By Maureen Lee Lenker
April 13, 2021 at 11:00 PM EDT
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From sociopathic lawmen and truck drivers to a dysfunctional family of the highest order, it's out of the frying pan and into the fire for Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) and Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) on Big Sky.

With Legarski (John Carroll Lynch) dead and Ronald (Brian Geraghty) still at large, it seemed like things might quiet back down to run-of-the-mill adultery cases for the newly minted P.I. partners. But thrills are the name of the game on ABC's David E. Kelley drama, and the super-sized spring premiere finds the women in a heap of new trouble.

Ronald, now on the run with longer, lighter hair and glasses, still looms large, as Jerrie (Jesse James Keitel) fends off phone calls from a heavy-breather. While he burrows into a new family (and tries to hide his taser habit), Jenny and Cassie remain desperate for clues as to his whereabouts. But the arrival of a new federal marshal, Mark (Omar Metwally), both helps and hinders, as Cassie finds herself drawn to his quirky approach.

After getting roped into a case involving the horse semen black market (yes, that's a thing), Cassie and Jenny get a call to help out on a "domestic" case of a dangerous nature. Blake (Michael Raymond-James), an old flame of Jenny's, is in jail for assault — but he believes his poisonous family, the dynastic Kleinsassers, set him up.

The Kleinsassers have more skeletons in the closet than a Tennessee Williams' clan, and we get just a taste of them as the investigation begins. Patriarch Horst (Ted Levine) is cold and grasping, and there's definitely something questionable going on between him and his wife.

While daughter Cheyenne (Britt Robertson) looks out for her mama, Blake's two younger brothers, John Wayne (Kyle Schmid) and Rand (Ryan Dorsey), stir up trouble defending the family name. Not to mention, Rand has a drug problem (which includes getting high on his own supply).

When Jenny and Cassie set out for the small town to interview Blake, they get stonewalled at every turn. The sheriff sticks to the Kleinsasser's official story, and Jenny even gets run off their property. But things get especially dire when Cassie gets abducted by a cop, and Jenny finds herself facing off against an ax-wielding Rand after stumbling into a pit of cow carcasses.

While Jenny and Cassie's lives hang in the balance, we called up Big Sky executive producer Ross Fineman to talk the imminent danger our heroines are facing, who is the least trustworthy Kleinsasser, and if Ronald's new haircut is a sign of better times ahead.

BIG SKY
Big Sky
| Credit: Darko Sikman/ABC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We left the spring premiere with both Cassie and Jenny in peril. Who should we be more worried about right now?

ROSS FINEMAN: They're both in big danger. Cassie doesn't have any idea what's in store for her because she's out on a country road where a sheriff has taken her. She's completely scared for her life as this Black woman in the middle of Montana, where she's really thought of as to be trouble for them. She knows that if she doesn't think quick that she's doomed. In a more urgent way, Jenny is in a pit where Rand has already said he wants to see her with dead animals and carcasses, etc. She feels that the impending situation is — unless she fights for her life, it's gonna be over. They're both in big trouble. I think you're gonna be equally scared for both of them, but what's going to happen with Jenny is going to happen right here right now. She has to think fast. And that's how we start off episode 12 is dealing with both of those situations.

Jenny seems to trust and believe Blake's story, and it's clear the family is very messed up, but should we trust him?

Well, anybody named Kleinsasser is not completely trustworthy. But Blake is vulnerable, and he really needs someone to help him. Blake left the state and went to New York to get away from all these crazy people in his family, but because his father is sick and because the future of the ranch is in question, he came back to see what he can do. Selfishly, maybe there's something in it for him. But the brothers don't like that and don't trust that. So, they're making sure Blake has his own conflicts and roadblocks because that's the kind of family they are. I would say that Blake is, whether he's trustworthy or not, we don't know, but we think Jenny believes and trusts him.

The Kleinsasser family is dysfunctional with a capital "D," but they seem to be varying degrees of bad. Can you rank them in turns of how dangerous or trustworthy they are?

Horst, played by Ted Levine, is completely untrustworthy. He'll do anything, anytime, anywhere to benefit himself and his family — or himself over his family, depending on who it is. The women in the family are resentful of the men in the family. That's coming to a head. The son JW, who was under Blake, is thinking he should be the one that's next in line because he's got his act together and he actually stayed with the family when Blake didn't. Rand, who's the baby son, is probably the least emotionally capable of doing his own bidding. He looks up to his bigger brother JW and follows his lead in everything. The sister, Cheyenne, is the youngest of all of them, [and] probably has her act together the most of all of them. But then again, she's a Kleinsasser, so we can't completely believe or trust anything anybody says until the end of the season when it all pays off and we know who's who and what's what.

How do the Kleinsassers compare to Ronald and Legarski in terms of their capacity for evil?

I'd say they are less evil, even though they get to the same place. I don't know what psychological term you want to use for Legarski and Ronald, but they are mentally unfit to fit into society. The Kleinsassers, it's more about greed and inability to deal with people that threaten them. If you crossed one of the Kleinsassers, you might pay for it with your life. You know by reputation that they're a tough family. But Ronald and Legarski, Ronald's a mild-mannered truck driver supposedly and Legarski was a lawman, so we should trust them. So, that was a little more of a surprise when they turned. But as much as we expect the Kleinsassers to be untrustworthy, there are still some great surprises coming up to see how they do what they do to each other and to those around them. I think it's [author] C.J. Box at his best. The way that he keeps turning the screw, the twists you don't see coming, the surprises the thrills.

Describe the Kleinsassers in three words.

Selfish, powerful, and misguided.

Something is definitely going on with Cheyenne and her mom, and the kids are protective of her. What can you hint at when it comes to the relationship between her and Horst?

