Joe Leaphorn In ‘Dark Winds’ Season 2, Explained: What Happens To Zahn McClarnon’s Character?

Dark Winds, a series revolving around Native American people, follows Joe Leaphorn, a seasoned Navajo lieutenant who becomes the central character of this gripping storyline. Set against the backdrop of the Navajo reservation, the series follows Joe Leaphorn, who goes through significant character development throughout the two seasons. He wrestled with personal challenges and maintained a strong dedication to justice. As the show’s mysteries involving murder and cultural clashes deepened, Joe Leaphorn, portrayed brilliantly in this AMC+ adaptation, emerged as a protagonist with strong values for his culture. In this analysis, we explored how Joe Leaphorn’s character evolved, his strong commitment to the law, and the moral dilemmas he faced in Dark Winds Season 2.


Joe Leaphorn was born in the heart of the Navajo community, where he learned about their traditions and stories, which helped him develop a deep respect for Navajo rituals and his cultural heritage. But things changed when he started getting a Western education and adopting Western values alongside his Navajo upbringing. This mix of influences shaped the way he approached solving complex cases. When Joe joined the Navajo Tribal Police, he gained a reputation as a legendary lieutenant. A significant moment in his career happened when he teamed up with two younger officers, Jim Chee and Benedetta Manuelito. They had different personalities, which sometimes sparked conflicts, but together, they became an exceptional investigative team that took on some of the toughest cases. Joe Leaphorn’s character development extended beyond his professional life. He experienced both love and loss in his life, starting with his marriage to Emma Leaphorn, where he remained a lawful and devoted husband in their blissful married life.

Joe Leaphorn And The Loss Of His Son:

In the second season of Dark Winds, Joe Leaphorn’s character experiences a profound and emotional transformation due to the tragic loss of his son, Joe Jr. He had high hopes and dreams for his son’s future, envisioning a path where Joe Jr. would follow in his footsteps, possibly becoming a law enforcement officer or continuing to honor Navajo traditions, as he himself had done. However, Joe Jr. had different aspirations and wanted to pursue his own passions and ambitions, which didn’t align with his father’s expectations.


Soon, tragedy struck when there was an explosion at Drumco Oil, which was actually orchestrated by B.J. Vines, an extremely influential and powerful white man. This terrible event took the lives of many innocent people, including Joe Leaphorn’s son, Joe Jr. It wasn’t just a personal tragedy for Joe Leaphorn; it also showed the horrible consequences of greed and power. Joe Leaphorn carries a heavy burden of grief and guilt. He might wonder if he could have done more to protect his son or guide him in a different direction in life. This loss becomes a powerful driving force for Joe Leaphorn, which boosts his determination to bring B. J. Vines and the hired assassin Colton Wolf to justice in order to take revenge and get closure for what happened to his son.

Joe Leaphorn’s Ideology About Indian Justice:

Joe Leaphorn’s decision to leave B. J. Vines in a remote, cold place was morally complicated. It showed his strong beliefs about justice and his personal responsibility. In the Dark Winds series and Tony Hillerman’s broader Navajo Mystery series, Leaphorn had an ideology of differences between Indian justice and white justice. He thought that the traditional Navajo way of seeking justice was different from the Western legal system. Navajo justice was more about the community and making things right. On the other hand, white justice was often seen as more formal and focused on punishing people and putting them in jail. Leaphorn’s work as a detective might have shown him the flaws in this system, which shaped his views.


Leaving Vines in a cold and isolated place could be seen as Leaphorn’s way of trying to give him a taste of the kind of justice that aligned more with Navajo traditions. As Vines was a powerful individual who could just evade punishment with the power of his money, Leaphorn ensured that Vines received a punishment that he couldn’t buy his way out of. However, this decision was ethically dubious. Taking justice into your own hands, like Leaphorn did, wasn’t usually allowed in legal systems. It could be seen as him going against his oath as a law enforcement officer and straying from his commitment to the principles of law and order.

Joe Leaphorn As A Father Figure:

In Dark Winds season 2, Joe Leaphorn came across as a caring and loving father figure. He had high hopes and dreams for his son, Joe Jr., wanting him to follow a path that he believed was right. This showed how much he cared for his family and wanted the best for them. Additionally, Joe’s character showed support and kindness to others around him. Despite some initial hesitation, he became a great source of support for Bernie and took pride in her happiness and choice to join the Border Patrol. It showed how much he valued her as a colleague and a friend. Moreover, when it came to Sally, Joe Leaphorn was understanding and accepting of her decision to shape her own destiny, even though it might have come as a shock to him and his wife.


What Can We Expect In Leaphorn’s Arc In Season 3?

In season 3 of Dark Winds, you can expect Joe Leaphorn to continue his quest for justice. He’s a determined character who won’t stop taking on challenging cases, and he often faces tough moral decisions. Throughout the season, we might see him reflect on his life, especially the loss of his son, Joe Jr., which has deeply affected him. Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito, his trusted partners, will still be right there with him. They make a strong team, each contributing their own skills and perspectives to solving complex cases. So, in season 3, you can look forward to more investigations, personal growth, and teamwork among these characters. Also, Leaphorn’s commitment to justice and his strong sense of right and wrong could be challenged in season 3. His decision regarding B. J. Vines and the concept of Indian Justice might have significant consequences that he’ll have to face.

Additionally, Joe Leaphorn’s connection with his family has played a crucial role in shaping his character. Season 3 will likely explore these relationships more closely, giving us a glimpse into his personal life and how his job affects the people he holds dear. Moreover, the series might circle back to unresolved mysteries from earlier seasons, giving us the closure or answers we’ve been waiting for.


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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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