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(COLUMN) Rice: Just Another Gal from Casper – Watching ‘Joe Pickett’

Kate Rice


I’ve never read any of CJ Box’s books. But now that I’ve watched the first season of Joe Pickett, I’m ready to pick ’em up!

Joe Pickett’s the new game warden in Saddlestring, Wyoming. Right off the bat, he’s in a confrontation with a poacher. Things don’t exactly go well; after an awkward exchange (the poacher disarms him, but Joe does get his weapon back), Joe tickets the man. 

Flash forward a few months … Pickett’s wife, Marybeth, is pregnant with their third child. Lucy, their youngest, is a sweet, happy-go-lucky kid. Sheridan, their eldest, is burdened with anxiety — a burden that more than doubles as the show moves forward. The first episode ends with Sheridan talking about seeing a man at their woodpile the previous night. It’s not a dream; it’s the poacher that Joe ticketed on his first day — and he’s dead.

Marybeth, hoping to utilize her law degree, eventually gets her wish as she and Joe become embroiled in a murder investigation that blossoms into a full-blown conspiracy. 

Pickett’s a man with demons — which we get in flashbacks throughout the season. He comes from an abusive home, but has chosen a better path for himself. He’s also a quiet man. That and his unsettling first day have folks underestimating him. Which, it turns out, is a big mistake. 

The story’s compelling and the acting’s great. There are eccentrics and evildoers, good guys with bad reps and bad guys wrapped in good-guy personas. Michael Dorman’s Joe Pickett is a gentle family man, but a scary sonofabitch when crossed. Julianna Guill shines as smart, compassionate and tough Marybeth. Other standouts? David Allen Grier’s charismatic Vern Dunnegan, the sketchy former game warden, and Sharon Lawrence’s “Missy,” Marybeth’s alcoholic mom who’s both a hoot and a hot mess. 

Joe Pickett’s got heart (and heartbreak), intensity, grit, and humor. It’s more Longmire than Big Sky — I’ve even seen comparisons to Yellowstone and 1883

Give me a good yet imperfect family man who sticks to his beliefs, no matter the cost, and a fascinating, multi-layered mystery. That’s a show I’ll watch — and books I’ll start to read. 

Catch Joe Pickett on Spectrum on Demand, or stream it on Paramount Plus.