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Let’s dive into this Reacher season 1 review to see if Jack Reacher can carry a TV series like he dominates the big screen.
The many exploits of Jack Reacher unfold at breakneck speed and violent detail; to the glee of the kind of audience that watches Die Hard at Christmas. Over the course of 26 books and two box-office movies, Reacher drifts across the US and gets himself into all kinds of situations. He solves a homicide or two in the bargain, and his detective work yields a steady supply of goons that he gets to maim.
It is on this premise that Alan Ritchson (Dark Web: Cicada 3301, Titans) takes over the role of Jack Reacher from Tom Cruise. Jack also moves from the box office to Amazon Prime for an eight-episode stint. This review can’t kick off without stressing that Jack is a very big boy, unlike Tom Cruise. The series and its creators insist that you remember this at all times.
Reacher season 1 review: Production
Lee Childs is the author of 26 Jack Reacher novels, and he’s responsible for the creation of the hulking protagonist. The writer’s vivid and compelling depiction of Reacher is one reason the character ports easily from paper to film. It is also why Jack has a loyal following that had a slight issue with Tom Cruise playing the part.
For several years Childs has been working on a way to get some of his novels onto your TV screen. His efforts come to fruition with Reacher, now available on Prime Videos as of 4th February. Childs is the series’s executive producer, with Nick Santora as his writer and show-runner. Santora is a writer-producer with titles like Prison Break, The Sopranos, and Law and Order on his résumé.
The series is shot in Ontario and Toronto, Canada, probably because of the nice tax incentives in that country. Somewhere in a field in Ontario, the project kicked into gear with the construction of a small Georgia town. Ritchson’s Reacher would soon spend a lot of time on this set, along with much of the cast.
Reacher takes a bus ride to Margrave, Georgia, because he likes the Blues. More specifically, Margrave is rumored to be where one of Jack’s favorite blues artists died. Trouble comes calling soon after our hero gets off the bus, and he finds himself in jail, facing possible murder charges.
We’re not leaving Jack in jail for eight episodes, so he beats the charges with help from his soon-to-be ‘team.’ He uses his newfound freedom to solve a mystery, something he can do because he is ex-army and a detective. It turns out that Margrave is a pretty little town with dark secrets, and there’s a growing pile of bodies to punctuate this point.
Thanks to good writing and good acting, compelling characters keep the overarching plot chugging forward.
The cast, the character, and the acting
We start with Alan Ritchson, who reboots the main character back to the 6’5 bruiser from the novels. He does an excellent job of playing Jack Reacher, who happens to be the silent, ex-army type with clever one-liners. Ritchson delivers exciting fight scenes that go nicely with Reacher’s dry humor and genius-level deductive skills.
Better still, the supporting cast joins Ritchson in meeting and exceeding expectations.
1. Det. Oscar Finlay
The lead gets solid support from Malcolm Goodwin (iZombie, Breakout Kings). He plays the chief of detectives Oscar Finlay, one of the precious few honest cops in Margrave. Honesty is rare in the town where Finlay works, which is part of the show’s premise. That doesn’t stop Finlay and Reacher from having a few prickly exchanges as they work together.
2. Officer Roscoe Conklin
Reacher’s love interest is Roscoe Conklin, another honest detective in a town that needs honesty. Willa Fitzgerald (Royal Pains) plays the role and expands it past the label of Jack’s maybe-girlfriend. Roscoe comes across as a strong personality who powers her way through whatever life throws at her.
3. KJ Kliner
Every thriller needs its villains, which is where the rich, charming, and slightly disturbing Kliner comes in. Currie Graham does an excellent job of pulling you in and creeping you out simultaneously. Kliner’s philanthropy seems admirable at first glance, but is he doing charity for charity’s sake? This is an angle that should keep you asking questions for a while.
4. Mayor Grover Teale
Bruce McGill plays Mayor Grover Teale, whose thing is the abuse of office. He uses his power to cover up his criminal dealings, and he does it with a touch of cruelty. McGill cuts an imposing and menacing figure, which goes a long way to breathe terrifying life into the character of Grover Teale.
The Script and the execution
Reacher lives up to its billing as an action thriller, thanks to a steady supply of murders, fight scenes, and secrets. Jack’s clever dialog, interesting characters, and deadpan jokes only add to the show’s charm. Now, top it off with an engaging mystery that you unravel along with Jack’s team. What you get is a grand old time as you follow the breadcrumbs to figure out who did what and why.
It turns out that Jack Reacher is more than just brawn on a large frame, which is no surprise to fans of the books. A previous life as an army investigator explains his detective abilities that border on clairvoyance. It also explains Reacher’s little MacGyver moments, like when he uses ketchup to process evidence.
Still, the brusque, ex-army drifter detective has his work cut out for him if he’s to hold your attention for eight episodes. The show manages to help the character along by:
- Giving more depth and agency to supporting characters so they can carry the show in their own right
- Replacing first-person narration from the book with glimpses into Jack’s past (he seems to be the exact same Reacher, even as a teenage army brat)
- Amusing you with the fact that the goons never swarm Reacher as a tactic to overpower him; instead, they choose to stand in line for their beatings
- Dangling the possibility of a romance between Reacher and Roscoe
- Focusing on the methodical, army-like ways that Reacher handles his business (toothpicks in door hinges get a special mention)
- Did we mention the fight scenes?
All these efforts should keep you watching to the end, which is what creators aspire to. Fans of the books and action movies will be absolutely fine with this show.
The series meets expectations
Reacher season 1 is an adaptation of Killing Floor, the first book in the Jack Reacher series. Ratings and streaming numbers show that the efforts of Childs and Santora are paying off. This must be one of the reasons why a second season is already on the books.
This Reacher season 1 review finds the show to be a healthy dose of adrenaline to perk up your playlist.