|Created by||Graham Roland|
|Based on||Leaphorn & Chee series|
by Tony Hillerman
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Production location||New Mexico|
|Running time||39–53 minutes|
|Original release||June 12, 2022 –|
Dark Winds is an American psychological thriller television series created by Graham Roland based on the Leaphorn & Chee novel series by Tony Hillerman. It premiered on AMC and AMC+ on June 12, 2022, with the first season consisting of six episodes. After its premiere, the series was renewed for a six-episode second season, which premiered on July 30, 2023. In September 2023, the series was renewed for a third season.
The series follows two Navajo police officers, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, in the 1970s Southwest. The first season is primarily based on Listening Woman (1978) and elements of People of Darkness (1980). The second season adapts People of Darkness.
Cast and characters
- Zahn McClarnon as Joe Leaphorn, a veteran tribal police lieutenant based in Kayenta, a town in Navajo County.
- Kiowa Gordon as Jim Chee, an undercover FBI agent who becomes Leaphorn's newest deputy.
- Jessica Matten as Bernadette Manuelito, a Navajo tribal police sergeant who is sharp as a tack and works closely with Leaphorn.
- Deanna Allison[a] as Emma Leaphorn, Leaphorn's wife and a nurse.
- Rainn Wilson as Dan "Devoted Dan" DeMarco (season 1), a degenerate missionary and used-car dealer who relies on his faith to recruit followers.
- Elva Guerra[b] as Sally Growing Thunder, a pregnant teenager who is taken in by the Leaphorns.
- Jeremiah Bitsui as James Tso / Hoski (season 1), a secretive Navajo priest.
- Eugene Brave Rock as Frank Nakai (season 1), a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Buffalo Society, an extremist group.
- Noah Emmerich as Leland Whitover (season 1), a burned-out FBI agent whose career is dying and who is Chee's handler.
- Nicholas Logan as Colton Wolf (season 2)
- Natalie Benally as Natalie Bluehouse
- DezBaa' as Helen Atcitty
- Ryan Begay as Guy Atcitty
- John Diehl as B.J. Vines (seasons 1–2)
- Jonathan Adams as Lester (season 1)
- Rob Tepper as Pete Samuels (season 1)
- Amelia Rico as Ada Growing Thunder (season 1)
- Jeri Ryan as Rosemary Vines (season 2)
- A Martinez as Sheriff Gordo Sena (season 2)
- Jacqueline Byers as Mary Landon (season 2)
|First released||Last released|
|1||6||June 12, 2022||July 17, 2022|
|2||6||July 30, 2023||September 3, 2023|
Season 1 (2022)
This section's plot summaries may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2023)
|Title||Directed by||Teleplay by||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|1||1||"Monster Slayer"||Chris Eyre||Graham Roland||June 12, 2022||1.38|
|In Gallup, New Mexico, robbers pilot a helicopter to rob an armored truck, killing two guards. The fleeing helicopter flies over the nearby Navajo reservation, where it is seen by an older man named Hosteen Tso. Three weeks later, Tso is found dead in a motel room along with Anna Atcitty, the granddaughter of a Medicine Woman he was visiting due to ailments since seeing the helicopter. Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police investigates the murders; Tso's body is mutilated, while Anna's body is unmarked. Leaphorn has a personal history with Anna's family, which he does not disclose to his colleagues. The medicine woman is blind, and in a catatonic state since witnessing the murders. Leaphorn's wife, Emma, a nurse, convinces him to investigate the living conditions of a pregnant girl named Sally Growing Thunder, who visited her clinic. Leaphorn's deputy Bernadette Manuelito visits Sally's home but is intimidated by her mother, a witch, and convinced the woman cursed her. As Leaphorn begins his investigation, his department is joined by Deputy Jim Chee, who is, in reality, an undercover agent for the FBI. Agent Whitover, who was responsible for planting Chee, believes the armored truck robbery was committed by a Navajo radical group called the Buffalo Society and wants Chee to use the motel killings as a cover to investigate this lead on Navajo land. Leaphorn visits Tso's property, where he finds that his water supply has been contaminated - the helicopter is at the bottom of his reservoir with a dead body inside.|
|2||2||"The Male Rain Approaches"||Chris Eyre||Anthony Florez||June 19, 2022||0.984|
