Blues and Blood — Reacher S1E1: “Welcome to Margrave”

Jack Reacher in a t-shirt sits in the back of a car and stares out the window thoughtfully.

Reacher is a southern noir thriller based on the best-selling Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, and brought to life by Amazon Prime Studios The following contains spoilers for Reacher S1E1, “Welcome to Margrave”

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came

So go the words of the theme song to the television show Cheers, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart-Angelo. Everyone thinks fondly of small-town America, a place where everyone knows your name, and one is greeted with a smile and a kind word. A place where you see the rolling fields, drive down Main Street, and get a nice piece of pie from the local diner.

Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) is a former Military Policeman, turned drifter, but he is not a vagrant; he is a hobo, as he is quick to point out. He has arrived in the small town of Margrave. A place where one is as soon to be greeted with a boot and bullet, as a smile and nod. Reacher tells people he has come because his brother once told him that famous blues musician Blind Blake played his last show there, then suddenly died, or so the legend says.

Jack Reacher in a t-shirt sits at a diner table with a coffee cup in front of him. A police offers stands in front of him with a shotgun pointed at him.

All he wants is to enjoy his pie and mosey around the town; it’s a solid plan until he is surrounded by cops and accused of a vicious murder. Here in Margrave, everyone soon does know his name, but for all the wrong reasons.

Reacher is a show based on the best-selling series by Lee Child, and this first season is based on the novel The Killing Floor. The series first episode is dripping with flavor from the deep south. Margrave is an idyllic small-town, with statues on Main Street, a friendly barber, and a dislike for outsiders that boils just below the smile and southern drawl of its citizens.

Welcome to Margrave is very much the story of three people: Jack Reacher, the lone stranger from out of town who has a dark past and comes from no one knows where; Officer Roscoe Conklin, Margrave born and raised with a family as old as the town itself; and Oscar Finlay, a “Yankee” Detective from Boston, who is looked at with suspicion from the town.

Police detective Oscar Finlay, in a tweed suit, sits at his desk in front of a window in an office. He stares sadly in front of him.

When the bodies of two men are discovered brutally murdered, it’s up to these three to open up an investigation that begins to showcase just how much darkness may be hiding in the town.

Now the Reacher series is known for action, and does this first episode deliver that in spades. Reacher’s main star Alan Ritchson is 6’2″ and weighs around 200 pounds, all of it muscle. Viewers are treated to a stand-out action scene in the Margrave prison, where a group of inmates set upon Reacher, intent to kill him. What follows is a brutal fight, where we see just how dangerous Reacher can be, as he gouges eyes, breaks legs, and throws men into walls. Far from a graceful fighter, Reacher is a brawler, hacking and slashing his way through the men, it’s an ugly yet beautiful display of choreography.

Reacher is showcased as a mysterious character, yet the viewer still gets to see bits of his young life, that Reacher shared with his older brother Joe, with young Reacher played expertly by Maxwell Jenkins. The flashes to his childhood help to flesh out just who Reacher is as a man, as it’s unknown if he is, in fact, a good man or not. His size and brutality put many off, yet Officer Rosco sees something behind that façade. “You have kind eyes,” she says at one point. “Don’t prove me wrong,” she then warns him.

The flashbacks to his childhood come into focus more at the tailend of the episode, as we find out the murdered man, who Reacher had been accused of killing, was in fact his older brother Joe. A truly shocking twist for the narrative and our lead character. Throughout the episode we had heard that Reacher and his brother had been close, but had lost contact over the last few years.

Jack Reacher sits in a barbers chair and he gets a haircut, he looks out the window, and the barber stands behind him talking to the man.

The episode’s focus on the blues is also interesting; this form of music is deeply expressive, melancholic, and driven by deep emotion. Yet on the outside, Reacher seems to showcase none of these things; he is hard, stern, expressionless, and speaks his mind with no thought or care to others. The closest we see to Reacher breaking down and showing emotion is when he sees the body of the murdered man, and realizes it is his brother, he storms out of the morgue. The viewer can see that he is in deep pain and is trying to bury his emotions, even as they leak out. Later in the car, Reacher finds an outlet for that sorrow and pain…anger, as he tells Roscoe and Finlay that he will find every one of his brother’s murderers and kill them.

In this first episode we see that Reacher craves connection but can’t seem to find it; he drifts from town to town, has no personal possessions and no attachments. However one of the few times that he does connect with others (Finlay and the Barber) he talks the blues with them. The blues are almost showcased as a possible surrogacy for him, allowing him to feel the things he can not feel, and allow him to connect with people who he can’t seem to forge a connection with.

“Why are you really here, Reacher?” Finley asks him again.

“I told you,” Reacher replies, “Blind Blake.”

Reacher Season 1 is available on Prime Video on February 4th

Written by Byron Lafayette

Journalist, film critic, and author, with a (possibly unhealthy) obsession with Pirates of the Caribbean, Zack Snyder and movies in general, Byron has written for many publications over the years, yet never shows his face. To partially quote (and mangle) Batman V Superman "If you seek his face look around you"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *