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'Big Sky' takes a deadly detour into the dark side of the heartland

November 17, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

"Big Sky" starts out feeling like another quirky drama -- a generation-later heir to David E. Kelley's "Picket Fences" -- before morphing into something much darker, which turns out to be pretty surprising and compelling once you get past the clunky and unpleasant task of setting it all up.

(CNN)"Big Sky" starts out feeling like another quirky drama -- a generation-later heir to David E.

Kelley's "Picket Fences" -- before morphing into something much darker, which turns out to be pretty surprising and compelling once you get past the clunky and unpleasant task of setting it all up.

Kelley -- the creator of shows like "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice" -- has more recently migrated to premium TV (see HBO's "Big Little Lies" and "The Undoing"), which makes his broadcast return something of an occasion.

A topnotch cast helps elevate the material, with Ryan Phillippe as Cody Hoyt, a private eye engaged in a mini-soap opera involving his estranged wife Jenny (Katheryn Winnick), an ex-cop, and his business partner Cassie (Kylie Bunbury).

File that sequence under the heading of "Teenagers do dumb things in movies and TV," violating rules about strange truck drivers and turning off the main highway onto lonely back roads.

Concern about their disappearance brings the private investigators into contact with a local highway patrolman (the always excellent John Carroll Lynch), and begins to pull back the curtain on what a headline summarizes as rural Montana's "abduction problem. "

That said, the women-in-peril aspect is only one of the ways in which the set-up comes across as dated -- including a disturbing character (Brian Geraghty) with mommy issues -- veering closer to what feels like "The Silence of the Lambs" territory than the wide-open spaces.

The idea of dark secrets in small towns is as old as the hills (or the "Twin Peaks), and "Big Sky" possesses its share of throwback qualities.

How well that bodes for the long haul remains to be seen, but at least out of the gate "Big Sky" gets considerable mileage out of this premise, turning a misguided detour into what looks like a very dark trip.

"Big Sky" premieres Nov. 17 at 10 p. m. ET on ABC and will be available the next day on Hulu.

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