C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett Has a Thrilling Debut on Spectrum 

C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett mysteries, about a game warden whose job often places him in danger, never disappoint. Fans should be thrilled with this new series, streaming now on Spectrum, adapted from two of Box’s novels, Open Season and Winterkill. The 10-part drama also benefits from strong casting, including Michael Dorman, who plays Pickett, and Julianna Guill, who plays his wife, Marybeth. Two veterans add depth to the cast, David Alan Grier, as the retiring game warden, Vern Dunnegan, and Sharon Lawrence as Marybeth’s needy mother, Missy. Cinematography is breathtaking, showcasing the vast wilderness where Pickett patrols. (Although set in Wyoming, the series was filmed in Calgary.)

Julianna Guill as Marybeth and Michael Dorman as Joe Pickett

Pickett and Marybeth, along with their daughters, Sheridan and Lucy, arrive in Saddlestring, taking up residence in the modest cabin provided to the county’s game warden by the U.S. Government. But before all the boxes are unpacked, Joe finds himself mired in controversy when he attempts to ticket a hunter for an illegal kill and ends up having his gun taken away and turned on him. The situation becomes even more dire when that hunter, Ote Keeley (Benjamin Hollingsworth), winds up dead on top of a wood pile on Pickett’s property. He’s been shot with a poisoned arrow and Nate Romanowski (Mustafa Speaks), a survivalist who raises hawks and hunts with a bow, becomes the prime suspect.

Pickett is no stranger to violence having grown up with a father who took out his rage on his wife and two sons. Flashbacks to Pickett’s childhood are often hard to watch but provide a window into how his sense of right and wrong, along with fighting for the powerless, whether human or animal, came out of his early experiences. 

Mustafa Speaks as Nate Romanowski and Michael Dorman as Joe Pickett

Thinking Pickett would be easy to control, Vern recommended him for the game warden position. Vern learns that an oil pipeline has little chance to succeed since its path would go through sacred native lands. He convinces a wealthy and ruthless local family, the Scarletts, to buy up plots of land in eastern Wyoming, the next logical place for the pipeline. Vern thinks he has everyone who might kill the deal under control, including Pickett. But those who don’t understand Pickett tend to underestimate him. When Pickett starts digging into what Ote knew, Vern and others will stop at nothing, even threatening Marybeth and the girls. 

In the Box mysteries, Marybeth is a librarian who often does research to help in Joe’s investigations. Here, she’s an attorney, taking a break from the law while being pregnant with their third child. She also has a lot to handle on the home front. Missy’s latest husband has been arrested for financial crimes and she comes to live with the Picketts. A social snob, Missy has never approved of Marybeth’s marriage and having her in the house ratchets up the tension. 

Sharon Lawrence as Marybeth’s mother, Missy

Marybeth tries to help Jeannie, the mother of one of Sheridan’s classmates who is facing eviction. Jeannie was married to Ote and knows her husband was working a deal that got him killed. But when she approaches one of the criminals, trading her silence for money to save her home, she realizes she could be killed. Jeannie disappears, leaving behind her daughter, April, who comes to stay with the Picketts.

As a young boy, Pickett wanted to be a game warden. But he’s unwilling to compromise his values to hold onto his job. He’s truly on his own when Vern and those working with him, target Pickett. He manages to save his family and his job, but not before he and Marybeth suffer a huge loss.

While fans, and there are millions, wait for the next Box mystery, they can enjoy this series which remains faithful to the books while also bringing to life the characters and wilderness that have turned Joe Pickett into a folk hero. After streaming on Spectrum, the series will be available to view on Paramount+. And, good news. Season two is now in production.

Photos courtesy of Spectrum Originals

About Charlene Giannetti (575 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.