With Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) and Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) inching closer to the truth regarding the missing girls, it was only a matter of time before Montana state trooper Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch) and his partner, Ronald Pergman (Brian Geraghty), found themselves in a whole heap of trouble they couldn't worm their way out of. For Legarski, that's exactly what happened in the final seconds of Tuesday's winter finale of ABC's detective drama, when Cassie shot him in the head.
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'Big Sky' Sneak Peek: Ronald and Legarski Make a Dangerous Decision in Winter Finale (Exclusive)
It all culminated when most of the pieces finally clicked together, bringing Cassie to the underground room the girls had been moved to after Legarski and Ronald discovered Jenny and Cassie were hot on their tail. Thinking it was the girls' new ride taking them to a destination unknown, Legarski instead was met with Cassie at the top of the stairs, her gun pointed straight at him. A tense standoff commenced with the two foes going back and forth about whether Cassie was capable of being able to pull the trigger and delivering the fatal blow, as Legarski continued to goad her into doing the irreversible. To Legarski's surprise (or relief, depending on your interpretation), she was, the fatal gunshot landing squarely between his eyes -- a twisted callback to Cody's death in the first episode.
But Legarski had to have the final say, his last three words to Cassie after she shoots him in the head being, "My, my, my..." "I couldn't see a moral universe on the American Broadcasting Company where Rick Legarski would last too long," Lynch exclusively tells ET of his character's death. "I think there was a pine box in his future at some point, and that proved to be the case. I think he's somebody who signed up for it a long while ago, frankly." Any consequences facing Cassie's act will be a major question to ponder over the next six weeks.
Following Tuesday's episode, Lynch broke down Legarski's shocking fate, whether his death was karma for killing Cody, the meaning behind his final words, if this is the last we'll see of him and how his death will have lasting ripple effects for Cassie and everyone in Big Sky.
ET: Did you know Legarski was not going to be long for this world when you signed on?
John Carroll Lynch: I read the pilot script and I couldn't see a moral universe on the American Broadcasting Company where Rick Legarski would last too long. I think there was a pine box in his future at some point, and that proved to be the case. I think he's somebody who signed up for it a long while ago, frankly.
What was your initial reaction reading his death scene and that he was going to go by Cassie's hand?
I think that the writing was excellent. It was open-ended in the way you could play it and it felt like they had been building to it since they discussed her willingness to shoot or not shoot in the very first real discussion they had, once the revealing happened. This was coming. I really appreciate the incredible intensity of the writing of the show. It's a really great high-wire act, frankly, and I'm glad that they're using the book [C.J. Box's The Highway] so efficiently inside these stories. They're not lingering around, so I really appreciate the speed of it. It keeps the audience guessing. Anybody's fair game. Once you kill Cody Hoyt in the first episode, anybody's fair game, which creates a heightened level of drama that they're paying off in these episodes. I was quite pleased with the writing.
Ever since the premiere, your character has been walking on a tightrope. Was him dying this way karma for killing Cody?
If you shoot somebody in the head and [Legarski] was shot in the head, that's pretty clear that karma's on its way for him. He signed up for a bullet in the head and there it is.
His last words were, "My, my, my," almost as if he was surprised Cassie pulled the trigger...
What did you take away from his last three words?
There were certain things that had been really consistent on the writers. The phrase, "My, my, my," is one of them. And also the finger tapping has been in every episode. I had been intrigued by doing that because it really creates an instinctive character in a way that I really liked. He goads [Cassie] for a long period of time while he has a weapon in his hand, and that is a strange thing to do, and that made me wonder why. I had a conversation with a SWAT officer in New Orleans once -- he was the tech supervisor for a show I was on down there. I was in a standoff scene in which both guns were up. I said, "What would happen in this circumstance?" And he said, "Oh, this circumstance wouldn't happen because the minute the person started raising that weapon above his waist, I would shoot them. I'm going home tonight." That's the phrase he used, "I'm going home tonight and this person's not going to get in the way of that." That conversation between Cassie and Legarski is about whether or not she's capable of that. At one point, I think he would likely think she wasn't because he has such a demeaning and diminished viewpoint of women in general and their strength, and obviously in that circumstance he was either right or wrong, depending on which way you think he's going in the goading of Cassie Dewell.
This is a big turning point for the show and for Cassie, especially. What do you think the ripple effects are going to be following his death?
The best thing about this interview is I know what happens and you don't, so you're going to have to guess what it is. But I know.
Will his death be covered up? I have so many questions about how this could go...
There are a lot of ways it could go. How is she going to [get around this]? He's certainly setting up, in his argument, things that could be really dangerous and damaging for her after shooting him. Was it a justified shooting or not? That's a question I think people can ask. Certainly from the audience's point of view, it was, but from an evidentiary point of view, was it? She could be in a lot of trouble.
