JOE PICKETT Season 2 Review: Episodes 1 &2


The first two episodes of the highly-anticipated second season of Joe Pickett are now available (via Paramount+), with additional new episodes slated to release every Sunday. We’ll be covering this season as the story unfolds.

Based, of course, on the #1 New York Times bestselling series from author C.J. Box, Michael Dorman stars in the titular role, returning to once again bring life to the beloved Wyoming game warden who serves as the series protagionist. The first season, which premiered as a Spectrum Original last year before moving to Paramount+, followed Box’s bestselling debut, Open Season, which was first published in 2001. This season appears to be covering multiple books, which we’ll get into below.

The official season synopsis reads:

“In season two, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett (Michael Dorman) discovers a hunter murdered in the mountains and realizes this is just one of a series of gruesome murders. To solve the case and catch the killer, Joe must navigate a radical anti-hunting activist, a ghoulish set of twins living off the grid, and his own tortured past. Joe and his wife, Marybeth (Julianna Guill), discover that the murdered men weren’t as innocent as they seemed. But when they dig too deep, they are forced to go on the run and fight for their very lives.”

Most of the returning cast is back too, with IMDB listing each role as follows: Sharon Lawrence (Missy Vankeuren), Mustafa Speaks (Nate Romanowski), Chad Rook (Deputy McLanahan), Aadila Dosani (Cricket), Keean Johnson (Luke Brueggeman), Skywalker Hughes (Sheridan Pickett), Kamryn Pliva (Lucy Pickett), Vivienne Guynn (April Keely), Patrick Gallagher (Sheriff Barnum), and David Alan Grier (Vern Dunnegan).

So, without further ado, let’s get into the first two episodes of season 2.



While I will be avoiding spoilers for new episodes, there may be spoilers listed for season one. So, if you haven’t watched the first 10-episode season, continue reading at your own risk.


Whelp, season 2 kicks off with one hell of a bang! these latest episodes of Joe Pickett pick up a year after the events of season 1. After opening with a beautiful cinematic shot of a Wyoming mountainside, we’re immediately taken into the dense forest, where we see an unknown gunman shoot and kill a hunter. After that, we get a nice show graphic, and with that, the new season is up and running.

Right off the bat, it’s obvious, even if you didn’t read the series synopsis, that story elements for season 2 are going to be borrowed heavily from Box’s novel Blood Trail (2008). That’s actually the 8th book in the series (which is currently twenty-three books long), which is important to note because if you’re a book fan, you should know ahead of time that the show cannot possibly follow the events of the book as Box wrote them.

For starters, there are seven books worth of material in between, which means that the show clearly has some work to do here. And for that reason,  I think it makes a lot of sense to structure it in a way that pulls threads from multiple books. And it appears that that’s exactly what we’re getting. That’s a formula that has worked for shows like Bosch and Jack Ryan, and even the forthcoming new season of Reacher. I’ll note quickly too that I’d much rather see this approach than a one-book-per-season format because, let’s be honest here, this show probably won’t make it 23-24 seasons, and there are a lot of things from later books that I want to see covered on screen. Moreover, by making little changes and tweaks so things can fit together, it does create an element of uncertainty when watching the show, even if you’re a diehard fan of the books—which, admittingly, I am.

After the show graphic, we get to ride shotgun with Joe in his new (to him) Wyoming Game and Fish Department truck (in the books, a running gag is that Joe somehow always manages to get his truck destroyed). Moments later, he picks up Luke Brueggeman, his new trainee. Book fans will immediately note that Luke appeared in Force of Nature (2012, book 12 in the series), which confirms that they’ll be pulling storylines from multiple books. Again, I’m a big fan of that decision.

Michael Dorman is a fine actor, so this isn’t on him at all, but it’s worth noting that the Joe on screen is a bit more . . . sarcastic? . . . than the Joe in the books. It’s not a massive change, but in the books, Joe is a man of very few words, but he’s also a man of integrity who is honest, almost to a fault. Dorman manages to capture all of that, but sometimes, the dialogue just feels a bit off. Not in a big way, just slightly.

