Sunday, July 30, 2023

REVIEW: 'Dark Winds' - Leaphorn and Chee's Separate Cases Quickly Lead Them to Team Up Once More in 'Na'niłkaadii'

AMC's Dark Winds - Episode 2.01 "Na'niłkaadii"

Navajo Tribal Policeman Joe Leaphorn investigates the death of a man involved in a mysterious cult. While moonlighting as a PI, Jim Chee works a case of his own. When their investigations collide, Leaphorn and Chee find themselves in grave danger.

Na'niłkaadii" was written by John Wirth & Rhiana Yazzie and directed by Chris Eyre

Emma insists a ceremony must be performed to restore balance within the family. Leaphorn believes his life would be one constant ceremony given the grim nature of his job. Both Emma and Leaphorn are thrown into danger right away. For Leaphorn and Manuelito, it's a tease of what's to come in six days. They have tracked their suspect down to a trailer. They could wait hours for backup to arrive. Instead, they are ready to take down the criminal who was targeted their lives over the last few days. It ends with them dropping to the floor in the hopes of avoiding a spray of bullets. That's the perilous way the season starts. Danger lurks in this community before that disaster happens though. Emma takes a patient to the hospital after his fingers are bitten off by a goat. While waiting to see him after the successive surgery, a car bomb goes off. A man dying of cancer was killed. The motivation seemingly doesn't make any sense. Everyone in this community buys into the idea that everything is connected in some way. They are skeptical of any inherent accidents. They stick to their beliefs. Leaphorn immediately finds the bomb fragments which isn't what anyone wants to hear. However, it's not difficult to deduce either. It just requires the right investigative instincts. Leaphorn sees that evidence instead of accepting a naive assumption of events. He challenges himself and his officers to look deeper. They uphold their principles. They share those convictions. They remain targeted by the outside world. Their culture and land is being appropriated. People without the same reverence are coming in to secure their own selfish interests. A burden has been lifted from Leaphorn's shoulders. He has found some semblance of peace. He is capable of making light-hearted comments. He was previously full of rage over the death of his son. The pain of that tragedy still lingers. It's never too far removed. The past is always finding new ways to rear its ugly head. Chee is hired to retrieve a box stolen from a safe during a robbery. He doesn't know what the contents of the box are. They are seemingly unimportant. And then, Leaphorn discovers something that belonged to his son: the buckle he happened to be wearing the day he died. Joe Jr. couldn't escape that tragedy even though others were warned that it was imminent. Leaphorn has tried to hold people accountable for that crime. It's difficult given his limited power and influence. He enforces the laws on the tribal land. He has a ton of responsibilities and limited resources. He has to make the best with what he has. He's always targeted by those who believe it should be easy taking advantage of this wide open space and disparate community. It's not as Leaphorn always proves.

A fanatic sect of Navajo have begun practicing witchcraft. They fear white people have taken their beliefs and made them their own. As such, they must be punished for their treachery. That's the motivation for how Leaphorn and Chee's investigations collide. The son of the man killed in the car bomb broke into the Vines home. Chee receives directions for where the box can be found. Leaphorn doesn't get an opportunity to talk with the person who can provide greater clarity in his pursuit of the truth. It allows Leaphorn and Chee to team up again quickly into the new season. They aren't kept apart pursuing their own independent leads. Chee hasn't joined the tribal police. Instead, he's working as a private investigator. He is building trust in the community. His reputation is already good enough for Rosemary Vines to hire him for this job. She places an immediate deadline to complete the task. It's a lucrative opportunity as well. One where he has to prove his worth. Ultimately, he gets shot in the shoulder. Leaphorn and Chee don't have much time to process what they discovered. It's also unclear why this mysterious assassin has arrived in the area. He's in desperate search of someone. That obviously ties into the rest of the plot somehow. That's the element shrouded in secrecy a little bit. He will continue to create problems for all the representatives of law enforcement. That extends to Chee too. He needs a minute to recover. Another car explodes. The criminal gets away. Leaphorn is no closer to understanding how these various pieces connect. He has trusted partners. Strange things are still happening on tribal land. Manuelito doesn't believe it when it's suggested an alien sheep roams the land eating fingers. But then, she encounters a sheep with oddly shaped horns. She brings it back to the station knowing the animal must be important to someone. It may have a connection to the debris from the U.S. Air Force that she finds. The federal government doesn't care about the damage left behind in this community by its actions. Instead, that entity is more concerned about advancing the interests of the entire nation's security. It represents a true cost to people though. Many are made to suffer because of a lack of empathy from outsiders. Right now, this community can only trust each other. That was enough to thwart the deceit in the first season. This place is still unpredictable. It may possess mystical qualities. People try their best to tap into that energy to protect the people they love. Leaphorn knows greater peace within himself now. Turmoil and dysfunction are never too far away though. He always finds a gun fight on a mountaintop at some point. He'll risk his life retrieving a rifle even when his truck is about to explode. That's still not productive enough to stop the person shooting at him and Chee. It just leaves them stranded with only the support of each other in order to survive. That's comforting because their relationship is built on trust. Danger still lurks absolutely everywhere even as people try to preserve what matters in this landscape and within their families.