Reacher is a southern noir thriller created by Nick Santora, based on the best-selling Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, and brought to life by Amazon Studios. The following contains spoilers for Reacher Season 1
All my life I’ve been a travelin’ man
All my life I’ve been a travelin’ man
Stayin’ alone and doin’ the best I can
So go the lyrics to “Police Dog Blues” by Blind Blake. Reacher Season 1 follows a former military policeman Jack Reacher, as he travels to the town of Margrave. Why has he come? Because his brother had told him the great Blind Blake played his final show there, and then promptly died.
He arrives in town and tells everyone he goes by Reacher, not Jack. He arrives in town with almost no possessions of his own when he stepped off the bus. He arrives at the local diner, where he is greeted by a waitress who offers him a piece of pie “It’s the best in Georgia,” she says as she delivers it.
All Reacher wants to do is eat his pie in peace, visit the town, take in the sights and find out more about Blind Blake. Alas, fate or maybe something else sees Reacher arrested for a brutal double homicide. One of the victims turns out to be his estranged brother. This then catapults him into a vengeful quest to put his brother’s killers in the ground whatever necessary.
A Colorful Supporting Cast
While the vengeance angle is the main thrust of the story, Reacher is as much a show about its two co-leads as it is its main character. Officers Finley and Rosco are colorful characters that are full of personality in their own way. They are showcased as two sides of a the same coin.
Finley is a Black man who was a hot shot detective in Boston before transferring out to Margrave. He is not trusted by the town because he is viewed as an outsider who lacks the local knowledge and “connections” that everyone else has. He is uptight and dresses up when everyone else dresses down. He also is a fan of ’80s music, and irritates Reacher with his total lack of knowledge of local blues legends and his refusal to curse.
Officer Finley is very much an archetype, the classic police detective with no social life, who is married to the job. However Reacher does add more layers to Finley, as we find out that his wife has died, and that he still calls her phone and leaves messages asking her to please call him back. Like Jack Reacher he has few connections and has never unpacked his apartment. So locked in is he, that even when he goes to a bar, and is propositioned by a woman, he can’t bring himself to leave with her, as he still views himself as married.
We see Finley go on a transformative journey over the season, as he is forced to face a world that does not respond to justice and law in the same way he is used to. By the finale of Reacher Season 1, Finley is a gun toting rogue cop with a sailor’s mouth. He goes back a bit to his old ways after the villains are dispatched, but he has finally let go of his wife and wants to go back home to Boston and stop running away.
Officer Rosco is far and away the scene stealer of Reacher. She is strong willed and very black and white when it comes to her beliefs and what she wants. When she finds out her mentor was murdered by the town’s Mayor, she marches right in and punches him in the face. When she discovers she likes Reacher and wants to be intimate with him, she strips off and gets in a shower with him. It was refreshing to see her character not be a damsel in distress, or just there for Reacher to have a love interest.
She is capable, smart and very tough. Her black and white sense of justice comes in during the climatic showdown in the season finale. After she beats up the evil Mayor Teale, she knocks his gun out of his hand. Then cuffs she him to a pipe. Clearly she is considering executing him, however her sense of right and wrong comes in. He begins reaching for a firearm and she says, “don’t you dare try it.” When he does grab the firearm she shoots him without hesitation.
In a way Rosco and Finley are showcasing two sides to Reacher, one is the tied down military man that does things by the book and is scared of connection, and the other is the more wild and tough street smart personality, one that values justice above all else yet will not cross certain lines to get it.
Blood and Brutality
The Reacher book series and the films were known for the brutal and exciting action sequences they showcased and Reacher stunt coordinator Buster Reeves delivered on all fronts. Reacher is referred to as “The Beast” at times in the show, and with his impressive size and weight its not surprising. The camera showcases some incredible fight sequences, including a savage fight in a prison shower, which sees Reacher gouging out ears, snapping legs, arms and bashing in heads. The fact that he is outnumbered eight to one almost seems unfair to his opponents as he cuts through them like butter. His style of fighting is very reactive, as he turns the power of his opponents back on to them.
The show also does not shy away from scenes of utter brutality, as we see a tortured couple, castrated men, and throats viciously slashed. Or when we see Reacher break a hitman’s leg, then tie his necktie around his neck and jump off a fire escape as the hitman strangles to death. Reacher does not shy away from the blood and brutality of its lead. However the violence and graphic scenes are not there to shock, they always firmly push the story forward, the narrative always comes first. The brutality of the show’s lead is shown to be just a tool—Reacher does not enjoy violence, he does not seek it out. In fact the first scene of the pilot episode shows a man abusing his spouse. Reacher stops and stairs at him, and the man backs down and apologizes for what he has done. Reacher is shown as only using violence when he needs to and as a means to remove and judge evil.
A Fist Full of Dollars
Reacher tells a story of corruption and counterfeit currency. At first glance it does not sound that interesting. However the show is able to make this rather basic story interesting by fully utilizing its characters. Each character brings their own connections and intuition to the tale being told: Jack Reacher is the catalyst who jump starts the narrative; Rosco the lens by which we see the case through the eyes of the small town of Margrave, as she investigates the death of her mentor, and finds he was murdered by the town Mayor; and Finley allows audiences to see the mystery from the point of view of a detective, as we follow him with forensic clues and the access his badge allows.
In this story Reacher is the classic “good man pushed too far” trope, but it works so well. He does not want to fight, he just wants to discover what happened to his brother, but when the law fails him he will bring hell down upon those who are responsible.
In the end Reacher delivers a satisfying conclusion to the seasonal mystery, revealing that Joe, Reacher’s brother, was killed trying to bring down the nation’s largest counterfeit operation. Reacher gets his sweet justice as he burns the operation to the ground and watches as his brother’s murderer burns to death in a pile of counterfeit currency.
Reacher is a very strong first season for the Prime Video show. It delivered the thrills and action of a major motion picture in the comfort of your own home. However beyond the action spectacle, steamy love scenes and small town charm is a story about justice, family, and the bonds that hold them. Reacher is a morality story, showing the results of untampered greed but also about how being a loner is not the best way to live. Reacher is a man who lives alone, has no real connections with the world and likes it that way. However he sees over the course of the season that connection is important, as he could not have solved the mystery without Rosco and Finley aiding him. At the story’s conclusion he realizes that maybe connection is not all that bad a thing.
At the end he tells Rosco that some people wander and some stay close to the fire, and even though he is a wanderer—
If anyone could make me stay close to the flame, it would be you.