Joe and Marybeth have a touching scene together. As a couple, they’re still dealing with the tragic events of season one. Marybeth lost her baby. She also lost all confidence in her mother, Missy. She’s clearly struggling a lot here, and the actress who plays her (Julianna Guill) does a wonderful job showing that.

After Joe saves the kids in his daughters’ school from a rogue elk that decided to wander the halls, during which point his truck is badly damaged (book fans knew that had to be coming LOL), the real meat of the story is finally served. Now this is the moment I had been dying to see since I first read about it in the books. Though his reasons for being there are slightly different, the gist is that Joe ends up on Bermuda Mountain, where he encounters a fisherman standing in a stream, casting his line. Being the upstanding game warden that he is, Joe approaches and makes himself known to the man. Not going to lie, my heart rate went up the second I saw Camish Grimmengruber, one-half of the “Grim Brothers,” who are, without a doubt, one of the most terrifying antagonists Joe has ever had to go up against in the books.

Actors Alex Breaux (Camish) and Keean Johnson (Luke) are fantastic in their roles, respectively. I’m sure they’re good guys, but talented actors for sure because I hated them both instantly. Again, I’ll be avoiding spoilers, but if you know the books at all—you know these guys are going to drive one of the most blood-pumping, haunting scenes Box has ever written. And before we go any further, boy, does the show deliver on that. Here, Dorman captures Joe perfectly. He’s scared, sure, but he’s still going to do his job, even with two people threatening him and backup nowhere to be found. I don’t want to give away the plot, but it’s obvious that Nowhere to Run (2010, book 10 in the series) is also being borrowed from for season 2, perhaps more than any of the other books.

We also get a nice scene between Marybeth and Missy, which leads to the revelation that a young Indian girl is missing. That seems to track with the missing person thread from Box’s Nowhere to Run but does also lay into the events of Blood Trail too. And this is what I meant earlier when I said that converging storylines lead to mystery and uncertainty, even if you know the books well. Just as readers will assume they know how things will shake out with Joe’s trainee, we can’t really know for sure just yet how this storyline will factor into the overall season arc.

Episode 2, however, sheds a bit more light on things. Joe is recovering from everything that happened to him on the mountain. Then, in the aftermath of those horrific events, Sherif Barnum and Deputy McLanahan question Joe’s story altogether. They search the area where Joe told them they’d find evidence to confirm his version of the events that took place, but instead, they don’t find a thing. Chasing another lead, they do discover a number of hunting camps that have been ransacked and find a body—with Joe clearly thinking he found something at the scene, a random poker chip, that might be evidence.

Aside from the investigation stuff, there’s time spent showing the growing rift between Joe and Marybeth. Both characters are still healing from past events, and many of those wounds are ripped wide open when Joe puts himself in danger to give the Grim brothers a citation for fishing without a license. “I was doing my job,” Joe tells her. “No,” Marybether counters, “it is not your job to risk your life.”

With eight episodes left to go, I think it’s safe to assume Joe’s not done putting himself in harm’s way in order to do his job, not by a longshot. It’ll be interesting to see how their relationship develops this season. (It’s absolutely true that, in the books, Joe is a family man who openly loves and supports his wife and daughters. However, there have been a few rough patches, times when their marriage wasn’t as solid as it is in later books. And, certainly, we saw that in Nowhere to Run.)

Overall, a very compelling, well-done start to what is shaping up to be a huge second season.

Note: I don’t want to get too into his role in these episodes, but I really love seeing Nate Romanowoski. I wasn’t sure how he’d factor into this season, given that in the books, he spends much of the story in prison. That heightened the tension and suspense because Joe was truly alone, without his best friend (a trained killer himself) there to back him up as he always does. I have a theory on how they’ll tie the story elements together in this one, and I would say it’s worth keeping a close eye on Nate’s maybe-kind-0f-girlfriend-maybe, Cricket (Aadila Dosani) too. But all in all, it’s hard to imagine a more exhilarating start for Joe Pickett.

We’ll see you back here after episode three comes out!



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, comes out on August 8th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And to take part in free, exclusive BOOK CLUBS each month, join The Real Book Spy on Discord.

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