10 years later, the real Jack Reacher finally stands up. (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

My friends, I want to apologize for my absence this past week. In the ten years I’ve been writing here in TALC, I think I’ve only gone MIA two or three times. I was just as disappointed in myself this time as I was those few other times. I feel like I stood you up. I am sorry.

But let’s now talk Jack Reacher, shall we?

Amazon Prime Video came out with an original show called Reacher, and with its eponymous protagonist being my all-time favorite male fictional character, I have some things to say.

The mythical figure of a lone wanderer passing through town, getting embroiled in whatever shitshow’s going down, and rendering justice before moving on, is a timeless one. With his creation of Jack Reacher, author Lee Child fleshed out such a knight-errant character – one who’s armed with a military background – in whose shadow the evilest of villains cower. There’s more to this shadow than size, though, and the first screen-version of Reacher didn’t have it. Any of it. Tom Cruise was wrong for the role in every conceivable way. Tom Cruise will be right for the role of Reacher the day crunchy, bitter, watery celery can satisfy your intense craving for rich, sweet, dense Black Forest Cake, and that day would be Never, my friends. Never.

And so Reacher’s showrunners got to work on this streaming series under considerable pressure: In addition to the usual challenges for the usual reasons, they had to placate the thousands of Reacher fans, including Yours Truly, who lamented the film’s unfortunate casting choice.

With this challenge built into the project, the team went into the making of Reacher with guns blazing and fists flying. They threw their entire arsenal into it, with Mr. Child closely involved every step of the way. The result? A Jack Reacher show with heart. Sterling, gargantuan heart. As Reacher famously “says nothing,” Child and the production team held back nothing. This time, they were able to freely and relentlessly accentuate Reacher’s physical and behavioral presence, as described in the novels. Because of actor Alan Ritchson’s physique and stature, the writers were able to emphasize how Reacher stands as a massive Goliath of a human. If Child felt that he had to atone for the casting of Tom Cruise – and I believe that he did, from what I’ve seen in interviews – he certainly accomplished that and then some with Reacher v. 2.0.

I’d suspected that the show would exceed my expectations when I discovered who’d been cast to play Reacher, but I couldn’t have known exactly how ideal Alan Ritchson would be. As already asserted, there’s more to Reacher than his size. There’s also attitude and demeanor and body language (including facial expressions) and just general Reacher energy all rolled up into the package, and Ritchson embodies the whole damn thing. The casting team could not have done better.

Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher.
And that would be him again on the right.

It’s not necessary to have read the books to appreciate this series, but I do know that for we hardcore Reacher fans, this show is a profound treat. By the end of the first episode, all of the boxes had been checked, starting with “Reacher said nothing.”

Reacher said nothing.
Reacher has no middle initial.
Reacher has a minimalist and slightly acerbic and biting sense of humor.
Reacher carries a folding toothbrush and a passport and not much else.
Reacher buys a set of clothes and throws his old threads into the trash.
Reacher sits in a diner and orders coffee and pie.
Reacher loves dogs and has little to zero tolerance for their mistreatment and neglect.
Reacher schools the local authorities on the details of their own investigation, casually and authoritatively up-managing along the way.
Reacher sniffs out the person on the local force who has a military background and recruits him accordingly.

Reacher is structured to follow the story of one novel per season, so each season is a new adventure in a fresh setting. Season 1 follows the story in Killing Floor almost perfectly – so perfectly, it’s like a video version of an audiobook. I found the acting and directing to be impressive, and the fight-scene choreography brings to life Reacher’s signature style of punishment delivery, which was enjoyable to watch (especially the fight scene at the end of episode 6, I believe). The writing is clean and peppered with a few well-timed, well-placed anachronisms, with pop culture references (Harry Potter, Settlers of Catan), and tech culture (smartphones/texting, GPS) to bring the character into today’s world, speaking to the timelessness of Reacher’s fabled existence.

Reacher is a triumph. What a come-back! 10 years later, Jack Reacher rose from the ashes of one screen to spread his wings on another, renewed and resplendent. It was worth the wait.

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