Welcome to Montana.
It's small-town, country living with a host of colorful characters just living the dream in the gorgeous mountainside. What could possibly go wrong in such an idyllic oasis?
Oh, just a rampant kidnapper and a nefarious criminal underworld of sex trafficking. And this all comes out in the first hour of this new series, Big Sky Season 1 Episode 1, which flips back and forth between soapy goodness and fast-paced thriller every other second.
The pilot's goal is to hook you enough that you want to come back for more. You want to put just enough into that first episode that you have the audience clamoring for more time in this new world.
Big Sky starts with the drama, namely a love triangle between ex-cop, Jenny, her sort-of ex-husband, Cody, and Cody's private investigator partner, Cassie. It appears Cody and Cassie have been sleeping together, and Jenny was seemingly the last to know.
Jenny: Is that the lyric of the day? It's all over now.
Cassie: What's going on?
Jenny: You tell me, Cass. Are you sleeping with my husband?
Right off the bat, you can sense there's excellent chemistry between Jenny and Cassie, who are two women that have a begrudging respect for one another but are both in love with the same man.
For his part, Cody wants everyone to get along, and it's naïve and stunted thinking, but it's the one he decides to go with.
There are two opposing storylines at play, with the Hoyt/Dewell drama on the one hand and Ronald Pergman on the other.
Upon the first meeting, you almost want to feel bad for Ronald. His mother is a lot, and she seems hell-bent on making him feel like a failure in every sense of the word. But pretty soon, you realize he's an unhinged kidnapper who's part of a much bigger plot that you don't necessarily see coming until it happens.
It's not clear, at first, what his goal is beyond kidnapping a prostitute and taking her to parts unknown.
But it's his unfortunate run-in with sisters Danielle and Grace that brings the whole series full-circle.
If you've seen even one preview for Big Sky, then you know the main plot point they emphasize is the disappearance of two teenage girls off of a remote stretch of Montana highway. And that's precisely what happens.
Unlike many thrillers, though, this isn't a story in which we don't know who the bad guy is. Ronald's revealed early on to be the one who kidnaps the sisters. So, this won't be another story where both the characters and audience are looking for the masked killer.
No, this will be a story where we get to see all sides of the coin, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we wait to see where the twists and turns take us.
Seeing as how the girls were on the way to see Cody and Jenny's son, the maybe-reunited couple jumps quickly into cop mode and begin trying to figure out how the girls disappeared into thin air.
Enter Trooper Rick, an acquaintance of Cody and Cassie's secretary, Denise.
Broken roads are like broken people sometimes. They just want to be loved. Easy peasy.Trooper Rick
We get a peek into the life of Trooper Rick, who's a little kooky and in a marriage that is quickly falling apart. It's falling apart so badly that his wife practically asks for a divorce while he's walking out the door to help Cody.
He doesn't seem like a bad guy, just a little muted and sad. He's very concerned about his reputation and potentially moving up the ranks from state trooper to something grander.
But he seems ready and willing to help Cody at the drop of a dime, including sending him some information about a local church rumored to be caught up in sex trafficking.
That should have been our first clue something was up.
The second clue comes when Rick and Cody finally connect, and Rick doesn't seem in the slightest hurry to get on the road and search for the girls, instead wanting to make sure that Cody plays by the rules and doesn't embarrass him in front of the locals he knows.
It's an encounter that leads Cody to what we can eventually determine to be his fatal flaw.
There's an unease that plays out during those final minutes in the truck with Cody and Rick. Rick's being a little quirky, which we've come to expect by this point, and Cody is ready to get on with it, but it all feels tense.
And then it happens.
We get our first truly shocking moment of the series when Rick shoots Cody, presumably dead at point-blank range, before calling Ronald, while all of our heads collectively recover from the shock.
Main characters dying in the pilot has been done before, but this felt like a splash of cold water because Cody appears to be such an integral part of everything. You have to imagine he will still be involved in some way, whether through flashbacks, or maybe he's not dead after all (wishful thinking, I know).
But Ryan Phillippe is a pretty big name to just be gone after the first hour.
Now, what does this all mean moving forward? It's pretty murky right now, and there are a lot of questions to be asked by the time the credits roll.
And isn't that what you want from a pilot?
Odds and Ends
- We get a small peek into everyone's life at home, and it's the right amount of context to give some agency to the characters but not take away from setting the tone of the series. You're definitely left wanting to know more about everyone's personal life.
- The scenery is breathtaking.
- It's a heavy hour, but the early scene of Jenny and Cassie fighting in the bar and the singer at the bar not missing a beat is great.
- They mention the pandemic a couple of times, but it's not clear if we're to think the pandemic has passed or it's still going. Just an interesting thing to note.
I can't stress enough how utterly surprising the end of that episode was, and I'm very eager to hear what you guys thought about not only that reveal but the episode as a whole.
Are you hooked and ready for more Big Sky?
Where do you think things are head next?
Besides the end, what else shocked you during the hour?
Please flood the comments with all your reactions, and let's really talk this out!
And remember you can watch Big Sky online right now and join the conversation!
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.