Dark Winds (S2/2023) Series: Fascinating Tale Of Native American Cops

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Dark Winds Season 2 Featured Image

Dark Winds narrates a fascinating tale of Native American cops. This is unlike any other crime series that we have seen in the past. Maybe because it deals with Indigenous Cops.

Moreover, this cop tale touches upon indigenous issues. Operating in the 1960s and 1970s period, these Native American Cops had a lot on their plates. Namely, policing with a small staff and limited funds, saving their people and land, keeping their traditions alive, etc. This tale of Native American cops solving crime and punishing bad people is indeed riveting.

Synopsis (official summary) of this Native American Cops series

The story in this season is set in the 1960s and the 1970s in a remote outpost of the Navajo Nation (the largest Indian reservation) near Monument Valley in the Southwest United States of America. Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) and Sergeant Bernadette Manuelito (Jessica Matten) of the Tribal Police, along with the private investigator (P.I.) Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon).

They all seek elusive justice for their people, in a land where prejudices and inequalities exist as a matter of fact. Once again, they battle the People of Darkness, the forces of evil, their own spiritual beliefs and their personal demons on the path to salvation.

Spoilers Free review of the Dark Winds (S2/2023) Series

About the indigenous Navajo community

The indigenous Navajo community refer to themselves as the “Dine or Dineh”, both words literally meaning “The People” or “Children of the Holy People”. However, as per their website, they do not like to be called the “Navajo Indians” people. They espouse the spiritual belief in animism, as all plants, animals, and inanimate objects have a soul or life force. In addition, there are many references to the burning issues** of Natives.

**For instance, this season mentioned explicitly, when Doctors (in USA) began sterilizing indigenous women in the 1930s, and then it grew at a faster rate in the 1970s, when Congress passed the Family Planning Services Act, which subsidized said sterilizations for Medicaid and Indian Health Service patients. In this series, Emma Leaphorn (Deanna Allison), a nurse (and Joe Leaphorn's wife) asks loudly, what kind of person and what kind of country does that kind of inhuman forced sterilization acts. Why treat the whole (Native) race as cattle, cull the herd, maybe afraid that there would be too many of us (natives)?

Its beautiful & haunting shooting locations

The filming of this series took place in numerous locations in the Navajo Nation (Navajo: Naabeehó Diné Biyaad), which occupies portions of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah in Northern America. Their shooting locations in New Mexico included Española, Tesuque Pueblo, Cochiti Pueblo, Abiquiú, Santa Fe, et al. This series showcases some of the most ruggedly and hauntingly beautiful sceneries of the Navajo Nation. The magnificent cinematography of this show takes our breath away with its awe-inspiring landscape of the Native reservation region.

Monument Valley in Navajo Tribal Park, USA | Pic. Credit – LOC’s Public Domain Archive.

Tony Hillerman – his Leaphorn & Chee novel series

In this series, for Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, this story is about more than just uncovering the truth behind the crime. This is personal, as he pursues all those men, who are responsible for murdering his young son.

Season one of the Dark Winds series was based on the Leaphorn & Chee novel series penned by Tony Hillerman. The Navajo Community believe that when one does something evil in life, perhaps it is because a dark wind has entered one’s soul and made one do sinful acts. Tony’s novels “Listening Woman (1978)” and “The Dark Wind (1982)”, among others have inspired the stories of this series.

In 1987, author Tony Hillerman was named Special Friend of the Dineh (Native American Community) by the Navajo Nation. This is a high honour, given the fact that he is the only non-Native (and a white) to receive that award. After his demise, his daughter Anne Hillerman continued her father’s writing legacy by adding to The Navajo book series by including the character Bernadette Manuelito, as a female protagonist in a number of spin-off novels.

About the Dine community & the conclusion

This series has used the Dine language, customs, practices, music, Elvis Presley*** and various other social-cultural references to this indigenous society in a natural way to make it a unique show. The elements of the Natives’ belief system (Mother Earth and Father Sky) and spirituality are insightful.

***Elvis Presley - the Dark Winds series continue to mention Elvis Presley in an adoring manner. Acoording to Elvis and Gladys book, Elvis Presley had some Native American ancestry, specifically Cherokee ancestry.

All the actors in this series, led by Zahn McClarnon, Deanna Allison, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Elva Guerra and the rest of its ensemble cast have done a good job in this intriguing story from the Native Land. With only six episodes, it is a perfect series to watch on any holiday of your choosing.

So, go ahead and watch this enigmatic crime series.

Ratings of this Native American Cops series

FM’s rating4.30/5
FM’s short commentsOnce again, in the second season, accomplished actor Zahn McClarnon (Joe Leaphorn) leads the pack of Native American cops in the tricky and harsh terrain of American society. Here too, he is very well supported by young actors – Kiowa Gordon (Jim Chee) and Jessica Matten (Bernadette Manuelito), as they solve another crime in their backyard.
FM’s rating – Dark Winds (S2/2023).show.

