Sunday, August 20, 2023

REVIEW: 'Dark Winds' - Leaphorn Pushes His Body and Mind to Their Limits Hunting the Man Who Killed His Son in 'The March'

AMC's Dark Winds - Episode 2.04 "The March"

Leaphorn risks his life in pursuit of a suspect, while Manuelito stands up to the sheriff in a bid to rescue her boss. Seeking answers on a case, Chee considers a dangerous proposition.

"The March" was written by Jason Gavin and directed by Michael Nankin

Leaphorn and Manuelito engage in a prolonged gunfight and manhunt with the Blond Man. Their confrontation didn't end the moment the assassin trapped them in his trailer and opened fire. That was the heavily stylized way in which the season opened. Leaphorn was ready for this confrontation to end. It wasn't the conclusion. In fact, it forced each of them to reckon with how far they are willing to go in the name of survival. Their bodies are pushed to their absolute limits. Leaphorn will never force Manuelito to do something she doesn't want to do. He makes the leap down the cliff to continue pursuing the man who killed his son. Manuelito has a different motivation. She tries to save the man who has been a surrogate father for her. Her life was forever changed when Leaphorn entered it. She looks beyond the horizon to see what other opportunities exist out there. However, she will risk everything to save Leaphorn. She will save him from having to make the most impossible decision. This hunt is personal for Leaphorn. He follows a code. He views that as the biggest difference between him and the killer. The Blond Man believes they are the same. When asked to fight for their lives, they will make the exact same decisions to prevail. At first, it appears as if the assassin has the advantage. He was equipped with the resources necessary to survive if he needed to abandon the trailer. He has already been running all day. He enjoyed the comfort of home only for a brief bit before Leaphorn and Manuelito arrived. He refuses to stop fighting. Being placed in handcuffs and dragged through the desolate area with a rope tied around his neck isn't necessarily the end. He still has the capacity to fight back. He even successfully escapes. He's right in detailing the many ways in which Leaphorn's health is failing him. The lieutenant can only keep a firm hold on the rope for so long. After that, the Blond Man will contort and destroy his body as far as he has to in order to achieve his freedom once more. And yet, Leaphorn still possesses a gun. It only carries one bullet in it. That was a clear decision by Leaphorn. He gave himself only one opportunity to kill his son's murderer if he had the chance. He didn't want to agonize over that decision. Of course, he still obviously does. That's the subject through which this entire conversation occurs. Leaphorn doesn't require his captive to understand that deeply personal motivation. It's not some way to bond or offer greater understanding of the past. Leaphorn's world has already been uprooted in so many ways. He carries himself with conviction and certainty. He doesn't need more out of life. Challenges still come his way. His mentality limits those who serve under him. He doesn't want to forever alter the lives of others. He still carries the ability to do just that. It plays out in a different context than the Blond Man's job as a hitman. It's eerily similar in some ways too.

Terror still reigns throughout the reservation. That's communicated through the final looks between Leaphorn and the Blond Man. The criminal has been captured. He's behind bars now. Leaphorn completes the job even though he's in dire need of medical attention. He has to see it through to the end. He absolutely believes death is the punishment this criminal deserves. However, he is willing to let his fate be decided by the criminal justice system. It's worth waiting for that final judgment to be rendered. Leaphorn doesn't have to carry it out personally. And yet, that provides time for the assassin to continue fighting back. He's relentless. He won't give up in his personal quest. He survives this grueling encounter. He may have a moment to rest because everyone believes he's defeated. He's not the only threat to this community either. The indigenous culture is under attack. Moreover, people have internal anxieties about what matters to them. Emma assumes many of the motherly responsibilities with Sally's baby. As a teenager, Sally is frightened by so much. A lot has been taken from her. She appreciates all that Emma and Leaphorn have done for her. But she feels trapped in a life where she never made any of these decisions. Others were fighting for what mattered to them. She was simply hit in the crossfire. She has the space to grow and ask these questions. Some of that vitriol is directed to Emma as she operates with certainty on how to protect this community. Sally offers a different perspective. One that highlights her innocence and fear. Rosemary Vines is terrified as well. She's overcome with emotion when Chee shares that both Emerson and Tomas Charley were killed. She didn't know that. She recognizes the far-reaching consequences of her actions. She set in motion so much of this chaos and destruction. That's because she wanted to protect her husband's business interests. He didn't ask that of her. He exerts control over her. He must dictate the terms by which she can live. She has very little exertion of her own identity. She wants ownership over her luxurious life. And yet, he constantly reminds her that none of this was of her own making. She only messes things up. That is beaten into her. She shouldn't accept more than this. She can't move beyond these boundaries. She doesn't exist as anything else. B.J. Vines is a central figure in the criminal actions on the reservation as of late. His world has gotten the attention of the local police. He must maintain order. He's also a desperate husband trying to control his wife. He doesn't like her independence. He believes she's cheating. Meanwhile, Chee is examining their relationship from a different perspective. They aren't being honest as they try to manipulate others into doing what they want. It's too obvious to be successful. As such, they only expose more of the illegality of their lives. That requires further examination. Again, not everything becomes peaceful with the capture of the Blond Man. It provokes existential questions while pushing everyone to take actions that affirm precisely who they are in this world.