TV Writer Chris Watts reviews Reacher Season Two, finding it to create a balance between gritty, violent realism and high action entertainment
Amazon’s television adaptation of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels returned this winter with its adaptation of book eleven, Bad Luck and Trouble. As with Season One, the show follows Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) as he gets caught up in a criminal plot. Picking up exactly ‘two years, seven months, and nineteen days’ after the conclusion of Reacher’s time in Margrave, the action begins when Neagley (Maria Sten), the only other returning character, contacts Reacher about the suspicious death of their friend Franz (Luke Bilyk). Joined by other members of his old squad, the one hundred and tenth, along with New York detective Russo, Reacher begins investigating his death, whilst also learning something about his relationship to the past.
Despite being set so far apart from the first season, with only a few returning characters, the show maintains a closeness to the preceding season. References to Reacher’s actions in the first season, such as his use of ‘Margrave’ as an alias, and his continued desire to eat Clark bars, show how season two is a continuation of the growth Reacher began in season one. But references to characters such as James Barr, made famous in the 2016 Tom Cruise adaptation of the ninth book One Shot, are there to remind viewers of the time that has passed since the first season.
With a large focus of Season One being Reacher’s childhood growing up on military bases, season two focuses on his past as an officer in the Military Police. Using flashbacks, the show establishes the relationships and history of the one hundred and tenth, helpfully backed up by their on-screen chemistry. Whilst Reacher worked well with the characters in the first season, it is here he properly opens up, drawn into the playful banter he shares with the other members of ‘the special investigators.’
This familiarity helps to sell the sense of loss which is central to the series. Being brought back into contact with his friends after so many years brings the character a realisation of all he has missed whilst traveling alone. Season One began exploring this theme with his relationship to Roscoe (Willa Fitzgerald), but it is really brought to the fore in season two. Alan Ritchson does a brilliant job expressing this, giving us a worn out, lonely Reacher who is beginning to understand what his choices have meant for him and those around him.
However I felt, especially in the second half of the eight-episode series, that this emotional weight took a back seat to the action. As the investigation ramps up in the later episodes, the narrative moves away from this reflective mood and focuses heavily on the investigative elements of the story. Here the casts’ chemistry becomes most entertaining, with the characters bouncing off each other organically, able to keep the tone light whilst they investigate such violent crime.
And violent is the right word. The show certainly revels in violence, upping the aggression from season one. This stems I think from the fact the series has skipped books two through ten, as a result missing the progression of violence seen in the books. But if violence is not your thing, I would not recommend this show is high on your list. That said, the violence is superbly executed. Landing somewhere between gritty realism and highly stylised, the action tells you something about every character, whilst also being highly entertaining.
Overall, Season Two of Reacher is a hit. Built on character, the show builds expertly on the foundations laid in season one to deliver a high action crime thriller with an emotional kick. Despite taking a back seat in the latter half of the season, when necessary, the emotion still punches through when it needs. Sometimes the dialogue may feel slightly cliché, but the story and characters are highly engaging, making season two of Reacher a pleasure to watch.
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