Dark Winds

Dark Winds

A distinctly Native American police procedural that is just as intriguing as it is important

The Very Best


TV Show

United States of America
Crime, Drama
Eugene Brave Rock, Jessica Matten, Kiowa Gordon
47 min


Put this on when you’re sick of the same old storylines and (white) characters in network police procedurals.

What it's about

In 1971, tribal police chief Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) investigates a series of crimes that takes place in the Navajo Nation.

The take

Even without doing the important and long overdue work of uplifting Native American voices, Dark Winds manages to be an intriguing mystery, layered with complex performances and bolstered by the majestic expanse of the American Southwest (in the ‘70s no less!). Finally released from the shackles of supporting roles, Zahn McClarnon shines here; he’s in top form as the gritty but softhearted police officer who protects his tribe from encroaching federal forces. The mysteries that propel the show are compelling too; they have the same beats as any you’d expect from a crime thriller, but they’re seeped deep into Native American mysticism, making them intriguing and wholly unique. 

What stands out

While it’s far from the only thing that makes Dark Winds a stellar addition to the crime thriller canon, the show’s use of Native American actors to portray realistic Native American characters easily elevates it. That doesn’t happen often in media, but it’s a trend that looks like it will change soon thanks to groundbreaking shows like Rutherford Falls and Reservation Dogs. In Dark Winds, Native American characters explore the full gamut of humanity. Some are delinquents, some are heroes; some are victims, and some are victors. The show is never black and white about its principles, but it isn’t afraid to make a stand either. Some of the sharpest moments in the series are when the ignorance of white characters like FBI detective Leland Whitover (Noah Emmerich) is called out. And their bigotry isn’t just played for kicks or gotcha moments, but rather, they play into the bigger themes of racism and capitalism that inform the core crimes and motives in the show.

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