Zahn McClarnon should have starred in his own TV series a long time ago. The instinct to make him more of a main character was there toward the end of “Fargo” season 2, where he played the mercurial enforcer Hanzee, and since then, we’ve seen McClarnon costar or take on a recurring role in shows like “Westworld,” “Barkskins,” “Reservation Dogs,” and “Hawkeye.” However, in “Dark Winds,” which premieres on AMC and AMC+ on June 12, the actor is front and center in a noir thriller with a writers’ room made up of Native American voices.
“Dark Winds” hails from creator Graham Roland and showrunner Vince Calandra, both alums of Prime Video’s “Jack Ryan.” The show counts George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford among its executive producers, and it’s based on the “Leaphorn & Chee” series of crime novels by Tony Hillerman. McClarnon plays the Navajo Tribal Police officer Joe Leaphorn, a role that the late Fred Ward inhabited in the 1991 film “The Dark Wind.”
The network has touted this as a series made “with the full support and blessing of The Navajo Nation,” and it helicopters the viewer over the buttes of Monument Valley and sets them down in the early 1970s without feeling the need to over-explain aspects of Indigenous culture such as the Kinaaldá running ritual. “Dark Winds” knows what an asset it has in McClarnon, who brings a soulful presence to the Leaphorn character, but the series also makes good use of his “Red Road” cohort, Kiowa Gordon, as well as Jessica Matten (“The Empty Man”).
Together, these three actors, all of whom share a natural chemistry, form the magnetic core of “Dark Winds,” which overcomes its occasionally pedestrian genre thrills with a unique sense of place and people that keep it watchable for six episodes.
Continue reading Dark Winds Review: Zahn McClarnon Leads A Solid Cast In AMC’s Navajo-Centric Foray Into Genre Thrills