|Flashbacks reveal that Anna Atcitty was dating Leaphorn's son Joe Jr., who worked at an oil drilling site with her father, Guy. At a Peyote ritual, a friend who had a premonitory vision warned Guy not to go to work that day. Guy warned several others, but not Joe Jr., who was killed in an explosion at the drilling site. Lester, the trading post owner, overhears the warning and tells Leaphorn about it. Leaphorn confronts Guy. The two fight. Leaphorn shoots Guy in the leg as he approaches with an axe. In the present, Leaphorn quickly identifies Jim Chee as an undercover FBI agent and convinces him to work as a double agent using the FBI's resources to assist in the double homicide case. Chee has water from Tso's property tested and confirms Leaphorn's suspicion that the helicopter is in Tso's well, and an autopsy report reveals that Anna was apparently "scared to death". Emma convinces Sally Growing Thunder to stay at the Leaphorns' home, believing her family's property is unsafe. The armored truck robbers revealed to include a man posing as Tso's Catholic priest grandson and a scarred man living on the Growing Thunder property, chase down and abduct a Mormon tourist family who unknowingly purchased a painting at a local gift shop where the money from the heist was stashed.|
|3||3||"K'e"||Sanford Bookstaver||Maya Rose Dittloff & Razelle Benally||June 26, 2022||1.02|
|Money from the robbery is funneled through Devoted Dan's car dealership. Wanda, the painter wife of gift shop owner Lester, is also part of the money laundering. Leaphorn and Chee ask Raymond Begay to dive the pond on Tso's property, looking for evidence of the helicopter. Emma invites her niece, Nanobah, to stay at the Leaphorns' home as she celebrates her Kinaaldá. Leaphorn retrieves Anna Atcitty's and Hosteen Tso's bodies when the coroner releases them. Manuelito and Chee investigate the whereabouts of the missing Mormon family. Chee shows Manuelito where he lived on the reservation before he and his mom left because of his mom's abusive boyfriend. Manuelito invited Chee to the celebration at the end of Nanobah's Kinaaldá. Sally gets scared when Father Benjamin Tso comes to thank Leaphorn for burying his grandfather and has to be taken to the hospital. While there, Sally gives Emma the name of the scarred man, Frank Nakai.|
|4||4||"Hooghandi"||Sanford Bookstaver||Billy Luther||July 3, 2022||0.823|
|Raymond finds a helmet, but is shot by Father Tso. He and Frank Nakai are revealed to be buying up land around the mine with the Buffalo Society. Leaphorn suspects all of the crimes on the reservation are related. He and Chee talk to Father Tso, who admits he has a brother who attended Catholic school. Leaphorn and Chee look through the school records and discover there are twin Tso brothers. James wears glasses, while Benjamin does not. They realize James has been impersonating Father Benjamin Tso. Leaphorn and Chee make a plan to arrest James, while James and Frank make plans to ambush them. Chee tells Agent Whitover about Frank and James, who the FBI knows as Hoski. Leaphorn invites Chee over for dinner. At dinner, Emma tells Leaphorn she wants Sally to stay with them when she gets out of the hospital. The next day, Manuelito goes to the pond looking for Raymond and hears the shoot-out between Leaphorn, Chee, James, and Frank. She helps to arrest Frank, but James escapes on Manuelito's horse, Taco. During the arrest, it is revealed that Frank and Chee had met before, which Leaphorn did not know, and Manuelito finds out Chee is an FBI agent. Outside the tribal police station, Chee tells Leaphorn the FBI will put in a request to have Frank transferred. Chee and Leaphorn fight.|
|5||5||"Ha'íínlni"||Chris Eyre||Erica Tremblay||July 10, 2022||1.07|
|6||6||"HózhóoNaasháa"||Chris Eyre||Maya Rose Dittloff||July 17, 2022||1.26|
Season 2 (2023)
|Title||Directed by||Teleplay by||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|7||1||"Na'niłkaadii"||Chris Eyre||John Wirth & Rhiana Yazzie||July 30, 2023||N/A|
|8||2||"Wonders of the Unknown"||Chris Eyre||Max Hurwitz & DezBaa'||August 6, 2023||0.788|
|9||3||"Antigonish"||Michael Nankin||Steven Paul Judd||August 13, 2023||N/A|
|10||4||"The March"||Michael Nankin||Jason Gavin||August 20, 2023||N/A|
|11||5||"Black Hole Sun"||Billy Luther||Billy Luther & Max Hurwitz||August 27, 2023||N/A|
|12||6||"Hózhó náhásdlįį"||Chris Eyre||Graham Roland & John Wirth||September 3, 2023||TBD|
