ABC’s new drama from David E. Kelley is a slick, fast-paced and chilling procedural. One character doesn’t make it to the end of Big Sky Episode 1.
ABC’s latest crime procedural drama Big Sky hails from Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley and is based on the C.J. Box book The Highway. Starring an impressive cast that features Kylie Bunbury, John Carroll Lynch, Ryan Philippe and Katheryn Winnick, there’s a lot to like in Big Sky Episode 1. At times, the new series feels more like a cable show than a traditional network series.
We begin with the introduction of our two main female leads, Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick). Cassie is one half of the Dewell & Hoyt Private Investigation agency alongside Jenny’s husband Cody (Ryan Philippe). Jenny confronts Cassie in the opening minutes of the episode when she discovers Cass and Cody slept together. Yikes. Cass says she only did it because she thought Cody and Jenny were done — that’s what he told her. Jenny doesn’t buy it.
Then we jump to Ronald Pergman (Brian Geraghty), a long-haul trucker who is pushing 40 and still lives at home with his mother Helen (Valerie Mahaffey). As he prepares to head out for another trip, Helen hammers in how little she thinks of her own son. “Don’t be 38 years old and forgot to make something of yourself.” She’s pretty harsh.
Next in our roulette of character introductions is John Carroll Lynch’s creepy State Trooper Rick Legarski. Something about him is just off, even as he helps a California tourist get his car unstuck after trying to navigate the backroads of Montana.
From there, we meet sisters Danielle (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Grace Sullivan (Jade Pettyjohn) who are on a 12-hour road trip from Colorado to visit Danielle’s boyfriend, Justin. Their mom dials in to check and make sure they’re doing okay. Based on the quick call, you can tell she’s a worrywart. Danielle remarks that she’s shocked her mom even let her go on the trip at all.
Cody shows up at work not long after Jenny as left and he’s greeted by a cold shoulder from Cass. She’s not exactly pleased with him right now considering things. Cody asks if she knows where Jenny is since she’s ignoring his calls. Cass just tells him she needs to go pick up her son, Kai.
Big Sky Episode 1 recap: Ronald’s sinister plot begins.
At a truck stop, Ronald picks up a young prostitute named Jerrie (Jesse James Keitel) meandering through the lanes. It immediately gets weird when he starts asking her questions about her parents, specifically her mother. Then he pulls out a taser and uses it to render her unconscious. I don’t know much about tasers, but that doesn’t seem right. According to what Google tells me, stun guns and tasers are meant to incapacitate but they don’t really knock you out. Whatever.
Similar to Danielle and Grace, Ronald gets a call from his mom while driving (lots of mom stuff in this show) to apologize for being so harsh with him that morning. He argues that his job as a trucker is actually very important to the American economy and then hangs up on her because he’s, well driving and shouldn’t be FaceTiming while driving. The camera slowly pans to the truck cabin where we see the woman wrapped Dexter-style in plastic wrap.
Tensions quickly flare between Jenny and Cass as they get into a full-on bar brawl that evening. Both of them wind up in urgent care, Cass with a split lip that needs stitches and Jenny with a serious black eye. Cody is called to pick them both up. Cody suggests they all go somewhere quiet to talk and he’s met with looks that could kill. Besides, as Jenny mentions, she needs to be home for when Danielle arrives — so Justin is her and Cody’s son.
Big Sky Episode 1 recap: Danielle’s car breaks down
Speaking of the Sullivan sisters, Danielle gets a call from Justin suggesting they take a back road because there’s a massive crash on the I-90. As you might expect, the Montana back roads are no joke when you don’t know where you’re going, especially at night. To make matters worse, their car’s engine light comes on and forces Danielle to pull over just as Ronald careens by in his truck and almost smashes into them.
Pissed by his rudeness, Danielle takes off down the road to try and pass Ronald intentionally, initiating a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Once they catch up to him, Daniell starts screaming at him out the window, calling him a loser and the like. They pass him and Grace worries he’ll be able to catch up with them on the downhill. Danielle assures her they’re fine because their exit to Yellowstone is just ahead. Unfortunately for them, Ronald happens to take that same exit.
