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Series / Big Sky

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Big Sky is an American Police Procedural drama television series from ABC, created by David E. Kelley and based on the 2013 novel The Highway by C. J. Box. Outside the United States, the series was released via Disney+'s Star hub in many territories.

Our story starts with the two young Sullivan sisters, Danielle and Grace, driving through a Montana highway on their way to visit Danielle's boyfriend Justin, when they come across someone nefarious and disappear into thin air. But their disappearance doesn't go unnoticed, and soon they have Justin's private detective father Cody, Justin's ex-cop mother Jenny and Cody's partner Cassie looking for them, with the help of trooper Rick Legarski from the Montana highway patrol. It soon becomes apparent that the sisters are only the latest in a long string of young women disappearing on that county, and the race against the clock is on to find them before they meet a permanent end.

It stars Kylie Bunbury, Katheryn Winnick, Ryan Phillippe, John Carroll Lynch, Natalie Alyn Lind, Jensen Ackles, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and others.

The show premiered on November 17, 2020, ending in 2023 after three seasons.

Previews: Teaser #1, Teaser #2, Teaser #3, Teaser Trailer, Trailer, Full Trailer,

Big Sky contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Alan kills Paul while they're struggling inadvertently in "All Kinds of Snakes", pushing him back into a taxidermy deer head, whose antlers he gets impaled on.
  • Action Girl: Jenny and Cassie are no strangers to guns and fisticuffs, as demonstrated in the first episode.
  • Artistic License – Geography: A map shows Helena as being located where Livingston actually is. And with filming taking place in British Colombia, the setting more closely resembles northwestern Montana, closer to Libby than to Helena.invoked
  • Always Identical Twins: Rick Legarski turns out to have a twin brother in Season 2 named Wolf, who is his spitting image (played by the same actor). They initially have different hairstyles, but Wolf then changes his to match Rick's at his wife's insistence as a better way of getting to Ronald.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Jenny and Cassie spend most of the pilot episode with a prominent black eye and a busted lip respectively from a fistfight they have in the first act.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Cody gets killed by a shot to the head at close range by. Legarski is also downed by Cassie in the same way, though at a greater distance, later on.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In a bout of road rage, Danielle picks a fight with a guy who just so happens to kidnap women.
  • Bury Your Gays: Criminal duo/couple Snail and Paul appear in only one episode, as both die before it's over.
  • Contrived Coincidence: When the Sullivan sisters disappear, Cody's secretary Denise puts him in touch with a Montana highway patrol who used to be married to her cousin, who just so happens to be an accomplice of the guy who kidnapped the girls.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The teaser trailer in particular, leans in very heavily on all the darkness and depravity that lies beneath the apparently wholesome and gorgeous exterior of Montana.
  • Cure Your Gays: Jerrie's parents sent her to a therapist in hopes this would stop her being transgender. After it didn't, they disowned her.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Cody Hoyt, who is made out to be one of the leads of the show, gets shot in the face at the very end of the first episode.
  • Dirty Cop:
    • State trooper Legarski turns out to be involved with sex trafficking, and murders Cody covering it up.
    • In Season 2, a deputy sheriff is working with a drug trafficking syndicate.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Cody is murdered in the pilot, with his son Justin left behind.
    • Andrew Dewell, Cassie's husband and the father of Kai, was killed serving in Afghanistan.
  • Fair Cop: Private detectives, in this case. Cody, Jenny and Cassie are all very good-looking.
  • First-Episode Twist: Legarski shoots Cody in the face at the very end of the pilot, revealing himself to be in league with the bad guys.
  • Fury-Fueled Foolishness: A small chain of these kickstarts the plot, as after a near collision with a semi-trailer truck, Danielle becomes so enraged that she chases down the trucker to yell at him, despite her sister’s protestations about how dangerous that could be. In turn Ronald the trucker becomes so enraged that he chases them down and abducts them, despite already having a sex worker tied up in the container and the action being bound to draw attention.
  • Gayngster: The criminal duo Paul and Snail in "All Kinds of Snakes" are a couple.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Jenny and Cassie are at odds with each other when the show starts, actually getting into a fistfight in the very first episode.
