Five stars is the rating I give the TV show “Big Sky,” based on the book by Wyoming author C.J. Box, which is featured on ABC Tuesday evenings.
Box, who lives in Saratoga, joins fellow Wyoming author Craig Johnson of Ucross, as having a TV series made from his books. Johnson has enjoyed a tremendous run with his series “Longmire” about a mythical Sheriff in Wyoming’s 24-county, Absaroka, which just happens to be located near Ucross.
Congratulations to both of them. They write about a Wyoming that we all love. All Wyoming people should be required to read Box and Johnson books if you plan to be here for a while!
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 to a family – a friend or relative disappears into thin air and it appears that something really bad has happened to them.
I had three friends describe the first episode 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, 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 episode opens with two young girls being 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 been on death row since.
Eaton is also the primary suspect in another crime involving a missing young woman, Amy Wroe Bechtel, who disappeared outside of Lander in July, 1997. Her body has never been found and Eaton has refused to discuss the crime, 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. She 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 the two girls are traveling to see. He calls his dad, who mobilizes folks to hunt for the missing girls, including getting an oddball highway patrolman up in the middle of the night to help. 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. It was 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 who is abducting the girls 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 in the first episode when the highway patrolman pulls out his gun and shoots Cody in the head. Just like that – bang!
Heck, Cody is the leading man in this 10-part series. Is that the last we see of him? Tune in to additional shows to find out.
Because of my admiration for both C.J. Box and David E. Kelley, it is easy for me to give this show five stars. Be sure to tune in on ABC and see what happens on Tuesday nights – I know I will.
Bill Sniffin is the publisher of Cowboy State Daily. Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com.