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Ryan Phillippe’s Big Sky Death Explained

How did Ryan Phillippe’s character die in Big Sky? ABC’s crime thriller Big Sky is based on writer C.J. Box’s Highway series of novels which were adapted for the small screen by Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers creator David E. Kelley. Set in small-town Montana, the show follows private detectives and lovers Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) as they team up with his estranged ex-cop wife Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick) to solve the kidnapping of two teenage sisters they suspect may be connected to a sex trafficking ring. The Predator Scenes in Prey Were Almost Impossible

As one of the biggest names in the Big Sky cast, Phillippe featured prominently in promotions for the show. He gave several interviews about the series and his character in the lead-up to Big Sky’s premiere and was front and center in its trailer – not to mention his face was plastered all over billboards promoting the show. So, it came as quite a shock when Ryan Phillippe’s Big Sky character Cody Hoyt was killed off in the very first episode.

In the Big Sky pilot, Cody gets in contact with state trooper Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch) who tells him the missing sisters aren’t the only young women that have disappeared in the area. At the end of Big Sky’s premiere Cody and Rick meet up at a remote, shuttered bar to discuss the case and Cody mentions he thinks a long-haul trucker with ties to sex trafficking could be behind the sisters’ abduction. The pair are about to head off in Cody’s car to investigate a location he suspects may be tied to the case when Legarski suddenly pulls out his gun and shoots Cody in the head, killing him instantly.

Cody Hoyt Killing off someone billed as the main character in a TV show’s first episode is a bold move, but that was always the plan for Ryan Phillippe in Big Sky. In fact, by killing off his character the show stayed true to its source material as Cody also dies in Box’s book series (although Cody’s death happened around halfway through the first novel). Still, Phillippe felt a little guilty about Big Sky’s shock twist and confessed in an interview with EW he was worried his fans would be upset with him.

It’s something the producers of Big Sky grappled with too. In a cast and crew panel at PaleyFest LA 2021, executive producer Ross Fineman stated “I’ve been with this project since the inception and we kept playing with ‘When does Cody die?’” and admitted they had toyed with killing the character off at a later stage in the show. In the end, they decided to go with the pilot episode’s big shock twist even if killing off one of the show’s biggest stars ran the risk of alienating certain viewers. Cody Hoyt being murdered in the first episode of Big Sky doesn’t seem to have affected the series too negatively as it’s earned a solid fan base since its premiere and at least Ryan Phillippe fans got to see him in later episodes – albeit in flashback form.


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