Reaching for Vengeance

Reaching for Vengeance February 2, 2024

Image: Amazon

I’ve said on this blog in the past that both of the Reacher movies and Season 1 of the Reacher show are excellent, and worth your time. The same is true of Reacher, Season 2.

In Season 2, we get a peek behind the scenes at Reacher, kind-of. That is, we get a picture of his past and his military unit, who were tasked with doing exactly what we’ve seen Reacher himself doing in Season 1 of the series: fighting bad guys (albeit more officially, as an investigations unit of the military). Maybe this is information that readers of the books already had, but it was new to me and provides the starting point/background for the plot of season 2.

What we don’t really get here is much insight into Reacher himself. Despite giving us a much chronologically broader view of his life, Jack Reacher is basically the same person in the present that he was in the indeterminate past. He is concerned with justice, single-minded in his pursuit of it, and utterly unconcerned with obstacles that get in his way. Whatever his bulk can’t barrel through his sharp mind can bulldoze.

Honestly, the weak link here is how the plot handles the villain. And I don’t mean Robert Patrick, who does a solid job as a believable bad guy selling tech to terrorists. And I don’t mean the henchmen who become a mountain of corpses over the course of the eight episodes. I don’t even mean Ferdinand Kingsley as the arms dealer who equally terrifyingly bulldozes his way across the continent to pick up said tech, leaving a stack of occasionally-innocent bodies in his own wake. Instead, the plot hinges on a few unlikely decisions by villains who are otherwise competent and ruthless. For example [spoiler alerts] Robert Patrick insists on throwing people out of a helicopter as a means of murdering them. Which, you know, fine. He’s the villain and he’s allowed his quirks. But at some point that becomes and obstacle that he either can’t or won’t see his way around, and it appears to be entirely so that Reacher’s promise to throw him out of his own chopper can come true. Had he just shot Reacher on the spot the second he had him at his mercy, that would have been the end of the whole thing.

What’s more, we only get one moment of confrontation between Reacher and the arms dealer, with whom so much build-up had been spent over the season. This may of course have been a feature of the book and maybe they were at the mercy of their source, but the villain who had clearly been set up as the anti-Reacher with his own single-minded pursuit of a goal and a brutal viciousness that involves a level of cleverness equal to Reacher’s, and with a charming averageness that is instantly forgettable in place of Reacher’s anonymous bulk. This confrontation should have been more worked out and a bigger moment, rather than the functional anti-climax shoehorned in.

I know some of that is out of context, but I don’t want to spoil too much as it really is an excellent show and you should watch it. Of interest to the Christian viewer is going to be the line that gets drawn between vengeance and justice. (Also of interest might be Alan Ritchson’s thoughts on playing Reacher as a Christian, though that would take another post to engage with.) Is Reacher’s relentless pursuit of those who killed his friends justice? Or personal vengeance? It is of course helpful that the people he’s pursuing also happen to be terrorists and trying to kill him (there was more moral ambiguity in the previous season with regard to the villains), so he doesn’t have to wrestle with the question as much as he might have otherwise. Still, it’s something to keep in mind as you’re watching the show–which again you should do.

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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