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Recommended: Dark Winds on AMC

TV's latest crackerjack whodunit is set in the Navajo Nation, with an especially compelling lead character.
  • Zahn McClarnon in Dark Winds (Photo: Michael Moriatis/AMC)
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    Dark Winds Season 1 | AMC
    Crime Drama (6 episodes) | TV-MA

    What's Dark Winds About?

    In the early 1970s, a bank robbery and several murders are connected to the Navajo Nation. That leaves Navajo officer Joe Leaphorn to figure out what's menacing his community, while fending off FBI agents who want to manipulate the case to serve their own ambitions.

    Who's involved?

    • Zahn McClarnon (Longmire, Westworld) stars as Joe Leaphorn. He's mostly a quiet, good-natured man, but these cases dredge up hard memories from his past.
    • Kiowa Gordon (the Twilight films) is Jim Chee, an FBI agent who's been assigned to work with Leaphorn. He's Navajo, but it's not clear where his loyalties lie.
    • Jessica Matten plays Navajo officer Bernadette Manuelito. She's a smart, tough woman who sees how Native magic impacts the cases.
    • Noah Emmerich (The Americans) is Chee's boss at the FBI. He's looking out for himself, and he doesn't pretend otherwise.
    • Rainn Wilson (The Office) is a used car salesman whose reckless personal life gets him tied up in the crimes.
    • Robert Redford and George R.R. Martin executive produce the series.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Crime novel buffs may recognize these characters from Tony Hillerman's long-running series of "Leaphorn and Chee" books, and Dark Winds does a crackerjack job adapting the third novel in the franchise. The fascinating central mystery gets texture from supernatural touches involving Navajo magic, and many scenes are shot with a heightened style that puts a jolt of the unknown into everyday incidents. When a car stops on the highway, for instance, it's perfectly placed beneath a dark storm cloud, suggesting that the people inside are in trouble. And when Chee and Leaphorn stare out over a lake, they're shot from underneath, making them look as tall as folk heroes against the sky.

    But while these flouirishes give the show a passing resemblance to recent rural sci-fi stories like Outer Range or Night Sky, for the most part Dark Winds is a straightforward detective yarn, built with careful attention to the details of the policework and the lives of the Navajo characters.

    Leaphorn embodies both: He's depicted as an excellent officer, but he also gets a rich life beyond his badge. In what's arguably the most effective scene of the entire first season, he speaks honestly with his wife about a family tragedy from three years earlier, with McClaren giving a remarkable, raw performance.

    Pairs well with

    • Under the Banner of Heaven, FX's absorbing thriller about a murder in a devout Mormon enclave.
    • Mare of Easttown (HBO), another recent (and excellent) crime drama with a fascinating central character.
    • Midnight Mass, Mike Flanagan's Netflix series uses horror tropes to explore deep questions about religious faith.

  • Dark Winds (Season 1)
    Premieres on AMC and AMC+ June 12. Subsequent episodes air on AMC Sunday nights at 9:00 PM ET through July 17, premiering a week earlier on AMC+.
    Created by: Graham Roland. Based on the books by Tony Hillerman.
    Starring: Zahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Noah Emmerich, and Rainn Wilson.
    Directed by: Chris Eyre and Sanford Bookstaver.
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    TOPICS: Dark Winds, AMC, Chris Eyre, Graham Roland, Jessica Matten, Kiowa Gordon, Noah Emmerich, Rainn Wilson, Sanford Bookstaver, Zahn McClarnon