‘Dark Winds’ review: Zahn McClarnon stars in AMC’s moody Native American crime thriller produced by Robert Redford and George RR Martin

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Counting Robert Redford and “Game of Thrones” George RR Martin among its producers, the six-episode show creates a welcome starring vehicle for Zahn McClarnon (“Fargo,” “Westworld”) as Joe Leaphorn, who is the one of several dozen police officers tasked with patrolling thousands of dusty and visually arresting acres.

Leaphorn is joined by a new deputy, the ambitious Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon), to whom a colleague, Bernadette (Jessica Matten), says ominously, “Here, sometimes your best protection isn’t your .38.”

Created by Graham Roland and adapted from Tony Hillerman’s novels about Navajo sleuths, the slightly convoluted plot involves a family of tourists who buy the wrong painting and an unsolved bank robbery that left behind untraceable loot and still sparks excitement. interest from an FBI agent (“The Americans” Noah Emmerich) operating in the area.

Leaphorn and his wife (Deanna Allison), meanwhile, are recovering from personal tragedy, with McClarnon’s pained expressions whenever his family history pops up, doing a lot of work to convey the mileage the character carries.

As noted, “Dark Winds” stands out more for its introduction to a particular place and time than for the central mystery, a time far enough away where references to magic seem more plausible. There are also pointed reminders of past transgressions against this community, such as a pregnant woman being warned of forced sterilization if she has her baby in the hospital.

The series provides another solid showcase for Native American talent in a way that has proven historically elusive in Hollywood, joining recent productions like the FX series “Reservation Dogs,” in which McClarnon co-starred, and “Rutherford Falls.” . (Redford acquired the rights to Hillerman’s books in the 1980s and spent years shopping for the project before aligning himself with Martin and finding a taker.)
AMC is at a crossroads, with two of the network’s iconic series, “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul,” coming to an end soon. These kinds of franchises aren’t easily replaced, but with something like “Dark Winds,” the network’s development efforts at least seem to be drifting in the right direction.

“Dark Winds” premieres June 12 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, with early access on AMC+.

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