Dark Winds Season 2 Review – A solid yet inconsistent season of thrills and frills


Season 1

Season 2



Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3/5

AMC’s Dark Winds is arguably one of the best shows on the network’s streaming platform. Both seasons have received overwhelming responses from viewers. On each occasion, Dark Winds topped the streaming charts becoming an instant number one.

The show’s strong ethnic core and mostly authentic evaluation of the Leaphorn and Chee novels drive the popularity of Dark Winds. The trio of Zach McLarnon, Kiowa Gordon, and Jessica Matten weigh in with stellar performances in the show’s second season, but it is marred by inconsistent execution and a noticeable divergence from the literary source material.

The sole focus of Joe Leaphorn in this season of Dark Winds is on a blonde assassin terrorizing the Rez. Colton Wolf is a mercenary who has left a trail of bodies. But this isn’t the first time he has drawn Navajo blood. During his investigation into the murders, Leaphorn learns that Colton was responsible for the explosion of the Drumco well that took the life of his son, Joe Jr. This investigation ties into Jim Chee’s informal investigation as a private detective into a robbery at BJ Vines’ house.

The new season has many callbacks to the previous season’s plot but first-time viewers do not need much context. Leaphorn has a chance to not only put the demons of his past to rest but also nab a murderous lunatic before he does more damage. Season 2 also features side plots that focus on issues of forced sterilization of Native American women, musings about the prejudicial criminal justice system, and a sense of nostalgia that roots the story in the bygone era of America’s chequered history.

While it would be unfair to call the adaptation untruthful, certain elements in Season 2 of Dark Winds have been added as part of social and political commentary. The makers behind the show wanted to root the show in historic, universal events from America’s history shared by all communities. This included the US’ landing on the moon, the solar eclipse from 1970, and the Vietnam War. This decision freezes the plot in a strict time frame and will give viewers familiar with the events and the era a better perspective on the characters. However, the second season introduces a line of social issues and character lines that dent the momentum of the storytelling. 

For instance, Sally’s growing disenchantment with motherhood and Mary Landon’s story on involuntary sterilization. Despite having their own significance, they do not have any role to play in how the plot proceeds. What’s more baffling in this case is that they do not have a lot of bearing on the character arcs either. Sally features very briefly during the season – probably 10 minutes of screentime – and the same is true of Mary, a wasted character with no relevance in the scheme of things. And because these things are isolated from the overall narrative, they take away precious minutes that should have ideally been devoted to building Colton’s arc more solidly.

Colton emerged as Joe’s nemesis in this season but we hardly learnt anything about the antagonist. We saw a small montage of five minutes in one of the episodes and that was it. He felt like an incomplete character and his only purpose seemed to fuel Joe’s fire to avenge his son.

Joe’s obsession to kill him comes to a stop somehow in the finale, which again brings us back to the confusion of the writers to map out the story. The “white devil” trope is used very one-sidedly and drains away any nuance from Colton’s portrayal. By propping up the rivalry so much, the writers take away layers from the plot, which ends up being very straightforward. I do not want the tone of this review to seem overtly negative because I really enjoyed this season. But these things have to be said!

Executive producer Chris Eyre, who also directed a few episodes, promised entertaining storytelling replete with action and explosions. We have plenty of that in this season, giving us some decent-level moments. There is a marked difference in the filmmaking approach to season 2. The writers are more relaxed in their dialogue writing, exploring different shades of how characters interact. All directors on different episodes show more leniency in keeping up the structural integrity of the plot. Overall, the effort is more confident and assured than the first season.

Chee and Bernadette get more independent arcs in this season. They do not need to be in the same room or the same setting to tell us more about them. Their “will they, won’t they” tension is apparent throughout but never undermines the new horizons explored in their character paths. Deanna Taushi Allison, who plays Emma, assumes a more important and outspoken role in local affairs. There were inklings of leadership skills in Emma in the first season and they were fully realized in Season 2. 

Dark Winds continues to define expectations and bucks any notion of being a representational showcasing with its second season. In fact, it is an outlier in those terms, with a storyline that doesn’t consciously stand out differently but which still exhibits intelligent self-awareness about its Native core. 

