Sunday, July 17, 2022

REVIEW: 'Dark Winds' - Leaphorn and Chee Must Cope With the Necessary Actions to Stop the Buffalo Society in 'Hózhóo Naasháa'

AMC's Dark Winds - Episode 1.06 "Hózhóo Naasháa"

Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito descend on the hiding place of the Buffalo Society, only to be confronted with hard decisions that could change the outcome of the rest of their lives.

"Hózhóo Naasháa" was written by Maya Rose Dittloff and directed by Chris Eyre

Agent Whitover has been in on the crime the entire time. Chee made that massive realization and had to get back to the police station as quickly as possible. He didn't arrive in time to prevent Manuelito from driving off with Whitover. And yet, it's still relatively easy for him to warn her about this development. So much of this finale is built up from the tension of people closing in on one another. The audience has to be very aware of the placement and proximity of each character. It all happens in a confined space. It's still in the picturesque landscape of the tribal land. That helps explain why so much time seems to elapse in certain instances before characters intervene. It's all meant to be chaotic. Everyone has to be self-sufficient. Moreover, they can create whatever story they believe will protect them in the long run. They don't have to worry about being exposed or even disappointing one another. They are keeping themselves accountable. That leaves some completely susceptible to corruption. Whitover broke bad because he saw an opportunity for a huge financial payoff. He didn't care about the Buffalo Society. Their mission didn't compel him into action. He simply saw a crew capable of pulling off elaborate heists. They got away with the money as the federal government isn't anywhere close to arresting them. Of course, Whitover is trusted to operate from that position of authority. He even has the evidence that points directly back to James. And yet, he opts to make a deal to secure his own future. That preservation stands above the nobility of his job. He carefully placed Chee in this community in the hopes of helping manipulate the final outcome. It still mostly comes across as too complicated for anyone to truly map out successfully from the very beginning. Plans changed as a result of the police closing in. Everyone has to think in the heat of the moment. Even then, it ends with plenty of chaos and destruction. In this moment of confrontation, it's no longer about the ideals of what anyone was trying to do. The bigger picture of this environment is gone. Nothing is framed by the tragedy of Leaphorn losing his son or massive corporations coming into this community to start drilling. It's about the individuals who carried out this crime and the police trying to stop them. All of this positioning occurred at the end of the previous episode. It all has to come to fruition now. So many wildcards are present in the narrative. The Mormon family are mostly useless. The father simply alerts Guy to the chaos happening elsewhere. That makes him central to the climax in a way that would have been too good to be true otherwise. It also prevents the central characters from having to make that fateful decision. Instead, they get to linger on other matters.

Guy kills Whitover. Chee and Manuelito decide to cover up the crime. They place Whitover's body in the cave and detonate it. That was always a part of James' plan. It was a way to leave no evidence behind and eliminate anyone who invaded this space. Leaphorn was in that very specific danger for a long time. And yes, he does dislocate his shoulder during this confrontation. He didn't know Whitover was complicit. That was mostly lame even though it would have been true to the moment. It conveys Whitover and Leaphorn wanting to trust and admire each other. That always rings false. Whitover could never escape his trappings as a white man eager to exploit the tribal community. Leaphorn yearned for more cooperation from the federal government. Instead, he only got people eager to further corrupt this landscape. That extends to Chee as well. He quits his job with the bureau after this chaos. He returns to his family's home not sure what the future brings. He still made the decision to stage a crime scene. He did so to protect a man avenging the death of his daughter. So many characters can relate to the rage of that moment. Leaphorn has experienced it too. He doesn't want to kill anyone during this confrontation. He wants to hold them accountable through the justice system. James could still serve as a powerful messenger from behind bars. He doesn't want to accept that fate. Leaphorn can ensure no one can leave this setting. They are trapped here regardless of their actions. Leaphorn is without a weapon. However, James is the one truly trapped. He only sees one way out of this situation. That's not the choice Leaphorn presents for him. He argues how survival is the greatest message of determination in this world. Outsiders have tried to crush this culture. The indigenous community was forced to assimilate. The land has been mistreated and abused. And yet, the community continues to exist. They may only aspire for brief moments of salvation and beauty. Those moments make life worth it. They see how special this world can be. They come together during turbulent times. They can mourn these great losses without fear of losing their way. Families are brought together as a result of the chaos this season. Lives were lost too. That can never be forgotten. It's more than just the criminals who opted to avoid the most significant consequences. People still have to reckon with what they've done. Chee and Manuelito have to live with that. They did so to keep Leaphorn protected. He couldn't know the truth. They thought that was right. They were acting on impulse. Upon reflection, they see the potential mistakes they made. They have to accept them while knowing Leaphorn always questioned their story. They are still accepted on this land. This is their home. They belong here even when much of their lives elsewhere is a complete unknown. That provides enough closure while maintaining a solid format for what the audience can expect from this storytelling in the years to come.