Leaphorn retrieves the bodies of the Big Rock Motel murder victims while Manuelito and Chee search for the missing Mormon family.
Warning: This is an overview of Episode 103 of Dark Winds, so there will be scads of spoilers here. We strongly recommend that you not read this if you have not yet watched the episode on AMC or AMC+.
Members of the community focus on rituals both mournful and celebratory. Money is laundered — until there’s a kink in the supply chain. And even Leaphorn starts to notice that Chee and Manuelito might have a thing going on. What are we to make of this? Here are our five takeaways from “K’e,” Episode 103 of Dark Winds.
Takeaway No. 1
One of the many distinguishing elements of the series so far has been the inspired use of period-appropriate pop/rock songs — some instantly recognizable hits, some deep-dives into catalogues. This week, Ike and Tina Turner’s Grammy-winning version of “Proud Mary” effectively underscored a rapid-fire montage that illustrated how used-car dealer Devoted Dan (Rainn Wilson), faux priest Benjamin Tso (Jeremiah Bitsui) and amateur artist Wanda (Ryffin Phoenix), wife of trading post owner Lester (Jonathan Adams), are interconnected in a scheme to launder money from the armored car heist. (Also: We discovered why the bad guys were upset when the visiting Mormon family unwittingly purchased one of Wanda’s cash-stuffed paintings.) Later, we heard a cover of John Lennon’s relatively obscure but excellent “Working Class Hero” (originally the B-side of the “Imagine” single) as Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) shopped in a Flagstaff open-air market, where he found “genuine” Native American pottery actually made in Taiwan. Joe later returned to the market to purchase blankets so he could wrap the bodies of murder victims Anna Atticy and Hosteen Tso before bringing them back to his community — because that dirtbag FBI Special Agent Whitover (Noah Emmerich) didn’t have any more use for them. Isn’t it about time somebody opened up a can of whup-ass on that guy?
Takeaway No. 2
Episode 103 devoted more time than usual to Native American culture, enhancing the series’ distinctive flavor. Emma Leaphorn (Deanna Allison) readily agreed to help her young niece Nanobah (Makena Ann Hullinger) prepare for her Kinaalda – a coming-of-age celebration that calls for a hearty feast after an exuberant race. (“The further you run,” Emma encouraged her, “the longer the life you will have.”) Joe did his part to help, buying a ceremonial sash for Nanobah in Flagstaff and firewood for the feast at Lester’s Short Mountain Trading Post. But he was mildly miffed when he came home to find Nanobah and their very pregnant young houseguest Sally Growing Thunder (Elva Guerra) had raided the refrigerator for the last two RC Colas — obviously, his beverage of choice. Joe did a lot to work up a thirst this week, like bury Hosteen Tso on the old man’s land. That laying to rest, by the way, was artfully intercut with the burial of Anna, in a sequence that movingly contrasted with the joy of Nanobah’s Kinaalda. The cycle of life and death continues apace, amen
Takeaway No. 3
Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon) was left with the task of literally running down smart-alecky ne’er-do-well Raymond (Quenton Yazzie) at the local flea market while Joe stood by and watched in amusement. (“Too old for that,” he told himself with a flicker of a grin.) At the end of the chase, Raymond was genuinely surprised to learn that not only was he not being arrested — he was being offered the opportunity to earn an honest dollar by drawing on his Navy experience as a diver to search for anything suspicious (like, a sunken helicopter) in a nearby lake. By the end of the episode, it appeared he found something important. Which, of course, may or may not prove to hazardous to his health. Meanwhile, back at the flea market: When Chee returned with Manuelito (Jessica Matten) return to question Wanda about the, ahem, popularity of her paintings, folks who witnessed Chee’s less-than-graceful pursuit of Raymond couldn’t stop giggling. This turned out to be the start of a gradual thaw between the heretofore bickering police officers. One thing led to other, Chee and Manuelito swapped stories about their unhappy childhoods, and — well, there wasn’t any kissy-face stuff. At least, not yet. But by the time Joe sat between them in the waiting room of the local hospital, even he picked up on their nascent vibe. And the expression on his face was priceless. Once again, Zahn McClarnon stole a scene by revealing everything while doing next to nothing.
Takeaway No. 4
The three of them were at the hospital in the first place because, at the Kinaalda celebration, Sally suffered a panic attack as soon as she saw Father Benjamin, who just happened to drop by to thank Joe for burying his grandfather. Initially, Emma and Joe feared she was having a major problem with her pregnancy — which, indeed, might have been the case. But why would Sally be so scared to see Father Benjamin? Well, we were given additional reasons to believe he’s a scary guy when we saw that, yes, he hasn’t killed members of the abducted Mormon family yet, but only because he’s keeping them alive – in a pit at an undisclosed location — so he can use them as bargaining chips if the money-laundering enterprise goes south. But wait, there’s more: When Wanda arrived at the hideout to warn Father Benjamin and his scarred-face cohort Frank Nakai (Eugene Brave Rock) that the cops were asking about her paintings, the faux priest politely asked for the woman’s hair clasp as a keepsake — then passed it on to Ada (Amelia Rico), Sally’s witch mom, who has her own ways of dealing with loose ends and troublesome people.
Takeaway No. 5
As we’ve said before: Nothing is ever said, seen or done on this show without a future payoff in mind. When Joe visited the Short Mountain Trading Post to pick up firewood, Lester gave him a never-mailed letter written by the late Hosteen Tso that cast doubt on his grandson’s divinity — if in fact Benjamin really is his grandson — and warned Joe to beware of black widow spiders in the pile of firewood outside. Joe wasn’t bitten — but, at the end of the episode, Wanda wasn’t so lucky. So what else happened this week that will pay off later? Why did Sally whisper the name “Frank Nakai” to Emma? Just what did Raymond dredge up from the lake? Will ever Joe get his hands on an ice-cold bottle of RC ever again? Tune in next week for further developments.