Big Sky producer on season finale cliffhanger, Cassie and Jenny's fate
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Tuesday's episode of Big Sky, "Love Is a Strange and Dangerous Thing."
Montana might be Big Sky country, but it's also got plenty of mountain peaks — making it the perfect territory for a cliffhanger.
The season 1 finale of ABC's twisty-turny finale ended on a pileup of a "to be continued" title card. The Kleinsasser family drama, which gave Dynasty a run for its money, ended in even more death.
After Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) and Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) descended upon the ranch with the police, Margaret (Michelle Forbes) gave Horst (Ted Levine) his pills — only to stand idly by until he choked on them. With Horst and all the brothers dispatched, Cheyenne (Britt Robertson) was finally in charge, and she even left a parting calling card at Dewell and Hoyt, dropping off white lion cupcakes.
But Montana is never short on trouble. As soon as Jenny and Cassie wrapped things up at the Kleinsassers, they found Marshal Lindor (Omar Metwally) and Jerrie (Jesse James Keitel) closing in on Ronald (Brian Geraghty). He faked a hostage situation with lady love Scarlet (Anja Savcic).
While he faced interrogation from Dewell, Hoyt, and crew, Scarlet set a rescue plan in motion, involving Legarski's hard drive and the shadowy syndicate responsible for Legarski and Ronald's trafficking operation.
Ronald took Jenny, Cassie, and Lindor to the lair of another victim, Kelli, a woman he'd let waste away in a twisted attempt to kidnap and woo her. But it was all part of a grander scheme, as Ronald first tried to strangle Cassie from the backseat before one of the syndicate's vehicles pushed their police car into an overturned wreck.
Ronald stole away from the smash-up, hopping into a getaway car with Scarlet and the syndicate leaders. But when it became clear Scarlet's daughter was going to be abandoned, they committed another act of murder and took the escape into their own hands.
Meanwhile in the melee, Jenny was shot while attempting to prevent Ronald's escape. Cassie, who miraculously emerged from the wreck unscathed, tried to staunch her partner's bleeding before grabbing a machine gun and careening off in a rage after Ronald.
Will Jenny survive (and what about Lindor for that matter)? Is Cassie driving straight into a trap? And just how powerful and evil is the syndicate? We cued up Johnny Mathis' "Chances Are" and called executive producer Elwood Reid to get the answers to these questions and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start with the biggest question. Things look pretty dire for Jenny, but we've also seen Legarski survive being shot in the head, so what are her odds here?
ELWOOD REID: That was something that came up in the writers' room, which is: You shot a major character in the head and the next week he was up and running. Not up and running, but he was back. It's pretty bad for her. And it's also pretty bad for Cassie because she's chasing after some pretty bad guys, including Ronald. We don't know who this mysterious group is that broke him out. Both women are in jeopardy. Nobody's off limits; everybody's fair game. We're going to go that way right to the end of the show — ride or die with that ethos.
Cassie is in hot pursuit of Ronald and Scarlet, and we get a "to be continued" title card. Can we assume we will pick up here right where we left off in season 2?
I've got all kinds of crazy bizarre ideas and thoughts. If I had to do something tomorrow, we have a whole plan of what to do. But then as time goes by, you start to think of more devious, crazy things to do with the show. Because in my opinion, the language of Big Sky is pretty valuable. It can do lots of stuff as long as it's in the service of story.
Ronald and Scarlet are Bad News Bears on their own, but they seem to perhaps be in over their head with this syndicate or whatever it is. If Cassie doesn't literally catch up with them, how much of a threat is that to them?
Pretty big. There are some breadcrumbs in some of the stuff about past characters. Those people may or may not show up. [Ronald] mentions that Legarski had a twin brother. We may or may not know who their twin brother is. The officer that shows up at the house is [part] of that syndicate, so we get the idea that there's many more of those creepy types of troopers out there like Legarski. Both Cassie and Scarlet and Ronald may be heading into some uncharted territory.
As you said, Ronald mentioned Legarski has a twin. Might John Carroll Lynch be back for season 2?