In July 2021, it was announced that AMC had greenlighted Dark Winds for a six-episode order. The series is created by Graham Roland, who executive produces with Zahn McClarnon, George R. R. Martin, Robert Redford, Tina Elmo, Vince Gerardis, Vince Calandra, and Chris Eyre. Redford previously produced four other adaptations of the Leaphorn & Chee series: The Dark Wind (1991), Skinwalkers (2002), Coyote Waits (2003), and A Thief of Time (2004). Calandra served as showrunner, and Eyre directed the pilot. The series is produced by AMC Networks and Dark Winds Productions. In May 2022, Sanford Bookstaver was announced as an additional director.
In June 2022, AMC renewed the series for a six-episode second season. John Wirth replaced Calandra as showrunner for the second season. Billy Luther, who wrote for season 1, directed an episode of season 2.
In September 2023, the series was renewed for a third season, which is expected to premiere in early 2025.
The writers' room is all Native American. In addition to Roland, writers on the series include Anthony Florez, Maya Rose Dittloff, Razelle Benally, Billy Luther, Erica Tremblay, John Wirth, Rhiana Yazzie, Max Hurwitz, DezBaa', Steven P. Judd, and Jason Gavin.
Alongside the series announcement, Zahn McClarnon and Kiowa Gordon were cast as Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. In August 2021, Noah Emmerich was cast as Whitover. Jessica Matten was cast as Bernadette Manuelito. Rainn Wilson was cast as Devoted Dan in early September. In February 2022, it was revealed that Deanna Allison would make her television acting debut on the show as Leaphorn's wife, Emma.
Filming took place in numerous locations in the Navajo Nation (Navajo: Naabeehó Diné Biyaad), which occupies portions of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah. Filming for the first season took place in all three states, beginning on August 23, 2021, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Location shooting in New Mexico occurred in Española, Tesuque Pueblo, Cochiti Pueblo and Abiquiú. In mid-October, the series filmed in Mexican Hat, Utah, and Arizona's Monument Valley and Kayenta. Filming was expected to wrap on November 11, 2021.
For the first season of Dark Winds, review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% approval rating with an average rating of 8.1/10, based on 30 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Zahn McClarnon is riveting as a coiled cop in Dark Winds, a solid procedural that derives much of its texture from an underrepresented cultural milieu." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 80 out of 100 based on 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
For the second season, Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% approval rating with an average rating of 8.3/10, based on 12 reviews. The critical consensus reads, "Dark Winds' sophomore season is just as captivating as its predecessor, with Zahn McClarnon reaffirming his indispensable gravitas as a leading man." Metacritic assigned a score of 84 out of 100 based on 9 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
The Navajo Times criticized the series for lacking authenticity in its representation of Navajo people and language. Series director Chris Eyre responded to the criticism, and commented, "It's critically important to all of us that we represent the culture correctly. If there's course-correction to be made, we're happy to do that." For the second season, the series hired Navajo cultural advisor George R. Joe to help create more accurate portrayals of the Navajo culture.
Awards and nominations
In April 2023, the first episode of the first season, "Monster Slayer", was honored as an Outstanding Fictional Television Drama by the Western Heritage Awards of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
In May 2023, Dark Winds received several Vision Awards from the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). It received the award for Best Drama, and for Best Performance in a Drama Series, awarded to Zahn McClarnon.
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- Ghost Ranch, Abiquiú, New Mexico, per episode 4 ("Hooghandi") on-screen closing credits
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The second season began filming in late 2022 and wrapped in March.
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