Reaching for a better Reacher

Reaching for a better Reacher September 16, 2022

Image: Forbes

Who is Jack Reacher? Honestly, I’ve never read the books so I can’t answer that from canon. But I have enjoyed both Tom Cruise movies, and now the Amazon series Reacher. And frankly you should too.  Reacher is a well done show with clever writing, solid acting, and an interesting plot. There’s plenty of action, but also a genuine mystery that maybe isn’t as mysterious at the end as it could have been (spoiler alert: the raging psycho was the raging psycho all along, other spoilers will happen throughout this review), but which still keeps your attention.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some plot holes here big enough for Reacher himself to walk through. For example, he regularly talks about wanting to be able to find out what’s going on, and then proceeds to kill everyone he runs into without bothering to keep them alive and ask them questions. Or as another example, various members of the town regularly comment on Detective Finlay’s presence in the town. To the show’s credit, they don’t take the easy track and make it about his race (Finlay is an African American in a majority-white town). Instead they make it about him being from “up North” and “Harvard educated.” Which of course would put him obviously out of step with rural America. And yet, part of the plot involves dozens (hundreds?) of Venezuelans working in the town factory and presumably living somewhere in the community. If one man from ‘up North’ stands out and merits comment, how on earth does the crime syndicate from ‘down South’ that roams town killing people and smuggling counterfeit money escape notice?

Another issue, since I’m apparently airing my grievances here, Alan Ritchson really isn’t large enough for all the commentary he gets on his size. Don’t get me wrong, he does a solid job here as an actor in a fairly subtle role. But over and over characters comment on his size. Yet the internet tells me that Ritchson is 6’2″, or, you know, one inch taller than me and just slightly over average height in the Midwest. Some of that could have been fixed with cinematography–using camera angles to make him look taller, strategically placing other actors relative to him, etc. They don’t bother to do any of that and rely exclusively on commentary from other characters on his size which just doesn’t work. As someone pointed out regarding the movies, even though Tom Cruise isn’t particularly tall his personality easily fills up the screen. That is not true of Alan Ritchson, and the filmmakers don’t do much to correct it visually.

Okay, enough grousing because this show really is great and I don’t want that to get lost. For one thing, I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve seen a show with counterfeiting as the crime in question, but it was definitely interesting. There’s also the interesting question of the rich patron who revitalizes the town, gives everyone jobs, and generally helps competent people rise to positions of leadership in the town. But maybe he is also doing morally questionable things to make his money. What does that mean for you, if you live in that small town? Do you turn a blind eye to the questionable things? Maybe we don’t ignore it once people start being murdered, but do we really care all that much about counterfeiting? Especially given the objective improvements for the town? What’s going to happen to the town when Reacher leaves (having killed everyone and burned the factory down) is an open question, but it’s also not terribly difficult to predict.

As I’ve mentioned, the acting here is solid. The mystery is genuinely intriguing. The humor, drama, and action are all well-paced. And some kind of justice is achieved. If Amazon does in fact move forward with another season, they’ve got a solid foundation to build on.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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