The first thing I said when I was talking to David [Kelley] was, "I can't believe you killed off John Carroll Lynch, because he's such a great actor. You brought him back once with a head injury so there's no reason we can't bring him back again." It was a joke I had at first with the writers and David Kelley, and then once we got to the end, I was like, "Wait a minute." There's a lot of back story in the first season about his high school and all this other stuff, why couldn't he have a twin brother? What is his connection, if any, to the syndicate? How does Ronald know about this twin brother? That leaves open all kinds of possibilities for us. Given the language of Big Sky and the amount of characters and plot that we burn, planting those seeds is something that's really important for the show. Whether they all pay off, I don't know. If I had my druthers, they're going to.
Weirdly, at least within the bounds of those syndicate people, you had me rooting for Ronald and Scarlet a little bit. How do you pull off that delicate balance? Is that something you were aiming for?
It's so weird that you say that because when you're writing, they're just words on a page. Ronald has done some really horrible things, really abhorrent things. When I brought in the character of Scarlet, the easy way to think of her was just an innocent victim and there'd be a certain amount of audience sympathy for her. We got that, and then I was like, "What women would not know that there was something off about this guy?" We started asking ourselves that question, so that brought up the idea that Scarlet is just as crazy as Ronald is. It brought this really interesting dynamic, and when we were writing the show, I was like, "This is the Titanic love story between these two." They do truly love each other. You have to write it that way. Put aside that he's a monster, put aside that she's a crazy psychopath who may or may not have killed a family. Write them as if they're lovers. It really worked, and that's something I want to play with the second season. There are certain devious screenwriter tricks to perhaps get a little bit of your sympathy for Ronald. That's my job — to try to do the undoable.
How many more secrets might both of them be keeping from each other and how might that impact their relationship?
A lot. This show has the ability to jump around in time to fill in gaps and to add more mythology to the characters. One of the things when I took over the show that David had left unanswered was the whole idea of the syndicate. What were they doing with these girls? What was Legarski and Ronald's plan with them? We never learned that. All we knew was that Jerrie and the other two girls were going to be taken somewhere and given over to the syndicate. So that's huge open territory for storytelling. Now that Scarlet has activated the "syndicate" to save Ronald, what use does the syndicate have for Ronald? There's a lot of open storytelling, there's a lot of fun unexplored story nooks and crannies we have left for season 2.
If Jenny survives, how might her partnership with Cassie continue to grow and evolve? Tubbs is pretty intent on getting her to become a sheriff, but would Jenny seriously consider that?
Jenny has this nebulous law enforcement background, and one of the ways that the show works really well is a push-pull between Cassie and Jenny about the proper way to do something, or how much risk they're both getting themselves into. But Cassie was nearly strangled to death by Ronald in the car, and she escaped. Now we have Jenny shot. It's going to cause both women to reassess where they're at with their lives and where they're at with their careers. One of the things that really makes the show work for me is these women processing this stuff emotionally. There's a couple of scenes in the hotel room after the really bad stuff happens with the Kleinsassers where it's just the two of them talking and you can feel the exhaustion and the emotion about the risk they've taken.
If you look at the last half of the season, they've been on a roller coaster ride. They've had no time to breathe with Jenny almost being killed by the Kleinsassers, to being rescued, to getting a phone call that Ronald's been captured, to finally catching this monster they've been chasing, and then Ronald escaping, and in the process, having Jenny shot and Cassie almost strangled. As the show moves forward in the second season, I promise you we will take a breath and process what that means, and they'll process what that means for their relationship together going forward. That's the heart of the show.
What would it mean for Cassie if Jenny doesn't make it? She's already suffered two really huge losses in her life.
