First look Disney+ UK TV review: Big Sky
Ivan Radford | On 22, Feb 2021
Episode 1 and 2 of Big Sky are available on Star on Disney+ from 23rd February, with new episodes then arriving weekly on Fridays.
From Big Little Lies to Goliath, David E Kelley sits alongside Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy as one of modern TV’s biggest creators. His latest, Big Sky, debuted on Hulu last year and now comes to Star on Disney+ in the UK, as part of the launch line-up for the streaming service’s adults-only section. And, if nothing else, it certainly makes it clear that Star is not a kid-friendly zone.
The series shuns the wealthy New York and Monterey settings of Kelley’s Big Little Lies and The Undoing, instead taking us to a small Montana town, where people have started to gone missing. And by people, we mean women.
The latest two are Danielle (Natalie Alyn Lind) and her sister, Grace (Jade Pettyjohn). Danielle is the girlfriend of the son of Jenny (Katheryn Winnick), a former police detective with an estranged husband, Cody (Ryan Phillippe). We meet them as it emerges that Cody’s been having an affair with Cassie (Kylie Bunbury), the partner in their private investigation business. If that sounds like a long-winded way to introduce Cassie, the protagonist of the books by CJ Box on which Big Sky, you’re not wrong – and that decision to take the scenic route through the darker side of the tale first sets the tone for a grim watch.
Because yes, before we really get to know any of the characters, we’ve spent a surprising amount of town with truck driver Ronald (Brian Geraghty). He’s the one who’s been responsible for the kidnapping of torture of the women in the area – and we know this because we soon see him kidnap and torture Jerrie, a sex worker who’s played by Jessie James Keitel. They bring some nuance to the part of Jerrie, who is caught off-guard by the predator – and there’s a sad, plausible truth to the way he focuses on marginalised communities and professions to avoid detection.
But that’s as much depth as we really get in the show’s opening two episodes, which mostly focus on Ronald and his dubious relationship with his mum, or on the stereotypical small-town sheriff. The latter effectively introduces Cassie in a conversation that focuses primarily on her appearance, while another scene sees her fight with Jenny in a bar (as Stand By Your Man plays on the jukebox).
All of these cliches don’t give us much to root for, and repeated shots of a sinister guy wielding a taser only adds to the unpleasant tone. The cast do well with what they’re given, from Phillippe’s downbeat loner to Geraghty’s creepy outsider. But with Lind and Pettyjohn seemingly stuck in a loop from an outdated slasher film, you’ll have to wait for Winnick (who was the MVP on Vikings throughout her time on the show) and Bunbury to get more to do. That may be the point at which Big Sky finds its groove, there’s little initial enjoyment to give you reason to stick around.
Big Sky is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.