Tuesday, November 17, 2020

REVIEW: 'Big Sky' - Cassie, Jenny and Cody Must Put Their Issues Aside in Order to Find Two Missing Girls in 'Pilot'

ABC's Big Sky - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

While on a road trip to visit her boyfriend in Montana, Danielle Sullivan and her sister Grace are kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote part of the highway, setting off a chain of events that leads private detectives Cody Hoyt and Cassie Dewell to team up with Cody's estranged wife and ex-cop, Jenny Hoyt, to search for the sisters. When the investigators discover these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, it's clear they've stumbled onto something much bigger than them all.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of ABC's Big Sky.

"Pilot" was written by David E. Kelley and directed by Paul McGuigan

Katheryn Winnick and Kylie Bunbury are dynamic performers each deserving of headlining their own television series. They actually have electric chemistry together as well. And yet, this show decides the best way to utilize them is to have them literally fighting over a bland guy. That sentiment may not be entirely fair to Ryan Phillippe and what he is asked to do here. It's just an unoriginal way to create conflict while introducing these characters. It establishes a love triangle mostly as a way to fill in their lives before they have to drop everything to go searching for Danielle and Grace. In fact, the smartest decision the show makes is killing off Cody in the final minutes. That may just be a twist to provide ample reason for the audience to return for a second episode. However, it suggests that the series is aware that Cody is a drag on the proceedings. His death can be used to create a more engaging dynamic as Cassie and Jenny investigate this case of missing girls. Sure, problems exist long before that moment arrives. His death won't immediately solve all of them either. It may be the start of a creative direction that is more engaging. At the moment, it seems like John Carroll Lynch is the only performer actively creating a character of true depth. It helps that the narrative allows him to have quirks before that dark twist occurs. And yet, he is still meant to come across as a demeaning guy who mocks tourists and even dismisses his wife's need to be seen with sexual desire. Moreover, Legarski killing Cody because he is getting too close to uncovering this sex trafficking ring establishes that this whole mystery is more than one deranged individual committing acts of violence against a number of women. Now, the show certainly delights in those moments a little too much. It's also fairly ridiculous to see how it all plays out. It escalates in such a severe and strange way. Danielle's sudden road rage could reveal some kind of complexity to her. However, it comes across as the show needing her to act like an irrational teenager just to get to the next plot point. It makes it incredible for Ronald to track down Danielle and Grace while also giving him the convenient ability to abduct them. It's not because of some cunning smarts either. He just appears to be lucky. He gets to abuse numerous women without anyone really suspecting him or ensuring that he deals with any serious consequences. Sure, his mother doubts how proud she can be of her son when he still lives with her and doesn't have an impressive job. That is a concern of hers. But that's the biggest inconvenience he has to deal with. He is given the freedom to hurt Jerrie, Danielle and Grace all he wants. It's an evil that exists in the real world as well. The show goes out of its way to suggest that the pandemic is happening in this story but no one's lives are really derailed by it. It's odd. It means the show pays lip service to the idea of the biggest story happening in the world at the moment. But it never changes the way the story plays out or how these characters conduct themselves on the job. Instead, it's still perfectly reasonable for Danielle to visit her boyfriend out of state with her sister along for the ride. Jenny and Cassie can get into a bar fight and receive immediate treatment at an urgent care center. The show wants to feel real and lived in. However, it has the unfortunate sense of offering an outside perspective where these characters serve as plot points instead of actually having clear motivations. That's incredibly frustrating. Again, there is some effort made at world building. Ronald taking these girls is part of larger story involving a sex trafficking ring and a cult. Cassie and Jenny are left behind while Cody deals with the immediate dangers in the woods. That's where the drama happens though. The story sidelines the characters for significant portions of the story only to bring them in when something exciting happens. Danielle and Grace are either driving or trying to fight off Ronald. There is no other option for them. Cassie and Danielle feel uncertain with what emotional support Cody has given them. And then, they have to sit back and do some research while Cody is killed by the state trooper who was seen as someone who could be trusted in this effort. That could establish a reason for Cassie and Jenny to be more active moving forward. It simply remains a strange way to convince the audience that this is a new show worth watching. Too much of it is still too unknown. There is nothing that can be grounded to reassure the audience's faith that it will be a worthy investment.