‘Dark Winds’ Director on Leaphorn’s Moral Dilemma & Season 3

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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Dark Winds, Season 2, Episode 6, “Hózhó náhásdlįį.”]

Dark Winds‘ second season has come to a close but there are plenty of loose threads yet to be woven for Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) and friends following the finale episode.

Discovering that their two investigations overlap, Leaphorn and Chee (Kiowa Gordon) connect the dots, tying the mine explosion that killed Leaphorn’s son directly to B.J. Vines (John Diehl). Despite being arrested, B.J. is quickly released due to his wealth and standing in the community. As a result, Leaphorn shows up at the man’s home, and at gunpoint gets him into his truck where they drive out into the desert. Once there, Joe gets B.J. to step out into the cold and unforgiving landscape. Instead of shooting the man, he tells him to walk, noting its similarity to The Long Walk experienced by the Navajo.

Ultimately, B.J. dies in the freezing temperatures, and although Leaphorn has doubts about his role in the situation, he seemingly starts fresh with his wife Emma (Deanna Allison), even helping organize a laughter ceremony with her for Sally’s (Elva Guerra) little boy, who is officially seen as a real person after his first laugh, a tradition in their culture.

Meanwhile, Chee trades in the private investigator life for a role back on the force, bidding on-again-off-again love Bernadette (Jessica Matten)  as she takes off for a new job at border patrol. As she sets off for her next chapter, a silver feather hangs from her rearview mirror, a gift given to her by Leaphorn, fashioned from the metal that once made up his late son’s rodeo belt buckle.

Zahn McClarnon and A Martinez in 'Dark Winds' Season 2

(Credit: Michael Moriatis/AMC)

So, what’s next? While the show awaits a Season 3 renewal at AMC and AMC+, TV Insider caught up with director Chris Eyre who is breaking down all of the Season 2 finale twists and shares hopes for what’s to come should the show return in the future.

By the end of the season, Joe Leaphorn has left B.J. Vines in the desert to die. Has he found peace regarding his son’s death or is that just a band-aid?

I think Leaphorn is like all of us. He’s so complicated that he may shut a door, but it doesn’t mean that [all] the doors are shut. On that particular event, I really admire Leaphorn because he almost took vengeance and [and instead] he put B.J. Vines on the Long Walk. The Long Walk is when the Navajos walked from Fort Sumner, and hundreds of them died along the way. And so we tried to put a little bit of that in there, where Joe leaves B.J. to the elements, and then he sits in bed and he stares up at the ceiling and you have this incredible music playing from the seventies. And you look in his eyes and I can just feel the angst, the confusion, the complexity. He’s a moral guy and he’s just sitting there going, did I do the right thing?

When Sena shows up, Joe’s petrified that Sena knows. He sits there in the barn, he’s just statuesque. He’s sitting there waiting for Sena to say something about B.J. Vines and him being connected. Emma sits there and grabs his hand and then she has a vision in bed of what’s happened because something’s happened. So she grabs his hand and her eyes open and she sits there. So there are all these questions that I have as well, which are, How do you overcome the passage of a child like Leaphorn and Emma have gone through? And maybe you don’t overcome it, you learn to live with it.

The episode concluded with a beautiful ceremony celebrating the first laugh of Sally’s son. What goes into capturing those sequences? Are they always scripted and what makes sharing those traditions onscreen so important?

It’s a great question, and this is where I think we’re doing something well, which is we take the narratives and the cop drama part from the books, but then we have a Native American writer’s room and some of them are Navajo, and they’ll offer the laughing ceremony in this spot. And then it’s a question of do they want to show that? How much do they want to show? And so they wrote the laughing ceremony. Then it comes to me and I’m not Navajo, so out of reverence for that, I have a cultural consultant who is Navajo, and I have meetings and he showed me the ceremony, and then it’s a matter of the producers and everybody checking if this is something that we can do.

Once we felt that it was okay, I got to rehearse it with Navajo background people who were saying, “Oh, we’ve done this in my family.” So they’re informing me and it kind of melds together. I shot a whole bunch… and unfortunately, it had to be reduced to a certain number of minutes, but I could have made that into a 10-minute scene, not a five-minute scene. It just had a real beauty to it, which is universal because the person becomes a person the first time they laugh.

It’s so beautiful.

It’s beautiful. And so I hope we captured it, but I feel like we do because the actors care so much about what they’re doing and the reverence for another tribe’s culture that they’re so invested in. The writers have written it, and I get to be there and help out with it. But I’m glad that people like the cultural aspects of it.

Deanna Allison, Zahn McClarnon, and Elva Guerra in 'Dark Winds' Season 2

(Credit: Michael Moriatis/AMC)

Sally leaves Joe and Emma by the end of the episode as well. Was that ceremony a necessary step for her to move forward?

Well, they’re all on their individual journeys, which is what I love. I had a friend of mine say to me, “Now I have the characters and I just want to see what happens to ’em.” And I feel like that’s what I want too, which is Sally is at a crossroads and my heart breaks for her when she talks to Emma about how her child’s going to be ashamed of her. And that’s a postpartum matriarchal conversation I’ve never heard of on-screen in television. So I was heartbroken by that conversation that Sally had, and Emma didn’t have a direct answer for her. And then you see her put the baby in the traditional cradleboard and walk out the door and you just hope that she makes it, and I’d like to see what happens to her because I think she will make it.

Bernadette leaves to work border patrol and she is gifted the silver feather Joe made from his son’s belt buckle. Should the show continue, is there more to her story and was the feather always meant for her?

I joke around by saying, I guess we’re going to have to go to the border now because we’re not going to let Bernadette go. So I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that means they pursue somebody to the border or how that ties in, but John Wirth and the writers and everybody will figure that out. We wouldn’t let Bernadette go. She’s great and beloved, and she’s at a crossroads too, just like Sally. I watch her at the end and she has this smile on her face and the feather is dangling from the mirror. And we don’t see her get the feather from Leap Horn, but we know that he did give it to her. He sits there and he holds the feather up and looks at it, and then the next thing we do is see it in the mirror. So there’s a scene within that where he gives it to her. And I don’t know where and how that happened, but I could imagine that it was a good moment.

Did Joe know that making B.J. disappear would influence Bernadette’s choice to leave?

I don’t know if it pushed her, but I think that he knew that she needed to do what she needed to do, and he supported her as much as [he could]. In Season 1, Joe says, “I didn’t want him to go” to Emma, and he is talking about his son. Joe didn’t want his son to leave the house. So this is connected directly to Bernadette now, which is families were different, tighter in smaller communities, and Joe’s an old school guy that believes in community and maybe he has a softer heart. So basically he has a hard time with letting people go, even though it’s the best thing for them. So I think that he made the feather as a way to move forward from the belt buckle and from Joe Jr.’s death, but I don’t know if he knew he was going to give it to Bernadette.

Chee rejoins the police force by the end of the season. Will we get to see more Leaphorn and Chee action should the series be renewed for Season 3?

Yeah, it would be great to see Leaphorn and Chee reteam, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid kind of buddies fighting crime. And I just hope that Chee will get enough time off that we’ll [still get to] see his seventies outfits with the medallion and all the polyester. As long as we can see him in street clothes every weekend, I think it’ll be great.

Definitely got to have the balance in there. Those suits were awesome this season.

Yeah, we don’t want to give up his suits, for sure.

Dark Winds, Season 2, Streaming now, AMC+

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