Reacher Season 1 Review: Faithful Adaptation Is Excellent

Reacher is much like its’ main protagonist: Studious, straight to the point and takes a lot of care & pride in what it has to say. It is pretty thorough with it’s plot, has enjoyable action sprinkled throughout and has a very strong main cast to care about. If one man can solve the mysteries of Margrave, Georgia and give you a real good time, it’s Reacher, Jack, no middle name.

Reacher Season 1 Review: faithful adaptation is excellent. new cover

Reacher is an excellent show. Alan Ritchson is brilliant as the main character, Jack, and is surrounded by a very able supporting cast, especially Willa Fitzgerald. However, it has also taken great care to stay true to the roots of the story, making it a detailed but absorbing watch. It was very confident in what it is trying to say, and I really enjoyed the action when it came along, being intense and engaging. The best part is their commitment to the characterisation of Jack Reacher and fans of the novels are going to love him. As are fans of sprawling criminal conspiracies where a hero turns up to save the day. 

Season 1 of Reacher is on Prime Video and has been subsequently renewed for Season 2.

Segway, but speaking of how good it can be to translate novels into TV shows, Isaac Taylor describes how good The Last of Us has been in transforming the game into a TV format

Reacher - Official Trailer | Prime Video

Story: In An Investigation, Details Matter

Jack Reacher can’t catch a break. Formally Military Police, now a drifter, he chooses when and where he would like to go. If only we could all do the same. He decides to visit the (fictional) town of Margrave, Georgia after being told about a (real) blues singer called Blind Blake who may have died there. Upon reaching the nearest diner he goes in to order some peach pie. He doesn’t get to eat a mouthful. He’s arrested for murder.

The one thing I love about the premise is that something as simple as turning up at a diner can snowball an entire storyline into being. Reacher is quickly strapped to the hip of the local Police Chief, Oscar Finlay and his deputy, Roscoe Conklin. This trio form the bedrock of how the story progresses. They do very well at sticking to what happens in the book. In doing so, it can be detail heavy on what exactly is going on. It’s very personal for Jack which I won’t spoil, but its overarching story is about two of life’s necessary evils: money, and in the case of the town’s “benefactors”, the Kliners’: power. And how to keep that power.

Reacher does well at getting to the heart of the conspiracy, the three of them investigating and they become a team. They start out being brusque with each other, but realise to get anywhere, they need to trust each other. Maybe even like each other. It’s where we see some personal traits from all three of them. There was enough attention paid to all the characters and plot devices, character backstories, as much as what Jack Reacher himself is like.

reacher season 1 review. trio working the case.

Reacher, Finlay and Roscoe work well together solving the case.

Jack Reacher

While you could argue that Jack Reacher is a larger than life being, physically as well as figuratively, his brain and deduction skills are what make the character so likeable without being a pain in the ass, know it all – even though, he knows (almost)everything. Through good writing, they show his compassionate side; when having to repeatedly tend to a malnourished dog. They show his caring side; when having to console Roscoe in a motel. The “Do not mess with me” side is shown numerous times – there is plenty of action. However, most of the time they do show his mental acuity of breaking down what things mean for the audience. It’s very engrossing to watch.  

I also appreciated that there were times they showed Jack as a young boy. They are small sections with his brother and parents, but they appropriately describe the making of Jack: his strong force of will, the sense of justice, knowing how to look out for people.

reacher S1 review. cable ties.

Cable ties are no match for Reacher’s wrists.

Character & Performances: Top Notch

Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher absolutely nails it. From the way he walks & how he talks. How he can handle himself in a fight – and there are plenty of fights. Facial expressions and physical appearance are spot on – Reacher is supposed to be 6ft 5in, around 250lbs of muscle. Could be a human version of the Terminator.  Alan delivers his lines sounding sincere & realistic rather than arrogant. He had a good sense of humour; one encounter has someone threaten “to end his life with one phone call.” His response: “I can end your life with one phone.” The character could be more analytical than emotional at times but it comes through that there was enough vulnerability there to always root for him. I thought he was brilliant.

Willa Fitzgerald as his partner, Roscoe Conklin, was also excellent; smart, strong, a good foil for Alan. She sounded like an actual policewoman, someone you could reply upon. There was a particularly good section where she had to defend a witness from intruders, it was intense. Malcolm Goodwin as the police chief Oscar Finlay filled out the trio and he was also good. He doesn’t have the same focus on him, but he’s solid. Alan and Willa do most of the heavy lifting but Malcolm does have moments to shine. The parts which detailed both of the character’s backstories were poignant.  

Supporting Cast: Also Excellent 

I thought the rest of the guys were also decent, Chris Webster as Kliner’s son was predictably slimy and annoying. Currie Graham as his father, Kliner Snr, this was the actor’s bread and butter. Opinionated, self righteous and devious, I’ve seen him in other things and he acts the same way, he’s good at it.

One standout who had a small part was the local barber, Mosley, played by Willie C. Carpenter. His world weariness and personality shone through as someone who had seen it all. Police Chief Teale who puts himself in charge of the investigation was predictably pompous, arrogant. I really liked Maria Sten, who was Frances Neagley, Reacher’s old partner. I loved her personality and attitude, the two had witty banter whenever on screen.

reacher s1 review. reacher & neagley

Reacher & Neagley were really good together.

Cinematography & Sound: Nice & Clear

I particularly liked their use of blues music, a character trait, prevalent in the first couple of episodes but is liberally sprinkled throughout. Smokestack Lightnin’ by Howlin’ Wolf is a classic. Episodes used a lot of ambient, real life sounds at times, naturally before music. Music was appropriate for the situation – throbbing bass for tense encounters, light ambient music for the transition scenes, some drums and guitar for the action. Then there was off beat points – when Reacher has to deal with hit men, a chase scene uses the blues music then changes to pulsing ambience.

I particularly liked the use of thunder for the title card; quite apt.

Reacher mostly used a one camera system, I assume which is used a lot for tv shows. It’s done very well, nothing’s out of place and there was the odd long pan, or having the camera close to the ground. One thing about clothing I noticed was that in one episode Reacher is attacked and gets cut through his clothes. They patch up the wound as well as the jacket, and for continuity, his jacket still has the tape over the hole whenever he wore it. Anal, but as Reacher points out, details matter.

It also went for realistic sound effects, from Reacher smashing someone in the face with his forearm(you can break your fingers from punching) to the crunch of broken bones. Grisly.

reacher s1 review. title card

Title card for the show: Straight to the point.

Pacing & Editing: Thoroughly Engrossing

I think it was a brisk show for ten episodes. There is plenty of talking to get through – what information means, connections to be made, theories created. It’s all interesting to me, especially when they had a knack for talking about the case, then something would happen straight after, usually a phone call to keep us on track. There was a decent number of locations throughout Margrave to see although I would say most of it plays indoors. Since It’s in a tv format, it’s a thorough retelling of the book, Killing Floor. There were plenty of quiet moments between characters I appreciated. There was plenty of action scenes as well. A lot of it seems like it’s handheld but it’s very steady so everything was easy to see. The shots that are at a quick pace are long enough to keep track of what’s going on.

For those who have read the books & for those who haven't - this was excellent. From the beginning, Alan Ritchson embodied the character and had a great ensemble cast with him, Willa Fitzgerald was especially good. Factor in a really interesting story which ticks over the ten episodes, which then includes enjoyable action and even more enjoyable music(loved hearing the blues) you’ve got something that is special. Roll on Season 2.
  • Excellent Performances
  • Entertaining Action
  • Interesting Story
  • Well Paced

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