Accused – Season 1 Episode 6 “Naataanii’s Story” Recap & Review

Naataanii’s Story

We begin episode 6 of Accused in the district court of Maricopa Country, Phoenix. Three Navajo residents are on trial. Their lawyer, Mrs Dezbaa Lowe, is not allowed to speak her native language and her pleadings to shift the case to the Navajo Nation is refuted by Judge Vogel. She is representing Chase, Shandiin, and Naataanii in a murder case. The three are activists who were first arrested protesting the uranium mine on the Reservation that is poisoning the soil and making the people sick.

Chase’s own sister is suffering due to the poison. Derrick, Naataanii’s former boyfriend, too joins them in jail. They are kept illegally in the locker. On release, Derrick says he has a plan that will be more effective than just protesting.

Chase and Derrick are shown to be radicals, while Shandiin is reasonable and believes in pacifist ways to put their issues in front of the authorities. Derrick takes them to the processing mill for the uranium, where the crude material is given a final, consumable shape. If they blow up the mill, the operators will not be able to repair it since it is an old building and the parts used in the electronics are dated.

Derrick’s father and uncle worked there for years and told him of this plan. Shandiin does not approve of it but the others do. The plan is to hit a specific room in the mill where all the cables and computers converge on a weekend when the place is minimally guarded. Naataanii and Derrick plan to go to the bar that night, where the guards hang out and slip a key card to access the doors.

It is revealed that Derrick left the tribal land to live in LA and pursue his dreams of becoming a basketball star. Naataanii and he was in a relationship but he never came back for her. She has tried to put the issues aside and is surprised that Derrick is back without any notice. Naataanii successfully gets the key card. On their way out, Derrick is stopped by a stranger, who professes he was a coach at one of his trials. Derrick asks Naataanii to go ahead and the man turns out to be a federal agent, who is blackmailing Derrick into giving up his friends for the conspiracy in return for help in his 20-year jail sentence. He also gives Derrick a gun just so that when he catches the three in the act, their sentence can be elongated.

He feels guilty and tries to tell Naataanii the truth but finds the others at her apartment as well. The group decides to go ahead with the plan. They break into the premises and find the room. But Shandiin sends Naataanii to stand as a lookout at the terrace evoking a grimace from Derrick. They reach the room and begin to plant the explosives. But Naataani sees a host of cars drive in and the man from last night at the bar. She rushes in and alerts the others. They try to make a run for it but are spotted by a guard. They take him hostage and are trapped in a room surrounded by a swarm of federal agents.

Naataanii tells her brother the truth about Derrick. The guard is a witness at the trial and saw and heard everything while being tied up on the floor. Derrick tells the trio the truth and breaks down crying. He was involved in a robbery and acted as the getaway driver. But he was caught and could not handle jail. Shandiin gets a call from the federal agent on Derrick’s phone asking him to surrender within three minutes. He whispers to a guard beside him that he cannot use Derrick anymore.

Shandiin chooses not to kill him and lets him face judgment from the elders in the tribal council. His punishment is “to make things right”. It seems that the conflict is resolved for now and the group starts to emerge from the room with their hands up in the air. They have left the gun in the room itself and the guard sees it. The federal agent approaches the group and shockingly shoots Derrick, falsely claiming the others hit him with that gun. The guard blatantly lies to the court about the group carrying the gun outside. But there is nothing they can do.

Chase gets angry and the session is adjourned. As the defendants are being taken back to holding, the federal agent stops Shandiin and gets him alone in a room. The guard who is taking him to the holding cell says it is against the law but the agent asserts his authority. He offers Shandiin a deal like he did to Derrick but he does not take it.

The guard, who is Native American, had recorded the whole conversation, where the agent confesses that Derrick did not have the gun and that the guard from the mill lied. The defendants are exonerated and we see that the media is now covering the protests. An investigation is launched into the mill and the actions of the FBI in Derrick’s murder. We see an overview of the dwindling houses on the Reservation, as Naataanii is comforted by Shandiin.

The Episode Review

This episode of Accused had a strong connection to the brilliant Dark Winds released last year. Not just in the format, themes, and story structure, but also in personnel. Kiowa Gordon starred as Derrick in this episode and Deanna Allisson as Dezbaa Lowe. Despite the significance of the depiction, the representation itself lacked seriousness.

The episode’s plot seemed really light on details and the emotional provocation through themes of betrayal, morality, and preservation of Native lands did not come through as expected. Perhaps the episode seemed undercooked given its instant resemblance to Dark Winds. It did not have the same narrative elements that have been compellingly brought to life in the other episodes. Even the pace seemed to rush and the tone was inconsistent.

This episode just did not seem convincing. Our recommendation here would be to check out Dark Winds on Prime Video instead. It is a pulsating show with bold statements around these themes. Full marks to Fox for its intentions but not so much for the execution.

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