Leaphorn and Chee look to the future


The first season of AMC dark winds ended in a tense and violent confrontation at the Buffalo Society hideout. As Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito approached the thieves’ den, they faced a surprising enemy. But Episode 6 — titled “HózhóoNaashá” — did more than just solve the big mystery of the show’s first season and set the stage for season two. It also featured several characters coming to terms with their complicated pasts. Some found a way to move forward, while others struggled with the weight of their painful history.

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Dark Winds season 1 finale.]

Whitover has been working with the armored car thieves the whole time

That dark winds The season finale opens with a big – if not entirely unexpected – revelation in a flashback. Agent Whitover (The American‘ Noah Emmerich) was involved in the armored car robbery. After tracking down James Tso (Jeremiah Bitsui) after a bank robbery in Stockton, California, he forced the political activist to team up with him on his next job. Tso didn’t have much of a choice: work with the corrupt and racist FBI agent or go to jail.

Back in the present, Agent Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon) has found out that his boss played a role in the robbery, but it’s too late to personally warn Sergeant Bernadette Manuelito (Jessica Matten). She and Whitover have already gone in pursuit of Tso’s accomplice, Frank Nakai (Eugene Brave Rock), who escaped from prison. Instead, he reaches her over the radio.

Whitover’s complete disinterest in (and disrespect for) Navajo culture has been evident since we met him in Episode 1. Here it works to Chee and Manuelito’s advantage as they can communicate with each other in Diné as a blank Whitover listens.

Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito face off against Whitover and the Buffalo Society members

Jessica Matten as Sgt. Bernadette Manuelito in ‘Dark Winds’ Season 1 Episode 6 | Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions/AMC

Manuelito, Chee, and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) all descend separately into the cave where Tso and Nakai are holed up with the Mormon family they’ve taken hostage.

Leaphorn sneaks into the hideout but ends up in a narrow passage after Tso and Nakai spot him. Chee meets Whitover, and the older agent quickly realizes his former protégé has figured out what he’s up to and shoots him, albeit not fatally. Manuelito, who left Whitover as soon as they arrived, rescues the Mormons.

A quick think from Leaphorn throws him off (literally). Meanwhile, Chee finds Manuelito. The couple’s budding relationship faltered when she learned he was an FBI agent, but now it only takes a few words to clear the air. “You didn’t have to come back,” she tells him. “I know, but you’re here,” he replies.

A confrontation between Whitover, Leaphorn, Tso and Nakai in the cave ends with Nakai being fatally shot (or so it seems) and Leaphorn being wounded and left for dead. Tso sets out on foot while Whitover collects his half of the loot.

Whitover meets his end

Whitover plans to blow up the hideout, which Tso and Nakai have already wired up with explosives. But Chee and Manuelito catch him in the act. She saves Leaphorn while Chee faces off against his former mentor. The FBI agent explains that he has set everything up to make it appear that Chee is a political radical who committed the crimes on behalf of the Buffalo Society. Playing on Chee’s apparent desire to escape his past, he tells him that if he looks the other way, he can get the promotion he’s always wanted, plus some of the money from the heist. But Chee’s return to the place where he grew up has changed his attitude. He tells Whitover he has no interest in his “blood money.”

“I had high hopes for you, but you gave it all away to solve the murder of a dying old Indian and a second-rate whore,” says Whitover. Those words seal his fate, but not through Chee’s hands. Instead, it’s Guy (Ryan Begay) who fires the shot that kills the agent. By accident, he stumbles into the showdown at the cave and overhears Whitover’s snide remarks about his murdered daughter.

With Whitover dead, Chee and Manuelito make a quick decision to cover up what really happened. They bring his body into the cave and blow up the hideout, agreeing not to tell Leaphorn what they did.

Leaphorn tries to prevent tragedy

Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn holding his hat in the season one finale of Dark Winds

Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn ‘Dark Winds’ Season 1 Episode 6 | Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions/AMC

While Chee and Manuelito deal with the chaos in the cave, Leaphorn tracks Tso to his grandfather’s house.

Tso gains the upper hand and holds Leaphorn at gunpoint. In a powerful scene, Joe tries to reason with the increasingly distressed and agitated man, who says he did everything he could to help her people. Leaphorn says he understands his anger and knows what happened to Tso while he was at an Indian boarding school. But the pain he feels doesn’t give him the right to hurt others.

“We create our own future,” says Leaphorn as James prepares to kill himself. “This is survival. That’s our strength.” But James is hopeless. His spirits impelled him to “fight for a just world.” And there is “no message more righteous than a martyr,” he says. He lets Leaphorn go and then dies by suicide.

As Leaphorn closes, Chee makes a decision about his future

That dark winds The finale ends with Leaphorn putting some of his own spirits to rest. The cop’s grief at the death of his only child in a mine accident a few years ago was rekindled by the murder of his son’s girlfriend in the first episode, and the loss of the two young people lingers throughout the season. In the end, their families, who have fallen out in the past, come together for an emotional ceremony in which Joe and his wife Emma (Deanna Allison) burn their son’s jacket.

Three months later, Chee, who left the FBI, is back at his family’s former home. He initially returned to Arizona to further his career. But his time on the reservation has prompted him to reevaluate his life and reconnect with his roots. He meets up with Leaphorn, who tells him there’s a place for him in the Navajo Police Department if he wants it. But he has some questions about what happened in the cave. He knows Chee lied in his official report. But Nakai’s body was never found, nor was his share of the money he helped help. The episode ends with Chee beginning to apologize to Leaphorn. But Leaphorn stops him before he can get the words out. “I know,” he says as he turns to leave.

With the core mystery solved (save for the lingering question of Nakai’s whereabouts), the finale offers a satisfying conclusion dark winds debut season while also setting the stage for Season 2. Chee seems to have returned home to the Navajo Nation for good, and he and Leaphorn have cemented their partnership. Plus, there’s a lot to explore when it comes to Chee and Manuelito’s relationship. With new episodes set to air sometime in 2023, fans have a lot to look forward to in the next season of the show.

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