Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions
The natural way to lead a review of “Dark Winds,” which premieres Sunday [last night] on AMC, would be to note that it is a series written, directed and performed largely by Native Americans; set in the Navajo Nation and filmed on location in New Mexico and Arizona; and bringing to screen the tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee from Tony Hillerman’s best-selling mystery novels.
Or you could cut to the chase and just say: Oh thank God, someone finally gave Zahn McClarnon his own television show.
McClarnon, Lakota on his mother’s side, has been one of TV’s most reliable supporting players, improving one show after another in which other people got better billing. He drew notice as the killer Hanzee Dent in “Fargo” and the robot warrior Akecheta in “Westworld,” taking what were to some extent stereotypes of the implacable or noble savage and investing them with real emotion. His best showcase was in the straightforward cowboy-crime drama “Longmire,” in which he gave vivid life to a sardonic, capable, eternally frustrated tribal policeman.
He’s playing a cop again in “Dark Winds” — as he does in a supporting role in another Native American-driven series, the comedy “Reservation Dogs” — but this time he’s at the center of the action. Lt. Joe Leaphorn is in charge of a police station on the Navajo reservation; when a double homicide takes place, the F.B.I. runs the investigation, but all the responsibility and anguish are his. When the lead F.B.I. agent, played by Noah Emmerich, suggests that the murders might get more attention if Leaphorn helped with an off-reservation armored-car robbery, we see the power dynamics from the point of view of the underfunded, understaffed tribal functionary.
Most often, I don’t attempt to improve on reviews published in a reputable source like the TIMES, written by an established critic like Mike Hale. Don’t worry, this is another one of those moments. And I will be watching every episode.
All I might add is “color”…having spent some time on the Res…get back every now and then to see friends living and working in the Navajo Nation. A couple of switches thrown to the opposite pole BITD, I might still be there…instead of down the road a piece in northern NM, Santa Fe County. Read that review. Click the link up top!