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  • Verdict - 7/10

2 thoughts on “Dark Winds Season 2 Review – A solid yet inconsistent season of thrills and frills”

  1. Hi Eila,

    Thank you for making the time to visit our site and reading our recaps for Dark Winds (and That Dirty Black Bag as well)! It gives me great satisfaction you found value in the articles. That is really nicely summed up, by the way. Season 3 will be even more exciting than the previous two. Gratitude for your kind comments.


  2. Well, the 2nd season I’ve enjoyed even more than the first.
    Maybe because I watched it in a row…that’s what days off are for. ☺
    And again your recaps and reviews helped me to understand.
    So, thank you again! ♥

    True, evil psycho killer Colton Wolf (Nicholas Logan aka Nick Kowalczyk) wasn’t completely explained. Regarding his sneaky bombs and the actor’s original name he reminded to the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski who died in June. But the Unabomber had no dramatic childhood, therefore my crazy theory was that Colton Wolf is a mix of many criminals and all the names around him are secret hints, yessas!
    Colton Wolf allegedly looked for his mother Linda Maddox.
    Though he shot his mother back then as a boy and he knows it (reason he killed the first PI on the toilet, who tried to fool him).
    Maddox was Charles Manson’s birth name and one of his followers Linda Kasabian…ahaaaa! Colton Wolf’s stylish way to prepare his meal at the beginning of S02E03 with Beethoven’s “Für Elise” resembled very much Hannibal Lector, a fictitious serial killer and inspired by several (European) serial killers. Perhaps spiced up with the real serial killer Edmund Kemper, who killed his abusive mother?
    Then, when I searched for all the other names around Colton Wolf, the actor Nicholas Logan aka Nick Kowalczyk destroyed my crazy theory with one interview:
    There’s no solution! Colton Wolf is just a broken man by his childhood and that brokenness connects him with Joe Leaphorn, who’s broken since the death of his son. BJ Vines hired this mentally sick serial killer as a tool to cause the explosions at the mine. And to cover his deeds BJ killed his tool and with this every closer info about Colton Wolf.
    Dammit, to hell with Colton Wolf and all the red herring names! ☻
    Red was boy Colton’s jacket, red the blood, red were his mother’s finger nails.
    However, it wasn’t said in that interview but I don’t think that Colton’s last whispered word “Linda” meant his mother, because in the flashbacks he called her “mom”. Leastwise the creepy metronome was explained. It was his sister’s, who was shot by their mother at the piano. Perhaps his sister Jeanny just played “Für Elise”…an easy piano étude for beginners.

    So, back to the Natives.
    Frank Nakai (Eugene Brave Rock) didn’t reappear. *snivel*
    No!…please, he cannot have died in season 1…not in that cave, please.
    Maybe in confirmed season 3 we’ll see him again, yah, my Christmas wish.

    Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) tends to lynching now?!
    That BJ bastard certainly deserved to freeze in the desert…or did he survive?
    Btw. many survived that horrible “Long Walk of the Navajo”, means, not everyone died as Leaphorn said. Though that doesn’t make the atrocities inflicted on the Natives much better.
    But hopefully lynching is not the old-new way of Native justice.

    Well, it was beautiful to show us that Joe Leaphorn is finally able to let go of his son’s death by melting his son’s silver belt buckle into a silver feather using traditional Navajo method…err…Diné handicraft. And to give that silver feather as a parting gift to the cute and strong Bern (Jessica Matten) was touching.
    That’ll remind her to come back home from the Border Patrol.
    Emma (Deanna Allison) riding off with her husband Joe Leaphorn on his motorbike with the sun and wind in their faces was a bit corny but well deserved…suffered enough. Happy and free again!

    And that’s my second Christmas wish: They’re all be back!
    In best Terminator sense, yah.
    And please, with another ‘pale-face’ who isn’t pure evil.
    The female journalist was a good start and I don’t expect Old Shatterhand. ☺
    I look forward to that and can hardly wait till 2025 for the 3rd season. ♥

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