Before he died, Legarski and Ronald had a plan to move the kidnapped girls. Obviously that may not be in play anymore. What happens to the girls now?
It's like the writers set up a finale where you really want to tune in six weeks later to find out what happened! Those bastards!
Even though Cody has been dead since the premiere, we still see him sprinkled throughout in flashbacks. Will that still be the case for you or is this a firm end point for Legarski?
You'll see the impact of the character throughout the season. They catch Rick red-handed but they don't necessarily catch Ronald red-handed. The question is, since there is no honor among thieves, how much can people trade off one to the other if there's any circumstance to do that? One of the things I love about the show is how it keeps everybody guessing about what the allegiances are, and since anything is possible and anyone can die, it really creates a circumstance in which you just don't know what's next. That's why it's such good TV -- you want to find out what happens next and you want to see characters like Rick Legarski get their just desserts, and this was dessert.
It's a bit stunning that -- speaking to your point -- that Jenny and Cassie still don't really know what happened to Cody. They're inching closer and closer but they don't have the full picture. Has the chance for them to uncover the truth just get smaller now? Are you surprised, as a viewer, that they still haven't come close?
I love that. I imagine that you watch a lot of television. And I imagine there aren't a lot of shows that make you think, "What is happening?" in a way that's satisfying. There are a lot of shows I watch that you think, "What is happening?" and you don't want to find out, but this one seems like it has a relationship with the audience that they want to find out and they are constantly being shocked at what happens. Certainly Rick Legarski is a chaos agent and he is capable of anything. With this episode, that takes a really severe turn, but that doesn't mean there aren't other people out there and I have no doubt that [creator] David E. Kelley and the writing staff of this show will keep you guessing throughout. They've done it for these past episodes and they will continue to do that and they always seem to... Every time I read an episode I'm excited about doing it and then even after it's done I'm excited to see it come to fruition. What does it look like? How did it cut together? What are the pieces that the audience is seeing? I'm excited about where it's headed and what happens to all of the characters in the piece from here on.
We get a flashback to Legarski and Ronald's first meeting, and what started this whole enterprise. I feel like every time there's an origin flashback, it's never good. It's often a precursor to something bad happening to one of the characters.
Yeah, that's very true.
But cracks were already forming in their partnership. Did you think that they would have come to blows at some point?
Rick Legarski blames Ronald Pergman for the problems that he has, but I think you see in the flashback that Legarski made the initial mistake. First of all, by engaging in the behavior of trafficking, of slavery, but also his mindset was not one of aid, it was one of punishment. And it wasn't to punish the men, it was to punish the women who are in desperate circumstances. And along with that, he also chose the wrong partner. Ronald was not a good choice and you see it from the very beginning. Brian Geraghty's doing an incredible job with this part. He's always exciting to watch and always surprising, and so delightfully funny and grotesque. I just love him.
Legarski's done some very chilling, cruel things in just five episodes. What was the thing that made you cringe the most?
Shooting Grace the second time [with the bow and arrow in episode 3], that's pretty bad. Shooting Cody in the face was also pretty bad. Slurping soup was pretty bad. Describing getting a Tesla out of the mud like a sexual experience was pretty bad. Pretty much, he's a bad patch of road in the first five episodes of the show and there are a lot of potholes on that way. As an actor, my job is not to defend, it's to illuminate, it's to embody. Everybody thinks they're a hero in their own life to some degree and certainly, I guess I would describe it as hero mania, is part of his problem as a person. He thinks of himself as a hero and as the last good man, which is always a terrible place to make moral decisions from. And he makes a lot of really bad ones.
You've made a career out of playing bad guys and killers. What kind of head space do you get into to play these characters?
I appreciate what you're saying and certainly I've played more than my fair share of terrible people. One of the things that I accept is that I'm capable of any human evil out there, that I as a human being am as capable of being hideous as anybody who is hideous. I guess in that way I accept that as real human behavior. I worry sometimes about glorifying it. I want to make sure that I stay in a human place with the evil because it's not... People who do these things aren't necessarily thinking... They're not twisting their mustache and going, "I am evil." They think of themselves as a victim, they think of themselves as heroes, they think of themselves as doing what's necessary, as being a realist or a pragmatist. There are a lot of reasons why people do horrible things. That's my job is to find the reason why an individual person is either behaving well or poorly. It's not my job to judge them, my job is to personify them. I've played a lot of really great people. In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Dave Dellinger is arguably the most morally incorruptible person I will ever play and I still have to do the same thing with him as I would with Rick Legarski, which is making him a human being.
It sounds like you're still maybe appearing on Big Sky, even in death...
I will be appearing in other episodes, in what fashion will be fun to find out.
Big Skyreturns Tuesday, Jan. 26 on ABC. For more on the series, watch the video below.