Reacher, season 1: Alan Ritchson hits the right notes as the man mountain detective

Out of the gate I gotta say, I liked Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. His performance was good, and the first movie (he did two) directed by the great Christopher McQuarrie, was well received. Yet he could never shake off the fact that, physically, he didn’t look the part. Yes, he got ripped but he’s just too small (he’s 5’7), and Reacher is meant to be a giant (at 6’5).

Fast forward a few years and the entertainment landscape has changed. We’re now in a golden age of streaming (Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Apple) and the small screen is where all the action can be found. Plus many of us are still stuck in our homes with this pandemic, and are clamouring for more good TV. And the format is often an easier way to kick back and unwind, requiring less commitment than a movie.

Furthermore, short Netflix style (around 8 episodes tends to be their model) seasons don’t take up a huge amount of time, yet provide the chance for showrunners and studios to tell stories about characters and give them more room to breathe: 8 hours of TV versus 2 for a movie.

Anyway, you know this. So Reacher becomes a TV show. And yet… who would play this gargantuan human?

Enter Alan Ritchson.

The definition of a man mountain (6’4). I’ve only seen him once before in the TV superhero show Titans, where he was a chiselled wall of muscle playing a superhero (of course). So physically, he already looks the part. However, you also have to factor in that Reacher isn’t just a dumb brute, but basically a military Sherlock Holmes. Or he was, but now he’s a drifter, and puts those skills to use as life takes him places around America.

So he’s big and strong and smart — yet a man of few words, or chooses them carefully. He’s the definition of the infamous ‘man walks into town’ story theory. And for this show we get just that. Reacher breezes into the small town of Margrave, Georgia and immediately gets arrested whilst sat in a diner eating pie. Perfect setup. So far, so Reacher.

Now I’ve only read a couple of Lee Child’s novels,

but spreading these stories over 8 hours seems a better bet, and gives them room to breathe, and for us to get to know all the characters that surround Reacher a little better. In the case of this first season: police officer Roscoe (Willa Fitzgerald) and police captain Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin) — who form a little investigative gang with Reacher. And, to a lesser extent, former Army investigator Neagley (Maria Sten), who was part of Reacher’s squad when he was in the military.

As the story develops and Reacher has to lean on his crew, to a greater or lesser extent, we get to know them, and by extension we get to know the big man too. It helps to have them as a foil for Reacher, as he’s a man not known for saying a lot. Or when he does, it’s very precise and direct. Basically, the way he talks is much like his fighting style — short, sharp and impactful.

Speaking of which, the fight scenes in this show are fantastic. It’s like if Jason Bourne and Arnie had a baby, it would probably be Alan Ritchson (in a weird way).

In terms of others…

I particularly enjoyed Willa Fitzgerald’s performance as Roscoe (above). I warmed to her character straight away, and she had real chemistry with Ritchson’s Reacher. It’s just a shame that, due to the nature of these stories and the fact that Reacher is a drifter, this may be the last we see of her.

I hope not, and I hope they find a way to keep this cast (in at least some form) for season 2.

Final thoughts

I know I’m jumping around a bit here, as my thoughts rise to the surface. I guess what I’m getting at — without getting much into the plot — is that I enjoyed this first season. It started and finished strong, and only had a slight lull in the middle, where characters kept doing the same kinds of things and not getting anywhere, or getting trapped in slightly lengthy exposition scenes that lost me.

Other than that, it was a welcome surprise as a show and I look forward to a second outing. As far as Reacher goes, he feels in safe hands with Alan Ritchson and the people behind the scenes.

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