David E. Kelley is returning to broadcast after conquering the 1990s TV procedural and then climbing the mountain of prestige television.
Big Sky” is a long cry from top-tier television, despite the fact that nothing entirely decisive can be gleaned from only two episodes. It’s barely a competent procedural at first, stringing together far too many characters to say a mystery-free thriller about a firm of private investigators searching for a trio of missing women in Montana. The wooded countryside is lovely, as is the enticing cast, but Kelley’s long-standing tics wreak havoc on an already frayed thriller.
Without going into too much detail about the storyline, here’s what viewers can and should know before the show airs: Jenny (Katheryn Winnick), an ex-cop who isn’t pleased with Cassie because the latter only slept with the former’s not-yet-ex-husband, Cody, stars Kylie Bunbury as Cassie Dewell, a private investigator who is about to get the crap kicked out of her (Ryan Phillippe).
Cassie and Cody had worked together for years and had always had a friendship, but she and Jenny were both friends! You have a love triangle with people who don’t respect each other’s boundaries and a barroom brawl in a matter of seconds. Cassie and Jenny are meant to be the protagonists of the show, but viewers learn very little about them other than their complicated feelings for Cody, making them difficult to believe in early on.
Cody, on the other hand, might be anyone. He’s a guy, he drives a truck, and he’s surrounded by two powerful women who are physically fighting over him. Kelley has been employing this kind of hit-or-miss understanding of the clichéd “solid female form” for decades, and as much as “Big Sky” wants to win points for being story-driven by women, it’s also a story that isn’t particularly caring for or invested in them.
“Big Sky” has little space for nuance and no empathy toward its subjects, either because it is attempting to balance so many stories in network-friendly 43-minute episodes or because the show’s source material is actually not that original (it is based on CJ Box’s 2013 book, “The Highway”).
Whether it’s the overused reason for Ronald’s psychological issues or our leads’ routine investigation tactics, these first two episodes check-off box after planned box. Even the “big surprise” at the end of the pilot is plucked from a bygone era of prestige television. It may have been surprising ten years ago, but it’s just disappointing now.
Big Sky” needs viewers to believe it’s something modern, fresh, and fantastic. All of those arguments sound like hot air after two hours, and it’s not even a decent procedural.