By Bill Sniffin, publisher
Five stars is the rating that I gave the TV Show Big Sky, which debuted Tuesday, Nov. 17, based on the book by Wyomingite C. J. Box.
Box’s book The Highway was one of the creepiest books I have ever read. It was quite a departure from Box’s traditional stories which are full of intrigue, mayhem, oddball twists and turns, and a big dose of Rocky Mountain lore.
The Highway is all about the scariest of things that can happen in a family – a friend or relative disappears in thin air and it appears that something really bad has happened to them.
I had three friends describe this first TV show as “creepy,” but it was not as sinister as the book. The first two-thirds of the show also starred the Rocky Mountain West with all the vistas, canyons, mountains, and rivers plus the actors.
The characters were well-defined within the 60 minutes of the first episode, which was quite a trick. There are a whole bunch of them.
Creator David E. Kelley is the master of this genre. His shows Big Little Lies and the Undoing on HBO are classics when it comes to putting interesting people into God-awful situations. This show is no different. Every single person has issues. And the show did a good job of revealing them.
The two young girls are silly as they travel from Colorado to Montana. Their car breaks down. A mysterious truck comes along and . . . bad things happen. Really bad things.
Shades of real life. It reminded me of Dale Wayne Eaton and the famous Little Miss murder mystery in Wyoming in 1988. Eaton raped and killed Lisa Marie Kimmell. He then took her car, a snazzy little Honda CR-X with the license plate “Lil Miss” and buried it in a huge hole on his property near Moneta between Shoshoni and Casper. Eaton has since been on death row in Wyoming for that crime.
Eaton is also the primary suspect in another crime involving a missing young woman Amy Wroe Bechtel, that occurred outside of Lander in July, 1997. Her body has never been found and Eaton clams up about it, although his brother suspected him of snatching Bechtel, too.
But back to the TV Show. The cast is full of troubled characters. The lead is a private investigator named Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) who is separated from his wife, who is a former police officer who works with him. Another investigator in the office has a fling with Cody, which results in a classic western bar fight between the two women. Lots of tension between them.
Cody’s son happens to be the boy in Montana where the two girls are headed. He calls his dad, who mobilizes all these folks to hunt for the missing girls, including getting an oddball Highway Patrolman up in the middle of the night to help in the search. This role is played by John Carroll Lynch, who I remember famously as Norm Gunderson in the movie Fargo. In that one, he was the slow-moving husband of the lady Sheriff. A classic role but this time around, he is much more sinister. There is a lot going on inside this guy’s head.
The trucker is a true misfit living with his domineering mother and full of pure evil.
As in any David E. Kelley show, the whole thing comes together very well.
Spoiler alert – I about fell out of my chair on the last scene when the Highway Patrolman pulls out his gun and shoots Cody in the head. Just like that – poof. Hell, Cody is the leading man in this 10-part series. Is that the last we see of Cody? Tune in next week.
Because of my admiration for both C. J. Box and David E. Kelley, it is easy to give this show five stars. Be sure to tune in on ABC and see what happens next Tuesday – I know I will.