When I took over the back half of the season, one of the things I tried to get at with this show was I wanted the women to process the loss in their life. There's that conversation in the hotel where Cassie tells Jenny about what it was like to lose her husband. She tells Lindor what it was like to lose her husband. You get the real sense that Jenny did have some affection for Blake Kleinsasser (Michael Raymond James), and she feels like his death is on her, and she feels that Angela's (Rachel Colwell) death — the woman who worked at the sheriff's office — is on her. Trying to get that stuff to weigh emotionally with these characters is something we're going to do more of in the second season. As cool as it is to see Cassie with a machine gun getting in a car and going after a serial killer, at some point, you've got to decompress and dig into the emotional weight of what's just happened.
Why choose that Johnny Mathis song for Ronald's obsession? Were there others in the mix?
There's something creepy and weird about that song. If you look at the lyrics, the lyrics are also creepy and weird. We thought about getting the song covered, but there's something about the Johnny Mathis [version] — it's both beautiful and weird at the same time. Going back to the Ronald and Scarlet of it all, the love story makes you feel the way that song makes you feel, both creepy and entranced. You can't keep your eyes off of them, so it really fit with the tone of their relationship.
Can you elaborate any further on who Kelli is? Will we learn more about her going forward?
There's a scene where Scarlet confronts him about hiding those receipts and that note, and he attempts to lie to her and she sees right through it. One of the things that's weird and charming about Ronald is he does seem to tell the truth. That scene in the finale where he's talking about Kelli — he did, in his own twisted way, try to make this woman love him. I know that sounds nuts. But there's emotion attached to that and he wasn't lying. We're going to learn more about that insane incident. And hopefully, we can get into the storytelling of what the syndicate really is and what Ronald's relationship with the syndicate was. And why he didn't want Kelli to go to that; that's going to reveal something about Ronald. We're talking about a serial killer and a messed-up person, but I try to make these crimes unpeel another layer of his character. I wanted you to believe that there was true emotion attached to that woman. It's twisted, but he loved his mother, too — and look what happened to her.
It seemed like Jerrie was finally going to be able to sleep a little easier. Now that Ronald has escaped, what does that mean for her? Can we expect to see her continue working with Dewell and Hoyt next year?
Absolutely. One of the things we want to be able to do with the show is tell a handful of long-term mystery arcs, story arcs that have their own stakes. We're going to do the same thing in the second season and, ideally, there's a case that's going to have a connection to a former colleague and friend of Jerrie's in season 2.
Cheyenne had an ominous and fitting exit. Can we expect to hear from the Kleinsassers any further in the future?
Cheyenne is the white lion. You don't ever close the book on the white lion. She's going to be out there. This show has its basis in this world C.J. Box has created up in Montana, and all these characters can come back and intertwine. She's someone who could be a foil and an unlikely ally for Dewell and Hoyt going forward. She's in that world.
There was something really sweet and lovely happening between Cassie and Mark. His fate in that wreck is unclear. Might he make it through to actually get that raincheck with her?
I think he will. The question is, "Is Cassie going to make it?" Remember, she's in a car all by herself with a gun chasing after Scarlet and Ronald and the syndicate people. She's in a lot of danger herself. They connected on an emotional level. That will play itself out as we see Cassie moving forward.
Things on Big Sky have already been very f---ed up. How much darker are they going to get?
My approach is trying to think of the craziest idea, and then, can we make it work emotionally? If the answer to that is yes, [then we do it]. It's going to get much more f---ed up and much darker, but I want to keep coming back to the real. I do think we have real emotional moments with our characters that matter. Yes, we've got crazy stuff. But that all has to be done through real, good, emotional storytelling for our lead characters. It comes back to Cassie and Jenny. We care about these women; we care when they're in trouble and we care that they try to help people that are in trouble.
Can you tease season 2?
We're going to bring somebody on that you're going to fall in love with, and then, eventually, we're going to kill them. That's for sure. David did that, and there is no reason to deviate from that. Hopefully, we're going to get to the bottom of the syndicate that Ronald was involved in. And we're going to follow those crazy lovers Ronald and Scarlet to see if they can survive what they started. I'm hoping to bring in a whole new story line that centers around someone from Jerrie's past. That's leaving aside the two biggest things: is Jenny going to survive? And what happens to Cassie when she gets in that car? What happens the next five minutes after the finale?