'Dark Winds' Star Jeremiah Bitsui Talks Tragedy, Trauma and Vulnerability of Season 1 Finale (Exclusive)

AMC's Dark Winds concluded its first season on Sunday night, with the six-episode run culminating in shocking revelations, tragic endings, and hopeful new beginnings... for some. For the season's main "villain," Hoski — played brilliantly by Jeremiah Bitsui — the final episode brought a "vulnerable" ending that likely could not have been different no matter how much Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) fought to change things. [Dark Winds Season 1 finale spoilers below.]

In the final episode of the season, we learn that Hoski has been blackmailed by FBI Agent Whitover (Noah Emmerich), who discovered that Hoski was the mastermind behind the bank robbery in Episode 1 and used that to get in on Hoski's money laundering plan. Before the bloodshed ended, Hoski and Leaphorn were in an emotional faceoff inside a desert shack with the Navajo police officer explaining that he had learned of the abuse Hoksi suffered in an orphanage as a child. He pleaded with the outlaw to put down his gun and surrender but, instead, Hoski let Leaphorn go and then tragically took his own life.

PopCulture.com had a chance to speak with Bitsui about the big finale, and he shared what it was like to film that gut-wrenching scene with McClarnon. "I just remember Zahn and I not really talking and we have a great relationship, but just, I think we both needed to save some of that. And I remember we were in we're in the former casino where the studio was and this alarm starts going off, and everybody clears out," he recalled. "There was nothing wrong. It's just, they couldn't get the alarm to go off. And instead of let it literally ring me, I just sat in it and everyone cleared, people kept checking on me and I just went into the darkness and just went and sat."

Bitsui continued, "That helped to a certain extent, just hearing this ring. It helped center me that there could be chaos around this guy and he's so layered with this trauma, it don't really register. He is as cool as a cucumber. But this scene, his scenes are showing and he's unraveling. And Zahn drops something on me pretty heavy right in the middle of it as we were going. And he was just like, 'Hey, brother, I'm sorry. This is something I'm actually processing right now that I'm going through.' And we had a little talk right there with Chris [Eyre, executive producer/director], let us have a moment. And that really kind of added gasoline to the scene. It took a whole different trajectory right after that."

Afterward, Bitsui says he was strongly encouraged to go back and watch the scene for all "the layers and the levels" it captured. "So I went through it and, yeah, it was even hard for my wife to watch. And it was a very tough scene," he shared. "She knew all the things that I was going through at the time. I lost my father last year, and so there was a lot that was going on."

He continued, "But those layers of just playing with... When you're so vulnerable, I think you, as a person and as him as a character, you're vulnerable enough to go into maybe different thoughts. Like, 'Huh, maybe I could do that.' 'Hey, I could, yeah, I'm a father. Oh my God.' But at the same time, yeah, maybe I could change things up. 'No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This has got to end right now.' And then it's maybe the pity, self-pity, the 'no, no.' And then it's finally, at the end, like, 'You got to get out of here. This is serious.' So I think that's all the negotiating we do when we're in a vulnerable state like that as people."

Reflecting more on who Hoski was and how the character, fuelled by indignation, grew to become so jaded and lost, Bitsui explained, "He is a byproduct of trauma and assimilation and all of this force that almost pushed his soul out. And in the end, you're like, God, why is this guy so messed up? And then you realize, oh, he does have a soul. And he does have feelings and his perception is warped. But I think for most of us that go through things very traumatic, and for him, it started very young. I think I could identify with that, having a safe space. I could identify with living on the res and having almost a very innocent life. And then being forced out of that."

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Finally, Bitsui offered,"For his own perspective, the bank robberies, all of those things, I think they're means to an end. And he has what he thinks is probably at the end, maybe we wouldn't disagree with what Hoski sees as a good vision and sovereignty for his people and all these things. But it's a little bit of that Walter White going out and wanting to do something good for your family and wanting to provide and wanting to leave them with something besides a bunch of medical bills and bankruptcy. I think it's very similar, it's a character, an anti hero with a great passion and a good purpose, but it just gets twisted."

Dark Winds Season 1 debuted June 17 on AMC, and concluded on July 17. All episodes are currently available to stream on AMC+, for subscribers. Fans of the show will be excited to learn that Dark Winds has been renewed for Season 2, which is expected to debut sometime in 2023. McClarnon is expected to return, along with Kiowa Gordon and Jessica Matten.