TV Review – Reacher Season 2

While the road travelled wasn’t always smooth in adapting famed author Lee Child’s now 28-novels-old character of Jack Reacher for film and television. And after two reasonably successful Tom Cruise attempts on the silver screen, the pivot towards longer form story-telling in the form of a television series seemed to crack the code, with literal human giant Alan Ritchson filling the steel-capped boots and tight tank-top t-shirts of the ex-military investigator who doesn’t mind getting his hands a little bloody, as long as it means justice is being served to the right people.

The success of Reacher’s first season on Prime Video quite frankly surprised many critics and audiences alike, and for weeks, even months, remained one of the platforms top watched series. Series developer Nick Santora, best known for his work on Prison Break, managed to capture the brooding presence of this physically intimidating character, whilst also showing Reacher’s more humanly compassionate side, all wrapped in an equally fun and tense mystery that wasn’t trying to be the next True Detective, but rather lean into the self-awareness of its tone, tropes, and genre to make an entertaining, macho, and slightly corny schlock-fest.

Now pivoting the storyline into more of an anthology-type that follows Reacher (Alan Ritchson) on his walkabout journeys for justice across the United States, the series second season, adapted from Child’s novel ‘Bad Luck and Trouble’, brings us to New York after Reacher is mysteriously contacted by an old pal from his Special Investigations unit, Frances (Maria Sten), who informs Reacher that another former member of their squad was executed by way of being beaten to death, then thrown out of a helicopter (a vision that boldly cold opens this brand new season).

With leads pointing towards the big wigs in charge of a large tech enterprise called New Age, Reacher assembles those who remain of his old Army unit to find who is responsible for killing their fellow soldier. And as the story filters in flashbacks showing the formation of Reacher’s Special Investigations Unit, and the cavalcade of testosterone and camaraderie that comes with them, the present day reveals that there may have been more to some of the team than initially realised.

Now looking like he has doubled in size since the first season, Ritchson seamlessly falls back into the mild-mannered, punch-first, ask-questions-later aura that is Reacher. Seriously, Ritchson almost makes The Rock look like a pebble in comparison. The physicality of Ritchson’s performance brings that brooding presence that Reacher is absolutely not someone to fuck with when it comes to trading fists, but there is an unsuspecting gentle giant mentality with the way he slowly, but purposefully makes his way around locations. The initial gawking at his size soon turns into a feeling of comfort and protection for those around him who aren’t actively trying to kill him… of which in this season, at a bare minimum, happens once an episode in these incredibly fun and electric action sequences.

Ritchson also has fantastic, banter-filled chemistry with his cast, specifically Frances (Sten) and the other members of his Special Investigation Unit. Ritchson proves that his comedic timing, which stems way back to his Blue Mountain State days, is well and truly intact, and leads to some genuinely funny interactions, but also allows the shows tone overall lean more into that self-aware enjoyability that makes this live-action iteration of Reacher so accessible. Sure, at times it can feel like junk-food TV, but the fact that the show leaves all pretention out the window allows the entertainment factor to flow with ease. Think of it as some of the best episodes of NCIS with way more brutality, a few sex scenes, and a whole lot of f-bombs!

The anthology style narrative has now also lent a hand to introducing new characters and cast members, all who fit into this world incredibly well. Maria Sten steals all of her scenes as the take-no-shit Frances. Shaun Sipos joins the Special Investigations team as the all-charm, smooth talker David O’Donnell who manages to balance the eye-rolling moments of a guy who knows how good looking and charming he is, with the intelligence and wit of a solider who can use his gift of the gab to push the investigation forward. Plus, most of his interactions with Reacher provide the shows biggest laughs.

Robert Patrick joins the shows as the New Age CEO and uses his natural ability to switch instantly to intimidation with that piercing stare to create a formidably enemy to come after Reacher. And Dom Lombardozzi manages to shine by leaning completely into to every stereotype we’ve ever seen about NYPD cops and dial it all the way up to a F-bomb laden 11 on the scale. But it’s his code of honour and respect for Reacher that makes his character of Russo an instantly likeable guy.

Reacher’s more adult skewed content is another reason the show works. The violence and action are dialled up in both quality and quantity this season, mixing stylised choreography of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat with the thunderous blows and bloodied wounds that feels over-the-top, but makes completely sense in a world where someone the size of this human behemoth exists. The often “20 men vs. 5 soliders and a Reacher” fights are bombastically fun, specifically an extended action sequence that takes place in a suburban house in episode 3. The world of Reacher feels authentic and lived in due to the fact that the show leans into the more graphic elements.

As for the over-arching mystery throughout the season… it’s as decent as you could expect. There’s some decent revelations, twists and turns that usually cliffhanger end each episode, creating the addictive urge of binging through to the next episode to rise rapidly (something that unfortunately audiences can’t do this time around being a weekly rollout of episodes), but overall it’s a pretty by-the-numbers and, at times, quite predictable investigative thriller that serves as a passable enough foundation to justify spending time with the characters, who arguably hold the show up more than the story does.

Reacher Season 2 starts with a few good bangs and manages to hold that momentum all the way to its explosive finale. The show feels bigger, bolder and more brutal, without losing the fun and charm of what made its predecessor so entertaining and successful. Literal human giant, Alan Ritchson, has now fully embodied (physically and personality wise) the character of Jack Reacher so much so that in the moments when the story can feel a little stock standard, you’ll want to click on to that next episode just to see what he does next!

Reacher Season 2’s first 3 episodes are now streaming on Prime Video, with episodes releasing weekly until early 2024.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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