Is Jack Reacher the kind of guy who can walk into any old thrift store and find a pair of jeans that fit, let alone a jacket big enough for those arms? Probably not. But that’s the sly joke of “Reacher,” which returns for its second season on Amazon.
Based on the book series by Lee Child (he wrote 28 in total), Reacher is a stereotype of exaggerated masculinity; he lets his muscles do most of the talking (square jaw is best used for throwing punches) and resists anything “soft”. as downloading roots or (shivering) domestication.
If there’s one reason to suspend your disbelief and go with it, it might be Alan Ritchson’s performance; this allows for an occasional slight smile to play across his lips and humor to flicker. Ritchson takes the role seriously, but he’s also involved and there’s a great tonal balance.
That’s why he can deliver ridiculous lines without losing the audience. “One hundred thousand years ago, there were people who stayed by the campfire and those who wandered around. I’m pretty sure I’m a direct descendant of the wandering type. This is me.” A mortgage won’t keep it under control! And he prefers not to get involved in other people’s problems unless they are in danger; which means he’s always involved. His greatness and moral compass demand it.
Season 2 is based on the novel “Bad Luck and Trouble”. In his previous life, Reacher headed a military police unit of private detectives. He is now a former army officer, but one of his former subordinates was found dead. Then a few more people disappear. Reacher and what’s left of his old crew reunite to find out what’s going on. As a group, they’re as vague as the cast of a CBS procedural. But the jokes and violence gradually push the story forward, mostly in entertaining (if somewhat generic) ways.
The police are not happy with these unregistered methods. The police detective, played by Domenick Lombardozzi, says there’s no more cowboy bullshit, channeling some of the intense energy he brought to Herc in “The Wire.”
After he leaves, someone turns to Reacher: What happens now, boss?
Saddle up, he tells them. We’re about to do a lot of cowboy stuff.
It’s the fist-clenching equivalent of Bruce Willis yelling “yippee-ki-yay” in “Die Hard,” and I defy anyone immune to the extreme pleasures of such things.
The series is well-made and leaves no room for doubt about the types of stories it wants to tell. This season is shameless about its proliferation of weapons. In fact, Reacher says at one point, “We’re going to need more weapons.” When one of his friends begins to hesitate, he tells them: “It won’t last forever, we just need to kill a few more people.” (There are many people who enter houses and shout “clear!” while confirming that no one is home. This is “Reacher” at its most monotonous.)
The problem isn’t just guns, How the show wants you to feel about things like requiring waiting periods for gun purchases. Reacher considers this a minor inconvenience. He’s even stupid because he’s Good And why do these laws keep guns out of the hands of men like him? This kind of framing always gives me pause.
But I also admire his clear perspective on life. “People live and then they die. As long as we do both properly, there isn’t much to regret.”
Showrunner Nick Santora has a real flair for the character, finding a deft balance between quieter moments and all-out carnage. Robert Patrick is this season’s main antagonist, but the show doesn’t rely on household names to draw you in, and that feels like a higher level of challenge than a lot of what comes out of Hollywood. The show needs to work on its own merits, and that comes down to the writing, which changes the Reacher persona in some nice ways.
He is the antithesis of conspicuous consumption, a minimalist who carries nothing with him except the clothes on his back. So when he has to change things up and wear a suit (another joke, because this guy doesn’t buy suits off the racks!) his jeans and t-shirt go in the trash because even carrying them in a bag weighs them down. I dropped it too much. “If I had more clothes, I’d need a suitcase. If I have a suitcase, I need a house to store it. Then I’ll need a car for the driveway.” He shakes his head. “I’m filling out all kinds of forms before you know it.”
The hassle of paperwork may be Reacher’s Achilles heel. Good thing he has the cunning and physical strength to make this a moot point.
“Reacher” Season 2 – 3 stars (out of 4)
Where to watch: Amazon
Nina Metz is a Tribune critic.