  • Hollywood Law: Legarski's attorney says that positive lie detector test results could be introduced and then help with his defense. In fact, American courts don't allow them because of their unproven reliability, which she would know. Also, it's not true that his memory loss in regards to the crimes he's charged with could make him incompetent to stand trial. It relates only to the state of mind during legal proceedings. So long as you still understand and can help your defense, you're legally competent. This may be an In-Universe misunderstanding though, since it's Jenny and Cassie who fear he'll get Off on a Technicality due to it, but they aren't lawyers (though as ex-cops in reality they might know this).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Jerrie starts out as a sex worker and is a very sweet, kind-hearted person.
  • Human Traffickers: Ronald and Legarski sell the woman he kidnaps as sex slaves.
  • Identity Amnesia: Legarsky suffers this after being shot in the head and losing his recent memories. He discovers to his shock that he's facing charges of murder and sex trafficking, not recalling any of it. After being told this, and identified by Grace as a murderer, he just protests "I'm a Montana state trooper", apparently with no recall of his criminal actions. It's a partial example, because he remembers his name etc. just not that he was ever a criminal (since he forgot his dad died three years ago, it's possible all his memories since then are gone).
  • I Have No Son!: Jerrie was disowned and thrown out by her parents for telling them she was a trans girl.
  • Innocent Bigot: Danielle later realizes she was this with Jerrie, saying she'd been told how people who are openly bigots aren't so dangerous as ones who feel that they're progressives (such as her) that can be blind to their own failings. She apologizes for her transphobic remarks to Jerrie after this, who kindly says there's hope for her.
  • The Kleptomaniac: Scarlet steals a small item in her first scene, and says later that she's a kleptomaniac, getting a thrill out of doing this.
  • Lima Syndrome: While she refers to it as "Stockholm Syndrome but in reverse", Grace plans to deliberately trigger this on Ronald as a means of escape.
  • Loss of Identity: Legarski forgets the last three years as a result of brain damage, and this includes his criminal history apparently. When he wakes up to find himself accused of murder and sex trafficking, he's incredulous, repeating "I'm a Montana state trooper" then horrified when he realizes this must be true. The decent guy he used to be is all that's left it seems.
  • Love Triangle: Jenny is Cody's ex-wife, but gets into a fight with his girlfriend Cassie from jealousy over their relationship. After he's killed, the two women unite to track down the murderer, and mourn his death together.
  • Missing Mom: The mother of the Bhullar siblings had died in the past sometime.
  • My Beloved Smother: Helen, Roland's mother, is a subversion. At first it seems like she's this, since he still lives with her in his late thirties. She constantly criticizes and nags him, but it turns out this is to make something of himself other than just working as a truck driver. It thus turns out she's not smothering him, but trying to push Ronald in a better direction (it doesn't work).
  • My God, What Have I Done?
    • Ronald is horrified after he snaps Helen's neck.
    • Legarski shows genuine horror at learning he killed two people and sex-trafficked women, since he forgot all about it due to brain damage.
  • Obviously Evil:
    • Since the moment he appears on screen Ronald is nothing but creepy and menacing, so it come as no surprise when he starts kidnapping women.
    • Trooper Legarski is a more nuanced case as he comes off as just weird right of the bat, but during his initial meeting with Cassie he might as well have been wearing a sign that said "I'm involved" given how creepy he behaved.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Ronald kills his mother Helen in a fit of rage. We never hear what became of his father, but he's only mentioned in the past tense, so he might have died.
    • Cassie's mother died by suicide in the past. Later her father is murdered, leaving her devastated.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Danielle, one of the protagonists, calls trans woman Jerrie "a guy" and pointedly asks if she has a penis (when Grace apologizes on her behalf, Danielle's baffled as to what the issue is, though Jerrie's unruffled in any case). Later however Danielle apologizes when speaking with Jerrie, realizing what she did. Jerrie is cool about it and forgives her.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Legarski expresses some standard right-wing complaints of how America went downhill, political correctness goes too far, verging off into misogyny and racism, claiming he wants to save young people from immorality while also being a murderous human trafficker who believes the women he does this to deserve it for them being promiscuous.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Ronald gets an earful from his accomplice for kidnapping the Sullivan sisters, as one of the main reasons they’ve gotten away with their scheme is that they stick to runaway women and sex workers few people will miss as victims. Taking two pretty teenagers with families that will miss them is bound to trigger Missing White Woman Syndrome and draw a lot of attention. And he doesn't think that their customers in Canada want anything to do with the sisters.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Legarski receives a headshot, which leaves a tiny hole and mere trickle of blood. Justified, since it doesn't kill him.
