‘Big Sky’ Episode 1 Review: David E. Kelley Delivers Another Riveting Drama

ABC’s Big Sky wastes no time jumping into the action, debuting on November 17, 2020 with one of the most compelling premiere episodes of a primetime broadcast TV drama in recent years. Big Sky rivals the best of what premium cable networks have to offer and should become your new Tuesday night obsession.

The series is based on the novels by C.J. Box and focuses on life in a small Montana town. The first episode sets up the key players and reveals the brutal kidnappings at the heart of season one. Episode one dives headfirst into the belly of the beast, revealing details about the show’s protagonists and villains that immediately draw us in and make viewers feel invested in their stories.

VikingsKatheryn Winnick plays Jenny Hoyt, an ex-cop who’s in the middle of a messy domestic situation. Kylie Bunbury (When They See Us) and Ryan Phillippe (Shooter) play Cassie Dewell and Cody Hoyt, respectively, two private detectives charged with finding two missing teenage sisters who never made it to their destination in town. Cody’s also Jenny’s estranged husband and Cassie’s the third side of a complicated romantic triangle.

The cast of season one also includes Natalie Alyn Lind and Jade Pettyjohn as the missing teens; Brian Geraghty as Ronald Pergman, a trucker with mommy issues; Jesse James Keitel as Jerrie, a hooker at the wrong place at the wrong time; and John Carroll Lynch as Sheriff Rick Legarski, a local cop called on to lend a hand finding the girls.

Dark secrets are revealed in the series’ first hour and commenting on more than the briefest plot description would run the risk of revealing a potential spoiler. It is acceptable to disclose that based on the first episode, Big Sky isn’t going to pull any punches and really pushes broadcast TV boundaries.

Big Sky Episode 1
Katheryn Winnick stars in ‘Big Sky’ season 1 (ABC/Darko Sikman)

Emmy Award winner David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies, The Practice) steers the series as showrunner and writer, and he fashions complex, realistic lives for each of his main characters. Big Sky’s loaded with first-rate actors and Kelley and writer Annakate Chappell have crafted powerful female characters leading the way. Winnick and Bunbury are a terrific combo on screen, portraying Jenny and Cassie as intelligent women whose strength comes from within and who aren’t reliant on any of the series’ assorted male characters.

During a Q&A following a special virtual premiere screening, Winnick noted, “It’s really a show with female empowerment, not only on-screen but off-screen as well.”

The remote small-town setting conjures a feeling of isolation, adding to the intensity of the unfolding events. And when you think you’ve figured out who to follow on this journey, the story takes unexpected twists and turns.

Big Sky’s a stylish thriller featuring an incredible cast. It ventures into dark and disturbing territory, compelling the viewer to come along for the ride. As series star Kylie Bunbury advised, “Come for the thrills, stay for the characters.”

Season one airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on ABC.