Reacher, Prime Video’s drama series based on Lee Child’s bestselling Jack Reacher novels, probably won’t win many TV awards — its brand of sexy police procedural may be deemed too commercial. It may keep you hooked to your smart TV/tablet/laptop/phone for an evening or two though.
The Amazon Original debuts on Friday, February 4, with all eight episodes of its first season, and it’s binge-able fare, or the television equivalent of a page-turner. It stars Alan Ritchson as the broad-chested and very tall Jack Reacher, a vagabond and ex-military police officer who got tired of always being told where to go and when to be there and is now seeing the country on his terms.
That means traveling light, staying in motels, paying cash and just impulsively getting on a bus from Tampa, Florida, to Margrave, Georgia, when he listens to “Police Dog Blues” by Blind Blake and remembers the musician played his last show and died in the Georgia town.
You meet Reacher when he arrives in the fictional Margrave; season one adapts Child’s first Jack Reacher novel Killing Floor. From the get-go, writer and showrunner Nick Santora (Scorpion) wants you to know his lead is a good guy: He helps a woman arguing with an abusive boyfriend. Reacher doesn’t have to do much, he simply stares menacingly. Did I already mention he’s quite big? His nobleness gets established a second time within the first five minutes of the pilot episode, when he pays the tab for his black coffee and a slice of peach pie — the best in Georgia, we’re told — before he’s even had a morsel to eat. He does so when he realizes he’s about to get arrested.
Margrave Police is arresting him for murder and is that particular charge that manages to confound him slightly. A body was found by the highway embankment, and the scene has all the makings of a professional job. “I didn’t kill anybody, at least not recently. And not in this town,” he tells Margrave’s Chief Detective Oscar Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin).
Reacher may be the newcomer in town, but Finlay isn’t necessarily an old-time Margrave resident. He has Massachusetts so ingrained that he wears a three-piece tweed suit during the Georgia summer. He’s also Black in quite the racist town.
Then there’s Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald), a police officer born and raised in Margrave. And even though she has a lot of ass to kick and investigating to do, she’s also the romantic interest of the show… at least this season. But unlike with other police procedurals where there’s an initial dislike between the protagonists who then unwillingly fall for each other and have an eternal dance of Will They or Won’t They, Reacher and Roscoe like each other from the beginning and don’t pretend otherwise.
They share a very tender — and sexy — slow dance to “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. Roscoe informs Reacher, and the viewer, that in the South when they play Patsy, you have to dance. “It’s practically the law,” she says.
The series goes the sexy route often, mainly when it comes to showing us its protagonist shirtless, an average of twice per episode and veering toward objectification. There are also constant reminders — verbal and non-verbal — that Reacher is a very tall, very big man. The writers even make sure that we’re told about his size: 6 feet, 5 inches. This is not the 2012 Jack Reacher film with the not-very-towering Tom Cruise in the titular role.
“Do you guys recycle?” Reacher asks the cops when he gets rid of the plastic zip ties around his wrists with just a snap. They couldn’t use regular cuffs on him since they wouldn’t fit him. The show has a twisted sense of humor that had me laughing more often than I expected. “I’m not a vagrant, I’m a hobo. Big difference,” Reacher explains about his grifter ways in a sentence taken from Child’s book.
Some of the jokes can be a bit off-color if you don’t appreciate violence though. There’s a reference about playing Tetris to fit a few corpses inside a car’s trunk, and hangman is mentioned when explaining what happens to a baddie that ends up, well, hanged.
Since this is a murder mystery with a thriller component, action is key. There’s an underwater pool fight sequence, exploding buildings and plenty of hand-to-hand fighting sequences — with and without knives. Things got a bit bloody and gory for my taste at times, so be advised.
Overall Reacher packs in all the genre tropes satisfactorily: There’s a murder to solve that leads to a bigger conspiracy, we figure out the enigmatic past behind our main guy, and we get a bit of romance and some buddy relationships. There are even some changes of scenery from Margrave: In his pursuit for answers, Reacher goes both to Atlanta and New York — although that may be Toronto doubling for both cities since the show shot there.
Sometimes with TV shows, like with novels, you’re feeling in the mood for a well-executed mass-market title with all the necessary ingredients. This is it if you like the boat not being rocked and you don’t mind your heroes as loners and still following the old-fashioned ways with a girl in every port.