A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Big Sky is a mystery series about a group of women who are kidnaped and the private investigators who try to find them. With a series built around a series of potentially deadly crimes, and the criminals who commit them, violence is frequent. Expect sudden on-screen deaths including a point-blank shooting, as well as women being tased, a man who threatens to torture them, a body wrapped in plastic, and other sudden violence. Most violence is committed against women by men and the camera lingers on the women's distress. Sexual content includes characters having sex, but what we see are bare shoulders and ecstatic faces while romantic music plays. Sex is also a soap-opera style complication, with infidelity and a love triangle. Sex workers are seen flirting with customers in brief outfits at a truck stop. Some scenes take place in bars; no one acts drunk. A Black woman is the main character; she's a strong female lead who's good at her job and powerful, but has a complicated past and makes mistakes, particularly in her romantic life. Law enforcement agents can't always be trusted. Language includes "asshole," "ass," "hell," "damn," "crap," and "dick." A non-binary actor plays a trans character in a respectful portrait.
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What's the story?
Something's going very wrong in rural Montana, and in mystery series Big Sky, private investigators team up to uncover the mystery and save a trio of women who have been kidnaped. Meanwhile, Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) owns her own detective agency in Helena, Montana, and she's got problems of her own: ex-cop Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) is ready to kick Cassie's teeth in after Cassie sleeps with Jenny's estranged husband (and Cassie's employee), Cody Hoyt (Ryan Philippe). But all that's put aside when Danielle (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Grace (Jade Pettyjohn) go missing on a Montana road trip -- and creepy trucker Ronald (Brian Geraghty) knows more than he's telling. Can the detectives uncover the evil plot that's behind the series of local disappearances? Or will they wind up getting caught in the trap too?
Is it any good?
It has clear ambitions to be a gripping mystery series on the order of 24 or The Blacklist, but with cliched plot twists and rote characters, this show's reach exceeds its grasp. With its first shots of little-town life in snowbound Montana, Big Sky seems to be reaching for a Twin Peaks vibe, but while that show wowed and confused viewers with its cast of memorable weirdos, Helena's everyday people are a lot more bland, and that definitely includes Ryan Philippe's generic good-guy P.I. Cody Hoyt, as well as the two women caught up in complicated feelings for him, both detective also: detective agency owner Cassie and Cody's estranged wife Jenny. In the series of novels that Big Sky is drawn from, Cass is the heroine and center of the story, but the show doesn't seem that interested in her, or in Jenny; the focus is instead on their feelings for the biggest name in the cast.
In Big Sky's marquee storyline, the center of the screen belongs to the gentlemen in the cast, too, with showrunner David E. Kelley electing to focus on by-the-book homicidal maniac trucker Ronald and his evil cohorts rather than the trio of women they kidnap. The men get moments in which they publicly pretend to be perfectly normal guys (albeit ones with quirks that would alert a herd of elephants to their oddness), and then scenes in which they leer and threaten terrible things; the women are reduced mainly to cowering and shrieking as the camera dotes on the sight. It just all feels so un-fresh, despite the gorgeous Montana setting, and lots of twists (that are telegraphed long before they arrive). Let's call it a swing and a miss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Big Sky's main female protagonist flips the script when it comes to "traditional" portrayals of women, work, and motherhood. How does Cassie compare to other strong female leads on TV?
How does the violence in this show affect you? Does it seem more or less violent that other mysteries or legal dramas you've seen?
Mystery series often center on a criminal case with one main detective working intrepidly to solve it. What is it about this setup that's appealing to viewers? In real life, do detectives usually work alone? Why or why not? What is it about the "one person against the world" plotline that makes it so enduring?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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