Spoilers Alert – a peek into its episodes, characters and endings

Focus on the six episodes of this series. Synopsis.

Please note I am not revealing all the details, as it may adversely affect your viewing pleasure.

1st Episode: Na’niłkaadii

(it means Sheep Dog)

Navajo Tribal Policeman Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) investigates the horrific death of an indigenous Native man involved in a mysterious cult. Meanwhile, Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon) works part-time as a Private Investigator (P.I.) on a case involving shady people. When their investigations collide, both Leaphorn and Chee find themselves in grave danger.

2nd Episode: Wonders of the Unknown

Leaphorn explores personal ties (the murder of his young son) to an increasingly mysterious criminal case. Chee is questioned by a reluctant Sergeant Bernadette Manuelito (Jessica Matten) about the case. Also, the discovery of a dead body sends Leaphorn and Manuelito in pursuit of a child in danger, as they try hard to save his life.

3rd Episode: Antigonish

(it means where branches are torn off)

After facing off with a dangerous man, Chee strikes out on his own. Leaphorn and Manuelito partner with the sheriff’s department, leading Leaphorn to identify a vital clue in an old murder case of his son.

4th Episode: The March

Leaphorn risks his life in pursuit of a suspect. Manuelito stands up to the sheriff in a bid to rescue her boss Leaphorn. Seeking answers on an investigation case, Chee considers a dangerous proposition.

5th Episode: Black Hole Sun

With his suspect in custody, Leaphorn races against the clock to get a confession while Chee goes undercover at the cult that ties their investigations together. Manuelito counsels a Native teenager who is nervous about the draft into the US Army, as at the time, the USA was pursuing the war in Vietnam (1955-1975), in Asia.

6th Episode: Hózhó náhásdlįį

(it means beauty is restored)

Leaphorn and Chee discover evidence that connects their cases, only for Leaphorn to realize justice won’t be easily served because White justice and Indian justice are two different things. Manuelito prepares for a big life change – a new career and a fresh start to her life, perhaps.

Did Joe Leaphorn manage to catch the people behind the murder of his young son? Explained.

Joe gets the elusive justice

Yes, Joe gets the justice.

Despite the different yardsticks being used to deliver justice in the cases involving White people and Native people, Joe did manage to get some delayed closure in the murder case of his son.

The hired murderer Colton Wolf (Nicholas Logan) and the murder mastermind B. J. Vines (John Diehl) end up dead.

There is a reference to about 200 Natives’ forced long walks through the harsh desert terrains with no food and water. The kids, youth, middle-aged and old were made to walk across the desert barefoot.

And lastly, Bernadette Manuelito’s life choices in the end? Explained.

Bernadette at the crossroads

In the end, Bernadette decides to leave her home in the reservation area, resign as a tribal cop, move away from Chee and take up the federal US Border Patrol job.

Will she be back in this series, then? Oh, hell yeah, please.

Poster of the season two of this Native American Cops series

Dark Winds Season 2 Poster
Dark Winds (S2/2023) – poster.

Key details of the season two of this Native American Cops series

GenreCrime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Original languageEnglish (USA) {and sprinkling of Navajo language*/Diné Bizaad* of Natives}
Age-restrictions UA (16+)
Released in July – September 2023
Season & EpisodesSeason Two & Six (6) Episodes
CreatorGraham Roland
WritersIts writers’ room is all Native American.

In addition to Graham Roland, the writers on the series include Anthony Florez, Maya Rose Dittloff, Razelle Benally, Billy Luther, Erica Tremblay, John Wirth, Rhiana Yazzie, Max Hurwitz, DezBaa’, Steven Judd, and Jason Gavin.
CastZahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Noah Emmerich, Deanna Allison, Elva Guerra, Jeri Ryan, etc.
About – Dark Winds (S2/2023).
Navajo language*/Diné Bizaad* - it is a language of the Apachean subgroup of the Athabaskan branch of the Na-Dené language family, spoken by approximately 175,000 people in the USA and other nations.

Trailer of the season two of this Native American Cops series

Trailer – Dark Winds (S2/2023) | AMC – YouTube.

Focus:- actress and activist Jessica Matten

Jessica is a Red River Metis – Cree actress. She is currently the female lead of “Dark Winds” series executive produced by George RR Martin and Robert Redford.

She is also known for the series – Frontier and Tribal. To quote her 7 FORWARD entertainment website, “Jessica has run with her mother, Lemon Cree, an Indigenous fitness and wellness program travelling to the most isolated Native communities across Canada helping in suicide prevention, addictions and mental health and fitness. She works specifically a lot with the Indigenous Youth offering hands-on mentoring programs and safety workshops to build self-esteem in young boys, girls, LGBTQ+2, two spirit people.” Kudos, she is indeed doing a praiseworthy job.

Featured & Poster Images:- Sergeant Bernadette Manuelito in Dark Winds (S2/2023) show | AMC.

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