Dark Winds Season 2: Is the Series Based on Real Life?

Image Credit: Michael Moriatis/AMC

Created by Graham Roland, AMC+’s ‘Dark Winds‘ is a mystery thriller series that takes place in the Navajo Nation in the 70s. The show follows Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manuelito, who get embroiled in solving a crime that hits close to home. The first season introduces the characters, giving us a peek into their background, relationships, and the things that make them tick. In the second season, the story expands as some secondary characters in the previous season come into focus, and a greater conspiracy comes to light.

‘Dark Winds’ presents a real and raw portrayal of Native Americans, focusing on the issues that they have to deal with. While the show is a mystery, it has a set of realistic characters who are grounded in reality. If you are wondering whether the show is inspired by real people and real events, then here’s what you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD

Dark Winds Season 2 is Based on a 1980 Novel

‘Dark Winds’ is based on a book series featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee by Tony Hillerman. The second season adapts the novel, ‘People of Darkness,’ published in 1980. It was the first novel to feature Jim Chee but not have Joe Leaphorn. For the second season, John Wirth took over as showrunner from Vince Calandra, who served the role for the first season. In adapting the book, the show makes a few changes to the storyline, adjusting it according to the events and timeline of Season 1. The basic plot, however, remains the same.

Tony Hillerman extensively researched Navajo customs and way of life while writing the series, and the show stays true to the spirit of the books. The books are not adapted in the sequence in which the books were written and tinker a little with the timeline and the characters’ background stories too. The series, which features primarily Native American cast and crew, also expands the role of female characters, like Bernadette Manuelito and Emma Leaphorn, and sheds light on important issues pertaining to the Native American community.

The central conflict of the second season focuses on the arrival of a serial killer who is targeting Navajo people who were connected with a cult called People of Darkness. Joe Leaphorn’s investigation collides with Jim Chee’s, who is looking for a box that was stolen from the house of a local business tycoon. The case becomes personal for Leaphorn when he discovers that the culprit behind these crimes might be the one responsible for the explosion that resulted in his son’s death.

Zahn McClarnon, who plays Joe Leaphorn and executive produces the series, said that the second season uses the premise to delve deeper into Leaphorn’s grief and inner conflict and how it connects to his roots and beliefs. “It’s about restoring balance within their lives, within their relationship, and within the community. People deal with grief differently, obviously, and I think that’s the main thing with Joe and Emma — that they handle everything quite differently. And hopefully, it all comes together in the end,” he said.

One of the primary objectives of the story is to focus on the accurate representation of Navajo culture. “Authenticity obviously is one of our main goals for the show, and we take it seriously. We had a great, new cultural advisor, George Joe, who came in and helped with all the cultural stuff this year,” McClarnon added. One of the challenges the show faced last year was with the language, which was not native to a lot of cast members. “It’s such a difficult language to speak, and we had some issues last year with everybody learning that language,” he explained, “so we figured we’d give the fluent Navajo speakers more of that dialogue to make it more authentic,” the ‘Reservation Dogs’ actor said.

With such intense issues at heart, the show also leans towards humor to bring levity, tapping into “more of the native humor that’s such a big part of native communities.” With all this in mind, we can say that while the show is not based on a true story, it is grounded in reality through its characters and setting.

Read More: Where and What Year is Dark Winds Set in?