Zahn McClarnon delivers a commanding performance as Navajo tribal officer Joe Leaphorn. Other impressive performances by Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten and former ‘Office’ star Rainn Wilson
Greetings Native Viewpoint film review readers. Today’s review as a certified Rotten Tomatoes film critic is delving into the world of Dark Winds, a psychological thriller of sorts that takes place in the sprawling and vast desert territories of the Navajo Nation.
The show, created by producer Graham Roland is based on the ‘Leaphorn and Chee’ series of books by author Tony Hillerman. Actor Zahn McClarnon, who plays the show’s protagonist, Navajo tribal officer Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, also has an impressive executive producer credit on the show, which is directed by Chris Eyre.
Here is my review:
My quick quote: “An incredible journey into the complex world of tribal reservations. McClarnon delivers an intense, if not smoldering performance, that is wonderfully complemented by actors Kiowa Gordon and Jessica Matten. A beautifully done series that is as frightening as well as sobering. ‘Dark Winds’ is the best show on AMC since ‘The Walking Dead’”
Synopsis: On a remote outpost of the Navajo Nation in 1971, Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Tribal Police and new Deputy Jim Chee are besieged by a series of seemingly unrelated crimes; together, the two men face the trauma of their pasts as they search for clues.
Not since Michael Greyeyes graced the world with his presence as Qeletaqa Walker on Fear the Walking Dead, have I enjoyed a show this much thanks to this winner produced by AMC Studios. Hats off to executive producers George RR Martin and Robert Redford.
The show boasts a huge Native cast, which is certain to continue as it has already been renewed for a second season.
Zahn McClarnon, who plays Lt. Joe Leaphorn delivers one of his most complete and flawless performances I have seen. Welcome to the A-List Mr. McClarnon.
McClarnon commands the screen with such power and magnitude, that he doesn’t even seem to be alone when traveling amidst the massive expansiveness of the Navajo territories. There is nothing I don’t believe in, in terms of his performance. In an effort to give the highest compliment I possibly can, I’ll say this to you Mr. McClarnon, “I bought it.”
Kiowa Gordon as Jim Chee does an exceptional job of delivering a counter-performance delivered by McClarnon. He is the impervious coyote, with a seemingly hidden snicker and mischievous quality that rounds off this show so beautifully.
Jessica Matten as officer Bernadette Manuelito also delivers a sincere and candid performance that is so wonderfully welcome to this show.
One fun surprise of course is the acting performance of Rainn Wilson who plays the hilariously shady car dealer, Devoted Dan. Wilson who has long been a favorite actor of mine, shows no signs of slowing down as an actor, a fact to which I am sincerely grateful.
I also enjoyed so many of the actors who did such a wonderful job in the show including Gene Brave Rock, Deanna Allison, Elva Guerra and others.
I am beyond thrilled to see you all in the show, doing such impressive work. If you are an actor in this show, I am telling you all, you are doing a fantastic job. Dark Winds is one of my new favorite shows.
Dark Winds is one of my new favorite shows.Vincent Schilling
Director Chris Eyre is doing a fabulous job of bringing these books to life, and I also want to commend the Native staff writers Billy Luther, Maya Rose Ditloff and Razelle Benally for their wonderful work, as well as all of the other writers on the show.
As ‘Dark Winds’ begins, McClarnon ventures into an unknown hotel room to investigate a crime, within moments, I immediately got massive goosebumps. I was so affected, that I actually took a photo. (We are all on the ready to capture those potentially social media worthwhile images, aren’t we?)
I was — and I literally mean this timewise — hooked within the first five minutes of the first episode.
Enter Joe Chee. Kiowa Gordon literally needs to get a Wile E. Coyote tattoo for his level of snickering and mischievousness. It complements the show amazingly. Watch for the smile as he burns those people on the side of the road, I was rolling on the floor. Add to the fact his character Chee and Leaphorn trade some underhandedness in the best of ways — and you have the impressive series Dark Winds.
The great thing about the show is also its ability to emotionally and strategically fluctuate in terms of humanity, Native traditions, racism, genocidal medical practices and the complexities of federal, state and reservation territories.
I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the characters lovingly petted the family dog, who then turned and clonked an aggressor on the head with a frying pan. These characters, no matter how far they may be removed from their origins, want to return, or at least perhaps visit. They love, they cherish, and they regret.
But thank the Creator, the Native people have not been reduced to stereotypes.
Stay tuned for my interview with Zahn McClarnon and other actors on the show.
About Dark Winds
AMC Networks announced that it has ordered a second season of the Western noir crime thriller Dark Winds. Produced by AMC Studios, the six-episode second season will arrive on AMC+ and AMC next year. The season one premiere on June 12 attracted an audience of 2.2 million viewers on AMC in Nielsen live+3 ratings, becoming the #5 cable drama premiere of the current broadcast TV season. Dark Winds is also the #1 new series launch in AMC+ history. The series has a 100-point score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the founder and editor of Native Viewpoint. With over 16 years of experience as a Native journalist and former member of the White House Press Pool. Follow Vincent on Twitter at @VinceSchilling or on any other of his social media accounts by clicking on any of the icons below.
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