to know how history is going to unfold and, despite being a part of it, not be able to change its course. 

Despite that, as Joy gets entangled in a fierce conflict with the settlers, she is able to save her tribe by warning them of their impending attack. While saving the young hunter who was about to be sexually assaulted by the homesteaders, Joy puts her life on the line to rescue her, and after getting severely injured, she sends the hunter girl back to the Shoshones to prepare their defenses against the oncoming invaders. This provides the tribespeople with the element of surprise, which they use to corner the attacking settlers. 


Even more importantly, Joy is able to reconnect with her identity while rescuing the young hunter. Seeing the hunter girl traumatized over her experience, Joy shares that she too had escaped attempts at sexual assault during her young days, and determined to not let any other girl fall victim to such advances, she had decided to join law enforcement. Strengthening connection with her tribe allowed Joy to become her best self and subtly insert an unexpected hero’s journey into the narrative. Additionally, through Joy’s arc, viewers get to see another side of Royal Abbot, which establishes him as a compassionate human being as he goes against his oppressive father to save her, adding a new dimension to the entire time travel aspect of the narrative. 

Will Joy Get Her Justice in the Upcoming Season?

After returning to her timeline, it becomes quite clear to Joy that she has left a part of her soul to the Shoshones. If coping with the loss of her family while being stranded in the past was tough for her, losing a sense of belonging after returning to the present day turns out to be way tougher. The memories and experiences she had gathered from her ancestors have strengthened her belief in her identity and sense of justice, and Joy is more aware of the bigotry and unjust treatment her people are subjected to. 


Coincidentally, Joy discovers that the realtors from whom her family bought their house are the descendants of the same homesteaders who tried to rape the Shoshoni hunter girl and later tried to kill her. Despite having such filth in their ledger and still escaping justice all the same, this is a historical pattern that colonizers and settlers have been allowed to repeat time and time again, but at least this time Joy is not willing to let them get away. In the final episode of the second season, Sheriff Joy seemed to be determined to bring down the realtors for their past crimes, as viewers saw her gazing at the realtor office. In the upcoming season, Sheriff Joy will go against the realtors, and the continuation of her own separate arc is something we as viewers will definitely look forward to.

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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