Reacher: a wicked action-packed new show.
“Reacher” season 1 is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
When Reacher (Jack, no middle name) is in peril, which happens frequently in the Reacher books, 2 Tom Cruise films, and throughout this long-awaited series, you can rest assured: “Don’t worry about him.”
Reacher does not seek trouble—trouble finds him. When it does, mercy on the evildoer behaving badly.
The Books, The Show
There are 25 Reacher books, all with the same protagonist—a run matched only by Nancy Drew—created by Lee Child, a successful, but laid-off British TV director. He came to the States at 39 and began writing a book a year. His first Reacher book, Killing Floor, made the New York Times bestseller list, as has every one since—quite a few have been #1. A Reacher book sells every 9 seconds around the globe.
The Reacher streaming series, based on Lee Child’s books, with 8 parts at ~50 minutes each, is a treat and a relief. Reacher has not disappeared from the screen—only Tom Cruise, who played him in 2 full-length films. The credible Reacher we have been waiting to see is played by Alan Ritchson, with keen understatement and as much deadliness. Credit for the series is given to Killing Floor, but the story, events, and characters are drawn from a number of Child’s books.
Reacher gets off a bus in a Southern town. He wants to learn more about Blind Blake (1895-1934), a blues artist who potentially died there. The town is prospering after hard times. A businessman, Kliner (Currie Graham), came to town 5 years earlier, built a lucrative company (ostensibly legally), and then rained money to rebuild a broke down town. He buys off some cops, and the mayor, so it looks like crime will pay.
Not so: When the threat of exposure of Kliner Industries is at risk, Kliner and his psychopath son (Chris Webster) get dead serious about keeping the lid on Kliner’s operations. You know—only dead men don’t talk. His company’s customer is a band of merciless South Americans, and unless Kliner keeps delivering his product, he will be toast—and not the kind served with breakfast.
Soon after getting off the bus, trying to have a piece of Georgia’s famed peach pie, Reacher is arrested for murder. This is not the best way to befriend the town’s chief detective, Oscar Finley (Malcolm Goodwin), or a home-grown, tougher-than-nails female police officer, Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald), but it will do. A killing, exacted in a distinctly “Venezuelan way,” has marred the bucolic town, and there are far more gruesome murders to come. Jail alone has not left Reacher in a very bad mood, because of what happened to his older and taller brother. There is no stopping Reacher, Finley, and Roscoe from hunting down—with intent to kill—the individuals responsible for spilling blood and stoking fear. Suspense and danger mount and gallop (like a Reacher novel) to a fiery end. Don’t worry: Remember, Reacher is there.
Reacher shines as a character when working with smart women, built to repel trouble and usually in uniform. In this case, there are two. The town cop, Roscoe, and Reacher’s former military sergeant, Neagley (Maria Sten), who is called in from the “private sector” to add more firepower to the action. With Reacher paired with Detective Finley, a tweedy Harvard obsessional running from his life in Boston, we have a bit of a reprise of the “Odd Couple,” like Felix and Oscar did for a long time on network TV. Reacher’s older brother, Joe, and parents appear in carefully staged flashbacks, giving Reacher’s character more depth and texture. The ensemble plays like a finely tuned orchestra, but with guns, not violins.
Reacher: Running on 3 Turbine Engines
Turbine 1: The first is his size, weight, and strength. At 6’5,” 250 pounds, Reacher metes out justice no matter what the enemy strength may be. As a former major in the Army’s military police (MP), Reacher is used to rounding up criminals—those that are trained to kill.
Turbine 2: The second is Reacher’s brain. With an eidetic memory, the sleuthing powers of Sherlock Holmes, and a singular focus on getting the job done. He also can think like his foes—which helps a lot in finding and outwitting them.
Turbine 3: The third is Reacher’s character. Vigilante justice allows him to break a lot of rules. He cannot abide with losing. He is an itinerant—here one day, gone the next. After a score of years in the Army, going where ordered, he is now a free man. As a minimalist, Reacher does not need much, materially or emotionally. He carries only a folding toothbrush, his passport, and some retirement cash wired to Western Union. Clothes? He tosses those after 3 days and gets a new, inexpensive outfit.
A great deal of truth is written into the Reacher fiction oeuvre. I have read it all. Child is a wise man and a gifted storyteller. As Philip Roth said, if you want the truth, read fiction.
Dr Sederer is a psychiatrist, public health doctor, and nonfiction writer.