Reacher: Seasons 1 & 2

Genre: Action Drama / Crime
Service: Prime Video
Season Years: 2022/2024
Watch: Prime Video

This is an absurd show. A giant, seemingly spectrum-adjacent drifter walks around solving crimes with scant, invisible evidence and kicking all sorts of ass. Or, in a bunch of cases, just murdering it. It’s like The Good Doctor meets Commando. But also brings a lot of stranger-rolls-into-town-and-turns-shit-upside-down Banshee energy, especially in the first season. Though with way less nudity. And, just like that series, raises the question of whether we’re supposed to be taking any of this seriously? Like so many Schwarzenegger-like narratives before it, there is something inherently ridiculous about watching a muscle-bound, larger-than-life, unstoppable dude shake down sniveling humans, shoot his way out of every problem and do it all with five-word quips and a humorless, singular focus. It’s funny just because it’s so silly to watch. So unrealistic and over-the-top violent with little-to-no repercussions for anyone. But that doesn’t mean it ain’t fun!

The first question that may come to mind when watching the pilot is, “Is this guy Alan Ritchson for real?” He is taking over a role that was famously played by 5’5″ Tom Cruise in the film versions (entitled Jack Reacher and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back), so it seems like someone clearly made a pretty stark choice here to go a different direction with the TV series. Ritchson is a way more ex-WWE, John Cena type than he is a sharp little dude with keen investigative powers and the ability to run, jump and hide behind small objects. But with like one-tenth of Cena’s charisma. Ritchson plays him in this subtle, dead-eyed way that at times makes him feel more Golem than quippy action hero. I just can’t tell if that’s his acting “style” or a choice. But let’s give the generous interpretation and say it’s a choice to lean into the character’s more, uh, autistic personality quirks. Including the choice to employ a pretty flat affect, not a whole lot of emoting and a clear disinterest in following social queues or norms. It definitely feels intentional after a few episodes, so what at first felt odd and a little janky just kind of becomes what it is. And Ritchson as Reacher becomes just a weird dude with a strong sense of justice.

We learn in the first season that Reacher is ex-military and has essentially become a hobo. His odd personality quirks lead him to just ride the rails with nothing but a toothbrush. Literally. Not even a change of clothes. I’m not really sure we find out why he decides to do this with his life, but we just kind of accept it because he’s an odd dude. He shows up in this small town in Georgia as part of his wanderings and is immediately arrested for a murder that coincidently goes down the day he shows up. Because he’s the giant mysterious man with no “stuff,” so he seems like the obvious choice. Eventually making friends with the small-town cops, he uses his House-like ability to connect disparate pieces of evidence — and a bunch of violence — to uncover corrupt politicians, business men and all manner of small-town shenanigans. Including what I can only surmise is a completely coincidental connection to his estranged brother. But if I’m going to nit-pick plot points here, I’m watching the wrong show. It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen Unforgiven, but you can think of this as one of those types of things where the dangerous stranger roles into town and righteously takes apart the power structure and all the evil white dudes taking advantage of its citizens. But way dumber.

The second season expands on this a bit. Speaking of expanding, Ritchson is somehow even bigger in the second season. His bronzing agent is on high and he manages to remove his shirt at least twice as often. The man is just a giant muscle and it’s a little freaky. It is pretty funny, though, how every character who comes into contact with him mentions how gigantic he is. Characters describe him in humorous ways when conveying info to others. This awareness of the asinine nature of this whole thing is what makes the series better than it could be if it took itself too seriously. They know that we know this is just supposed to be fun and nothing more. Granted, they complicate the narrative pretty significantly in the second season, expanding the cast and moving Reacher out into the wider world. Sure, it’s still a revenge plot at the heart of it, but there are arms deals and multiple layers of bad guys and flashbacks and some attempt to create tension. But everything still leads to punching and shooting and chucking people out of airplanes. It’s all very mid-80s/early-90s action film. That mix of humor and violence that that decade absolutely loved so much. Which I suppose they kind of gave away by casting Terminator 2 evil liquid robot T-1000, Robert Patrick, as the bad guy.

Look, not everything can be cerebral. Not everything can aspire to be that. There should be room for pure entertainment in our lives. Shows where you can sit back and chuckle and shake your head at the ridiculousness of it all. In that regard, Reacher is extremely well done. I said out loud at least a hundred times, “This is so dumb.” Yet I couldn’t wait to fire up another episode, because sometimes mindless dumb stuff is the stuff you need. The stuff you crave.