Sunday, September 3, 2023

REVIEW: 'Dark Winds' - Leaphorn Accepts the Justice That Must Be Delivered Despite His Moral Lines in 'Hózhó Náhásdlįį'

AMC's Dark Winds - Episode 2.06 "Hózhó Náhásdlįį"

Leaphorn and Chee discover evidence that connects their cases, only for Leaphorn to realize justice won't be easily served. Meanwhile, Manuelito prepares for a big life change.

"Hózhó Náhásdlįį" was written by Graham Roland & John Wirth and directed by Chris Eyre

Leaphorn survived an excruciating journey through the desert. The spirits of his ancestors protected him. He and the Blond Man had unfinished business that could only be fully realized through the criminal justice system. Leaphorn had to pull the clues together to prove that the Blond Man was hired by B.J. Vines to blow up the mine. He eventually gathers that evidence. B.J. is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. Leaphorn is there to serve the arrest warrant. These characters operate in a two-tier system of justice though. Henry realized long ago that white men are held to different standards. The justice system is set up to protect them no matter what. B.J. Vines wielded his money and political influence to get every local judge on the bench. None of them carry the independence and integrity to hold him responsible for the deaths of indigenous people. B.J. is released on bail. He's home the same day. Leaphorn's mood shifts once he hears the news. He's content with his role within law enforcement. He doesn't aspire for more. He had his life plotted out. Sena would remain as Sheriff while Manuelito would eventually replace Leaphorn as tribal police lieutenant. Those expectations don't line up with reality. Leaphorn holds himself to a high moral standard. He chose not to kill the Blond Man. The assassin instead gets shot in the back by his employer. The narrative shifts to center on B.J. as the true big bad all along. So much time and attention has placed on the Blond Man. He was an imposing figure who presented with superhero strength and determination. And yet, the attempts to provide more depth largely fell flat. His death is anticlimactic. Leaphorn pulls Sena to safety. Protecting his mentor is the priority. And then, everything shifts to arresting B.J. Leaphorn has his suspicions. It only takes a few more hours to gather the proof. He could only keep the federal agents away for so long. He had to relinquish custody of the Blond Man. It was no longer in his control. He exists in a space where his morality dictates the outcome of so many lives. Chee and Manuelito have made those consequential decisions as well in the name of preserving their community. Meanwhile, B.J. ordered an action knowing innocent lives would be lost. Leaphorn has more legal authority. He's still tasked with providing "Indian justice" to this situation. He ultimately delivers. He doesn't pull the trigger once he forces B.J. to his knees in the middle of the desert. However, he leaves him behind in the cold of the night to let his fate be dictated by the ancestors. Leaphorn knows what's likely to happen. He makes peace with that. The system was all set to deliver the death penalty to the Blond Man given the crimes he blatantly committed. The same punishment is fitting for B.J. because Leaphorn says so. It's what he wants. He ensures it happens when he hits a corrupt system that doesn't abide by the same morals.

The reservation is steeped in culture and history. The community never has the luxury of forgetting the past. They can't be silent about the injustices done against them either. Their bonds are strong. However, they exist in a larger world where so many seek to oppress their humanity. They each have to reckon with that. They have to fight to preserve their culture while operating in a system that doesn't value who they are. Some have to leave to find that individuality and strength. Chee surmises that Rosemary hired him in the first place so law enforcement would discover B.J. forged the geological survey pertaining to the mine. That action carried a ton of unintended consequences. It gave her the excuse to finally break free of his repressive reach. She escaped. She still treated this community poorly. She only saw the indigenous lives as for her service. Chee fulfilled a job. She hopes her failing health earns her sympathy. That deception only carries her so far. She never committed a crime. Her punishment isn't death. That looms given how she has treated her body. She's free but never feels like she belongs anywhere. She sees that similarity with Chee. And yet, he found his place on the reservation. He finally joins the tribal police. He does so to support Leaphorn following Manuelito's decision to join the border patrol. The realities of this job have become too much for her. She still aspires to serve. She sees the opportunity to do so elsewhere. Sure, it's unfortunate that Chee waits until she's leaving to show his acceptance of his identity. That was the largest hurdle he had to overcome to be emotionally available. Now, Manuelito is off on her journey of self-discovery. She needs a new perspective to understand what other opportunities exist. She is grateful for everything Leaphorn has done for her. She doesn't want to be stuck in his expectations. It's freeing to explore the great unknown. It's scary too. Sally understands that impulse. She's surrounded by a loving family. Balance is restored through the celebration of her son's first laugh. That highlights his acceptance of this life. He is moving forward and choosing humanity. His spirit can now be seen as an individual. That distinction is made. Sally is grateful. She also has to leave. These changes aren't devastating to Leaphorn and Emma. They easily could have. Instead, they are full of acceptance and peace. They have clarity as to who killed their son. They are no longer living in secret about their pain and suffering. They are speaking out to make a difference. Leaphorn doesn't want to run for sheriff. He has the acceptance of his father who understands "Indian justice" was delivered. This family will be okay. They questioned their safety and sanity in the past. They doubted if they could ever move on. This conclusion offers that potential even though the demands of the job will continue. Their very existence will be threatened again by outsiders with complete disregard for their culture. They reside within their power. That has only strengthened over the course of two seasons.