‘Big Sky’ evaluate: David E. Kelley takes a detour into the dark side of the heartland

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Kelley — the creator of reveals like “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice” — has extra not too long ago migrated to premium TV (see HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and “The Undoing”), which makes his broadcast return one thing of an event. ABC additionally gambled on the present, leaping straight to a collection order — bypassing the traditional pilot course of — in a Covid-impacted program-development season.

Here, the prolific author is once more working from a e-book, this time C.J. Box’s “The Highway” novels. The story focuses on a pair of teenage sisters who get kidnapped in rural Montana, step by step peeling again layers to disclose a menacing, hidden underbelly of the heartland.

A topnotch solid helps elevate the materials, with Ryan Phillippe as Cody Hoyt, a non-public eye engaged in a mini-soap opera involving his estranged spouse Jenny (Katheryn Winnick), an ex-cop, and his enterprise associate Cassie (Kylie Bunbury). The three get drawn into the bigger plot when the teenagers — on a street journey to go to the Hoyts’ son — are snatched by a predator.

File that sequence below the heading of “Teenagers do dumb things in movies and TV,” violating guidelines about unusual truck drivers and turning off the predominant freeway onto lonely again roads. The entire factor has an unlucky, barely uncomfortable slasher-movie vibe.

Concern about their disappearance brings the non-public investigators into contact with a native freeway patrolman (the at all times glorious John Carroll Lynch), and begins to drag again the curtain on what a headline summarizes as rural Montana’s “abduction problem.”

The pulpy, serialized plot has extra of a cable texture, definitely in comparison with procedural community dramas. That stated, the women-in-peril side is just one of the methods by which the set-up comes throughout as dated — together with a disturbing character (Brian Geraghty) with mommy points — veering nearer to what seems like “The Silence of the Lambs” territory than the wide-open areas.

That’s offset, to some extent, by the energy of the feminine characters, together with Winnick (“Vikings”) and Bunbury (“Pitch”), who even interact in a bar brawl throughout the early going.

The thought of dark secrets and techniques in small cities is as previous as the hills (or the “Twin Peaks), and “Big Sky” possesses its share of throwback qualities.

Still, Kelley’s writing deftly pulls the audience along from twist to twist, at least through the two episodes previewed. 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 likely be out there the subsequent day on Hulu.

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