Horst only cares about Horst. He only cares about his family in how it makes him look. As long as people think he is a good father and a good husband, that's more important to him than being a good father or a good husband. And Horst is a throwback from the 1950s, if you will. He believes the men of the family come first. Even though his wife is his partner, he thinks his sons come before his wife because they're the boys; they're the men in the family. The wife and the daughter are second-class citizens as far as he's concerned. Even though he wants to remain loyal to his wife, he is not a good husband, and ultimately he's not a good father. Because he is carrying on the family tradition of running this ranch in the 2020s when he still has old Victorian morals and beliefs, and it's just not working in today's society. I would say that Horst knows his end is coming soon and is trying to set the table for when he's gone. And he's not doing a very good job of it.

Ronald is still at large, but he seems to have semi turned over a new leaf, finding a connection with this new woman. How volatile is he still and how concerned should we be for the new woman he's taken up with?

We should be very, very worried for her. He should not be trusted. He can't turn over a new leaf because it's not in his capacity to do so. He's just trying to stay out of trouble, trying to stay low-key. He's changed his look a bit, and he's hoping to avoid the law, but he is not going to give up on the old story. He can't forget the people that know who he is and who he wants to deal with. That is why Cassie and Jenny are hoping to bring him back into focus and eventually bring him down. Because Ronald is an imperfect person. But what we do know about him is that these impulses are beyond his control, and that's part of the fun of watching him, knowing that at any moment, he could explode. But the woman he's living with has a child. They should be worried. And you should be worried for them.

What can you tease about who or what he visited in the barn with the cake?

It's of his history. He has done things before where he's had relationships, and he doesn't know how to be a normal person. He doesn't know how to fit into society. He was raised by a mother who was very judgmental of him and who he felt wasn't loyal to him, and the person that he is visiting to pay his respects to was another person, just like his mother, where he thought he had a good relationship. That person was a little too controlling, and it did not end up well, and he knows he did wrong, but he can't help himself.

It seems like he's the one calling Jerrie. How worried should we still be about her safety?

We should be extremely worried for Jerrie because she is really the object of his desire. As much as he wants to avoid Cassie and Jenny and maybe cause trouble for them, it really is about Jerrie. Jerrie can identify him, and Jerrie and he, in a weird way, had a connection because he's not pure evil. He is psychotic, but he's not pure evil. He felt for Jerrie. He could have done more awful things to her, and he didn't. He actually treated her with respect, and when he did do bad things, he felt bad about it. There's a connection with them. Part of it is he needs to get back to her because she can identify him, but also because he feels like maybe they can, you know, rekindle some of that — maybe there's a way to have that conversation and have her appreciate who he is. From his point of view, that is. We know that's crazy. That'll never happen. But he doesn't know that won't happen. So, she should be very worried. That is him, who's calling and hanging up. He just can't let it go.

The new U.S. marshal, Mark, is here working the case, but he seems a bit quirky, and to be fair, quirky on this show usually means dangerous. Should we be suspicious of him?

He is definitely quirky. I will tell you that he is not dangerous. He is on the side of right. He wants to do right, but he just comes from a different way. He's a little bit crunchy granola. I'm sure he meditates, and he looks at things metaphysically, and he has a way of thinking about things out of the box that most people in his position who carry his badge don't think. Cassie is both intrigued and not sure of him at the same time, but he's a different kind of a guy. He is looking for Ronald because of his own past. He's had some experiences in his own personal background, which led him to want to take this case when nobody else did. It seemed like a cold case after three months, and he came to town to try and help bring Ronald to justice.

There's also some real chemistry between him and Cassie. Might some sparks fly there along the way?

There's a connection. But Cassie is very cautious. Her husband, the father of her child, was killed at war. And then, she was the other woman, and she didn't mean to be. She didn't think she was with Cody. He's only been gone for three months now; he was taken away violently. So, she's being ultra-cautious. But there's no denying that there's some kind of sparks flying, and he's an interesting guy. And as much as she doesn't want to even think about it, she's thinking about it. But she's juggling a lot of cases, and she's trying to figure out how to take care of all this when this pleasant bump in the road of a man that she didn't expect to be in her life is now in her life.

Speaking of romance, we didn't see too much of them together, but Blake and Jenny used to date. Any chance something could be rekindled there?

No. I just have to tell you point-blank. There's no rekindling because even though there might be a little bit of an attraction, she definitely is not ready for that. Because she's been with the same man for 20 years, and he was violently taken away three months before this. She's just not there yet. When she meets Blake, he's not presenting himself in the best light. He's being accused of a horrible crime, which he denies. He's a big, big drinker, which he actually embraces, and he's a bit of a lost soul. That's nothing she needs in her life, that's for sure. But he can't deny that [they had] a great thing back when they were kids. That's why she's there to help him. But I would say there's no real future for the two of them.

Can you tease next week's episode?

It is full-blown Big Sky. We're juggling the Kleinsasser story; we're juggling the Ronald story. Ronald, new and old, new family, old vendettas. Both Jenny and Cassie are going to deal with their situations, but we also learn how dastardly and how powerful the Kleinsasser family is. For Jenny and Cassie, to look into this family is a big bite that they shouldn't be taking most likely. Also, Blake is at major conflict with his family, and it's never a good thing for the Kleinsassers to have a conflict with anybody, but when it's internal, it can be really dastardly and pretty bad. Jenny and Cassie are trying to get information to help along the way when they actually uncover more than they probably should, and the danger is constant for them. It's a wild ride of an hour.

Ronald is still lurking out there. And Ronald actually is going to make his presence known again — not only to our new people but to the family that he's taken up with. And his old ways are starting to come to the fore again. He just can't control his urges. We have a great ending, which will compel you to the next one. It's a surprise; it's a shock, and it's very satisfying.

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