  • Proud Beauty: Danielle is well aware of how hot she is.
    Grace: With me she let you go. I got the good judgement, you got the boobs.
    Danielle: And the butt!
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Sullivan sisters, with Danielle being the red one (impulsive, reckless and with a bad temper) and Grace being the blue one (responsible and level headed).
  • Rules Lawyer: Cassie and Legarski briefly engage in a dialogue over who would be legally in the right to shoot when she tracks him to the bar where he's keeping the captives. She wins and shoots him when he tries to draw his gun.
  • Scenery Porn: The show wastes no opportunity to luxuriate on the grand natural vistas of Montana.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Ronald gets away with kidnapping women for so long partly due to being in bed with a dirty cop who protected him.
  • Sex Slave: This turns out to be the fate in store for the women Ronald kidnaps.
  • Shameful Strip: Jerrie is forced to undress and wash by Ronald, which she's quite unhappy with, but uses this as an opportunity to show her body, in hopes he'll set her free, being transgender (he hadn't known this, wanting to traffic only cis women apparently).
  • Sinister Car: The trailers show that the girls were kidnapped by the driver of a sinister truck and kept prisoner in its trailer. The trailers also show that as many as 12 other young women have vanished around truck stops.
  • Slut-Shaming: Ronald and particularly Legarski hate "immoral" women, whom they target to sex traffic (usually the ones who are sex workers or otherwise already vulnerable).
  • Spotting the Thread: When a missing hiker sends a message with the mountains in the background Cassie and Denise realize it's been faked as the photograph shows snow at the top of the mountains, but they haven't been snow-covered for weeks.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted, As trooper Legarski finds out,if you shoot someone in the face at point black range, while inside a pickup truck's cabin, you are going to be dealing with some serious ringing in your ears.
  • Trans Tribulations: Jerrie tells Danielle how she realized early on she's really a girl, and came out to her parents at age fourteen. However, while at first they said they'd love her no matter what, their next move was that she see a therapist to "cure" her of this. Naturally, it didn't work and they threw Jerrie out. After that she lived in a trailer park and had to do sex work for survival.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Legarski loses his memory of the recent events due to being shot in the head.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Cassie is the only person of color in the main cast, who's also a woman (she's Black).
    • Jerrie is a young trans woman, in the otherwise all cisgender cast.
    • Of the girls in Season 2, Max is East Asian, and Harper Black. Both are also attracted to each other.
    • Ren Bhullar is a female drug trafficker with South Asian ancestry who's an antagonist in Season 2.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Jerrie shows Ronald her body (she's transgender) after he makes her strip and wash, in hopes of ruining his plan to sell her as a sex slave (because apparently he only wants cis women) and he reacts with shock at seeing this.
  • Vigilante Man: Richard, an outraged father whose son died from overdosing on drugs the Bhullars sold, goes after them for revenge.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Played with as Jenny and Cassie have a fight after Jenny discovers Cassie was sleeping with her husband. But they do try to put it aside to solve the missing girls' case even as the tension remains.
  • Wham Shot: A literal version as without warning Legarski shoots Cody.
  • Women Are Wiser:
    • Jenny and Cassie pick up immediately that Legarski's off in some way, and show caution toward. Cody, their mutual Love Interest, apparently didn't and Legarski shot him.
    • In the Kleinsasser family, the two women are the intelligent and moral ones. Daughter Cheyenne and mother Margaret both loathe their male relatives' stupid, immoral acts, trying unsuccessfully to stop it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Ronald has no qualms hurting 12-year-old Erik while keeping him captive.