‘Big Sky’ Thunderclap: John Carroll Lynch On Tonight’s Shocking Twist

Spoiler Alert: Warning! This interview and episode postmortem contains details about tonight’s Big Sky episode 9, “Let It Be Him”

We saw some jaw-dropping stuff tonight.

For example, private investigators Cassie and Jenny (Kylie Bunbury and Katheryn Winnick) chasing down an autopiloted Tesla commandeered by a dead priest with little kidnapped Erik (Evan Whitten) on the passenger side. Another takeaway from tonight: If you want to completely stop such autopiloted barreling Tesla, simply get in front of it. And that’s exactly what Cassie and Jenny did in a near-dead-on collision.

While we’ve always known that John Carroll Lynch’s sex trafficking Montana state trooper Rick Legarski’s days were numbered (I mean, he was SHOT in the head), nothing was more shocking to date than how he left this Earth. And, no, he wasn’t buried in a pick-up truck like poor Cody (Ryan Phillippe).

“He won’t be going free after all,” Sheriff Walter Tubb (Patrick Gallagher) tells Cassie and Jenny at the end of tonight’s episode about Rick. No kidding. Evil Ronald could have killed Rick. Even Cassie tried to harass Rick in the hospital by jogging his long-term memory. However, it was his second wife Merilee (Brooke Smith), who as Lynch says below in our interview with him, wouldn’t “be fooled again.” She remembered how twisted Rick was; how he attempted to murder her with a hammer and a song, “If I Had a Hammer.” All of this provoked her to, not pull any of his cords or his oxygen in the hospital, rather bludgeon him with a hammer; she’s gravely sickened by his involvement in little Erik’s disappearance, not to mention Rick’s lawyer’s determination to get him off.

Before the credits rolled, we see Ronald is still on the lam, back in his 18 Wheeler. He threw himself out of that runaway Tesla after putting the priest and little Erik in there. No worries, because we know Cassie and Jenny will close in. The duo have so much gumption, they led what would be considered a S.W.A.T. team in Montana and raided Ronald’s house; the bad dude having booby-trapped the place with gas and flares.

It will be interesting to see what the fallout is here for the noble and wry Merilee. Gosh, are we on her side.  he quotes one of Rick’s songs before she’s hauled away. You see when he was trying to figure out a problem, he’d sing “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” Merilee croons, “I don’t know why she married the fly…”.

After learning from Tubbs that Merilee offed Rick, Jenny tells Cassie toward the end of tonight’s episode, “Well, that’s some kind of justice.”

“Yeah,” responds Cassie, “but not the kind I was looking for.”

Here’s Lynch with his Big Rick exit interview:

This is the second time that Rick has ‘died’. Was this the way he was expected to die, at the hands of Merilee, or was there a chance he was actually going to die earlier when he was shot in the head?  

John Carroll Lynch: The writers were given a difficult task in that we originally had a ten-episode order and they were writing a serialized show that would be transitional from one book to another. As the order was extended to 16, the question was how to finish out one story elegantly and move on to the next. So, I knew by the time of the shoot-in-the-head moment with Cassie that that wasn’t going to be the end of the character. But I didn’t know how the end was going to unfold. I think to some degree neither did they (the writers). But it was perfectly arranged.

Was it a surprise to you that it was Merilee and not Ronald or Cassie who killed Rick?

JCL: In thrillers like this there’s a question of who is the person who is going to have the most emotional satisfaction for the audience and Merilee is the perfect choice; she won’t be fooled again. They foreshadow the hammer. At some point they (the writers) knew. I didn’t ask, nor was it shared with me. I’m sure they would have told me how it ended. At some point in the process, [EP] Ross [Fineman] asked me ‘Do you want to know what happens?’ and I was like ‘No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I need to know.’ One of the beauties of shooting episodic television, particularly serialized episodic television, is that it unfolds as close to life as you can get. When you’re telling a story, it’s very satisfying to have a beginning, middle and end to work with. It’s also interesting to discover, like I do in my life, things that happen, and that can be satisfying in network serialized television.

So when did they let you know when you were going to die? Literally when they handed you the script for Episode 9? 

JCL: Ross said, ‘I think we’re going to say goodbye to you in 9.’ It was sometime in 108 they were telling me. I said I’d wait to find out when I got the script.

The whole series really speaks to what’s been going on in our society between #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, Defund the Police, and the ultra-conservative faction in our divided nation. Early on in the series, Rick tells his boss Sheriff Walter Tubb how life isn’t as good as the Reagan days. Can you expound on playing a character like this? A sex trafficker, who puts on this good guy “higher morale” attitude?

JCL: Well, the delusional quality of somebody who thinks that the best way to clean up their little corner of Montana is to sell women to Canada, that’s deluded. It’s a loser-y, and it’s based on a moral certainty that is certainly not earned by anybody, particularly not earned by this particular person. We’re living in a world where we see people we can’t talk to — it feels like they’re in a cult or I am. And I think that’s what it speaks to, an odd disturbing “truth” that is truly heinous, and creates circumstances in which that kind of lawlessness; he feels entitled to. He feels entitled to that subjugation of women and to get to that level of subjugation of anybody seems crazy to me.

I don’t want to equate it to this so much, but in some ways the delusion of people who marched on the Capitol, it was a delusion that caused that, and continues to. And I am sympathetic to them only in this way: Which is how did you get here? How did you get to a place where you think you’re the patriot when you’re killing a police officer in the Capitol of the United States? That you actually think you’re the one who has righteous, higher ground? How did you get there? I would say that Rick believes, at least till 109, in the scene where he says ‘It all just got out of hand,’ I think there’s some recognition in his subconscious that he’s wrong. I feel sympathetic to the deluded people, I feel sympathetic to crazy people, it shouldn’t exonerate them, it shouldn’t change their responsibilities any more than it changes anytime I’ve been deluded and done terrible things. Righteousness doesn’t have communication very well, so we have to figure out a way to understand these people in the political sense. We have to understand them, I’m not saying we have to agree with them. We have to fight tooth and nail for democracy that works for all of us. But we do have to understand how they thought this. As an actor, I have to know how he brought it. That speech he gives to Patrick’s character; that speech is true for him –‘Blue Lives Matter and you would say so yourself if it were a Black person complaining’– that is the truth that cops feel.

Will we see Rick in any flashbacks?

JCL: I serve at the pleasure of the American Broadcasting Company, I’m sure we can get my schedule to work, but I don’t see a universe where Cassie would say, ‘I wonder what Rick would think about this?’ [Laughs]

What about American Horror Story or its spinoff series — are you planning a return or is Twisty?

JCL: I would like to work with Ryan Murphy in any capacity. I think he’s one of the interesting artists working today in all capacities and the cast is enviable to play opposite. I’ve been so fortunate to play David Dellinger (in Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7), one of the most morally clear people I’ll ever play and a person who effected such heroic attempts at change in the same calendar year as I’m playing one of the worst people I’ve ever played. It’s been a nice year to play both of those really interesting men. I don’t mind taking a walk on the dark side at all, it has to be done. I have some understanding of how to do it. I’d like to do a comedy, I’d like to laugh a little bit. I’ve been fortunate to not be pigeonholed into one set of circumstances and I pray that Rick Legarski doesn’t do that to me either.

 

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