Dark Winds, a neo-western psychological thriller set on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico in the 1970s, has captivated audiences this summer with its stunning scenery and tense, compact episodes. Jessica Matten, as Bernadette Manuelito, Leaphorn's loyal employee and the lone female police officer, is an especially welcome contrast to male-driven crime narratives that have traditionally dominated television.
Bernadette Manuelito emerges from the series as a wacky and complex young woman, eager to discover who murdered Anna Atcitty, a young Navajo teenager, and suspicious of cocky young upstart Jim Chee, to whom she later confesses her darker side. Moreover, Manuelito is able to move up in the world while Chee, unlike her Native counterpart, nearly ends up doing so.
Manuelito's final and tragic encounter with Growing Thunder, a local woman with unique spiritual abilities, proves to be an asset in her job.
Manuelito's determined pursuit of truth is what makes her an appealing character, even as swaggering and corrupt FBI supervisor Whitover (Noah Emmerich) attempts to derail their investigation into the armored car heist and the killing of Anna Atcitty.
Jessica Matten, an actor of Red River Metis-Cree ancestry, has spoken out about the challenges that Native women face both within and outside the entertainment industry, and about her desire to pursue further mainstream acting opportunities that are true to her culture. As Bernadette Manuelito, the unsung hero of Dark Winds, will delight viewers. She will surely fill many of her roles as a stoic and determined cop.