And as luck would have it, once they’re on that creepy back area near Yankee Jim Canyon in Yellowstone, the engine comes back on and forces them to stop. Grace informs her sister that the engine is overheated so they’ll have to wait for it to cool off or for someone to help them. Neither of them has cell service back there.
Pivoting back to Cody, Jenny visits him to see where they stand. She wants to know if they’re working on their relationship or not. Because despite what she said to Cass, she knows Cass wouldn’t have hooked up with Cody unless she seriously thought they were finished. “We tried this Jenny we just end up wanting to kill each other.” “Well, I certainly want to kill you now.” They have sex anyway.
State Trooper Rick arrives home after a long day at work and starts to tell her about saving the California tourist. Weirdly, he calls her “Mother” (again with the mom stuff!) like Norman Bates. Merilee (Brooke Smith) tells him she doesn’t like it when he calls her that. Girl get out of there.
Big Sky Episode 1 recap: Ronald kidnaps Danielle and Grace.
Of course, Danielle and Grace get kidnapped by Ronald, as we all likely suspected. Again he uses the taser to stuff them in the back of the truck. Jenny gets a call from Justin (Gage Marsh) during her post-coital bliss with Cody. He tells her that Danielle and Grace still haven’t shown up. Even their mom has called him. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
As Jenny and Cody jump into action, Cody calls Cass and asks her to head over to the agency early. She’d been with her father and son Kai but agrees to go in and help them look for the girls.
Grace wakes up first and manages to get herself out of her restraints and then help her sister. Together, they unwrap the other body. It turns out that Jerrie is still alive and Grace gives her some chest pumps to revive her. Danielle and Grace start screaming in the back of the truck until Ronald stops and goes to check on them. They trick him into thinking the other girl is still dead so she can surprise attack him. It doesn’t work.
Big Sky Episode 1 recap: Multiple women in the same area are discovered missing.
Somehow, even with the upper hand, all three women are overpowered by Ronald and tasered to sleep again. HOW!? First of all, they should have stayed quiet until they go there and then all attacked him at once in an ambush. Hard to believe not one of them could have escaped and gone for help.
Back at the detective office, Denise tells Cody she’s done all the usual checks and contacted the local state trooper, Rick. He returns the call to Cody and warns him that this isn’t the first time girls have vanished. “We’ve had the occasional young female go missing around here.” Wanting to be on top of the case, Rick prepares to go back to work at 2:30 a.m. Merilee is not happy. She tells him their relationship, this life, isn’t working for her.
Cody advises Jenny and Cass to work together because there is a possibility that the disappearance involving truck stops and missing girls could have something to do with a weird religious cult in the area. When she was a cop, Jenny worked the case and has access to the missing person database VICAP. She discovers that 12 girls have gone missing in the past two years, most of them last seen at truck stops.
Big Sky Episode 1 recap: Rick shoots Cody in the head.
When Rick arrives, Cody and Rick meet up so they can check out the area near Yankee Jim Canyon. Cody tells Rick what Jenny found and wonders if the “church” or cult, might have long-haul truckers as members. He notes that there are connections to trucking and sex trafficking. Rick seems particularly fascinated by this news and where Cody learned it from, then he shoots Cody in the head. After wiping Cody’s blood off of himself, Rick calls his buddy. “Ronald, you’ve been sloppy.” I knew Rick was a creep!
As for the girls, they wake up chained in a truck cabin that has been stored in a random old warehouse.
And there you have it, Big Sky Episode 1 goes all in. I’m certainly interested to see what happens next. As for Cody, did they really put Philippe in a show just to kill him off one episode in? We don’t get legitimate confirmation of his death, but it seems pretty likely to me. Moving forward, it sounds like we will see him return for flashbacks. I guess this nips the love triangle in the bud. I admit I’m more interested in seeing Jenny and Cass work together.
According to Deadline, the death was written into the script to send a message that “in a series like this, no one is safe, so you really have to pay attention and hope that the people you love stick around.”
What did you think about Big Sky Episode 1? Are you planning to watch the rest of the season? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!
New episodes of Big Sky air Tuesday nights at 10/9c on ABC. You can watch the first episode now on Hulu!