Reacher And The Catharsis Of Comeuppance

I’ll open by admitting that I’m not overly familiar with the character of Jack Reacher. I never read Lee Childs’ novels and, while I saw the first Tom Cruise movie when it was released, I can’t say I’ve ever given a second thought or was ever really motivated to watch the sequel.

Going by the marketing material, my big question regarding Amazon Prime’s new show was whether it would be a Western or a “Corruption Runs Deep” style thriller? The two genres (or sub-genres, I suppose) are very different styles generally meant to elicit very different emotional and intellectual responses. The corrupt system thrillers tend to end on a less-satisfying note, where the protagonists may win some battles but never the war as power is the ultimate shield. Think of something like the first season of True Detective or the Red Riding Trilogy. Whereas Westerns are more likely to end with a big shootout that leaves all the bad guys dead regardless of rank or station. Since I get my fill of crooked power brokers getting away with everything in the daily news feed, I tend to prefer the Westerns.

Spoiler Warning for season 1 of Reacher on Amazon Prime

Reacher’s set-up could have leaned either way. We had a small town with a big conspiracy running through its rotten core that was spearheaded by the mayor, the wealthiest citizen, and basically the entire (admittedly small) police force. On top of that, there was a seemingly endless supply of nameless gunmen popping up once or twice every episode. There was horrific torture and execution-style murders intended to tie up any possible threats or loose ends. And there were two good cops with massive odds stacked against them, as they tried to bring justice to their town.

Enter the mysterious stranger riding in. At that point, which occurred in the first few minutes of the first episode, I got the feeling that this show was skewing Western. Jack Reacher is presented as a man who can physically handle any opponent, and was mentally up to the task of pulling case leads out of the smallest of details. I’ve heard him referred to as “Swole-ock Holmes” a few times, and that seems about right.

Reacher arrives without any strings or attachments. Though it is soon revealed that the first (of many) murder victims was his brother. He also forms a bond with the aforementioned good cops Detective Finley and Officer Conklin. Outside of that, though, he’s a hyper-capable murder machine with nothing to lose and a strong moral code. This is what makes him a great avatar for the audience. He’s just a flat-out bad ass who will not stop until he kills every person responsible for his brother’s murder and – by extension – the conspiracy.

Consider this one extra Spoiler Warning

By the end of the first season Reacher, along with Finley and Conklin, accomplish their goal. They do, in fact, kill every person involved in the conspiracy and the murders. Even the mayor and the millionaire end up in body bags. This is the sort of catharsis that I was looking for during my weeklong binge. Oftentimes, in shows of this nature, the people at the top of the conspiracy food chain either escape without consequence, or suffer the sort of consequence that the rich and powerful tend to suffer in the real world. To put it shortly – The closest we get to justice is little more than causing them an inconvenience.

Here is the best review that I can give Reacher: The writing is fine, the acting is pretty good, the directing is standard action TV stuff. The fight choreography is exceptional, and really makes you believe that Jack Reacher could beat the living daylights out of a roomful of bad dudes. In the end, though, seeing that hulking brainiac call his shot, and then hit his shot (many, many shots, if we’re being honest) was about the most satisfying piece of entertainment for me in 2022 so far. If you have eight hours to spare, and you want to watch justice being served with flying fists and hot lead, then go check out Reacher.

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