Sunday, June 12, 2022

REVIEW: 'Dark Winds' - Leaphorn Patterns With Chee After an Elaborate Heist Points to the Reservation in 'Monster Slayer'

AMC's Dark Winds - Episode 1.01 "Monster Slayer"

Navajo Tribal Policeman Joe Leaphorn must solve a series of crimes. He partners with new deputy, Jim Chee, who is back on the reservation for the first time since he was a child. Together they face down evil forces both earthly and supernatural.

"Monster Slayer" was written by Graham Roland and directed by Chris Eyre

Leaphorn respects Chee for returning to the reservation after leaving to pursue a college education. It shows a commitment to this place and its community. Chee has no family. He has no connections to this landscape anymore. That makes it more admirable that he has returned to be of service to the local police. Leaphorn quickly relies on him for the demands of this job. He sees the younger version of himself. He too left this place for college. He returned and is now in charge of the local police. He has history in this community. His presence isn't always appreciated. He may only bring bad news wherever he goes. A family's world is shaken because he happens to carry the devastating news of the death of their daughter. He can offer no answers or closure either. A man went to a healer for help after his body was thrown out of whack upon seeing a helicopter in the sky. The healer survived her time in the motel room. She has been rendered unable to speak. She can offer no insight to her family or the police about what happened. Moreover, no one knows how the teenage daughter exactly died. She shows no signs of immediate trauma. The cause of death can only be confirmed by an official autopsy. Leaphorn understands that the FBI won't take this case seriously. They have never cared about the dead bodies of the indigenous population. And yet, it's his responsibility to hand this case over to the feds. Murder is a federal crime. This is the arrangement the reservation has with the government. Leaphorn has authority over his community. He's still rendered powerless when it comes to a country that doesn't care about the well-being of his people. He appreciates it whenever he has people devoted to the mission. They have a wide swath of the country that needs to be patrolled and monitored. People's lives are thrown into danger as a result of crime. People hold onto their steadfast beliefs. They may only have power in this particular community where the majority buy into the superstitions. It means something here. To the average outsider, it's nothing more than a novelty tourist item. The various communities have an inherent distrust of each other. The FBI doesn't believe the tribal police will help them search for bank robbers who pulled off a massive heist. The tribal police doesn't think the FBI cares about the murders that happen on the reservation. They are always at that impasse. They talk yet nothing is expected to happen. That's the cynical nature of this world.

Of course, Leaphorn does eventually find the helicopter that was used to commit the heist. Sure, he doesn't have confirmation of it's existence in this territory quite yet. He only has his suspicions based on the potential poisoning of a local water supply. That's where he looks for answers. He leads with those instincts. He's devastated by personal tragedy. That radiates throughout this community even though it's purposefully left cryptic for the audience. He mourns that loss. It doesn't prevent him from doing his job. His wife would rather have him leave all the connections to the past behind. It serves no purpose to linger on what was lost. It's better to live in the moment and be grateful for the happiness they still have. They can trust what's happening right in front of them. It's difficult because of Leaphorn's close proximity to the community. More tragedy has occurred. He has to act on these impulses. He must search for the truth even though he doesn't have the authority to do so. He doesn't have to be forthcoming with everything he does either. He and Manuelito try their best to offer advice to Chee about how to do this job effectively and safely. He monitors the situation. He puts his life in danger. However, he was planted in this community by Agent Whitover who believes that's the only way he can ever receive earnest and fulfilling cooperation. He has one of his fellow agents go in undercover. He's exploiting the protected nature of this community and its laws in the name of getting the recognition he so badly wants. He doesn't care about Chee's conflicted nature. He has returned to his home community. He's not seen as a loyal and genuine member of the tribe. The white man wants him to be on their side. As a result, they can carry out whatever mission they want because they have the sign off of one member from this community. Chee is trusted to speak for all the people from the reservation. He's never expected to lead with the authentic nature of what this culture is like. Sure, he recognizes that the totem is missing from the crime scene. He has the wisdom to know that when everyone else in the room is clueless. Leaphorn isn't infallible either. He makes mistakes. He is dealing with those repercussions. He still leads with admiration for Chee. He was thrown by his sudden introduction into this world. He keeps him at a distance because Chee doesn't know the extent of the horrors this community has faced recently. That still stands in contrast to Whitover who only sees Chee as a way for him to get what he wants. Chee has his own questions. He voices them on occasion. It's still not enough for him to be satisfied or advance the interests of anyone trying to fulfill their agendas in this particular world.