When I find a good TV show, I always approach its continuation with excitement and caution. Rarely do series keep up quality season after season and ultimately there’s a point where they should have stopped and inevitably keep going. REACHER, recently returning with its second season, is an entertaining but frustrating follow up to the fantastic debut.
As if made by a completely different team (it wasn’t), the new eight episode adventure strays far from the strengths of season one for a number of reasons. Packing what might have been too complicated of a novel into this amount of story, the writers lean heavily on their characters to explain the plot to the audience. The expository dialog is often boring as Reacher and his team stand side by side and tell us what the hell’s going on; other times it’s laughable, contradicting all of the principles of Screenwriting 101. When confronted with a problem to solve, Reacher and his buddies speed through the solution, coming up with clues after that Sherlock Holmes. What might have taken pages or a chapter to figure out gets boiled down into a minute or two and the result is just plain silly.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing that’s silly about REACHER 2. The action sequences are what most audience members look for in a show like this and most of these are exciting but the filmmakers make some stupid decisions in the blocking and editing. Example: one scene has a getaway car seemingly driving circles around a neighborhood to give our bulked up hero enough time to crash through several backyards and throw a barbecue grill into the car’s windshield. The use of time and space is amateur. Also, we often see Reacher and his best pal Neagley standing in a wide open area when they should be taking cover or observing from a surveillance position. In a show based around the military, any kind of training gets tossed out the window all too often in these episodes.
I’m no military expert but my veteran friend John Marrs, also a filmmaker, picked up on a couple other blunders. One, it’s weird that Reacher isn’t clean shaven in the flashbacks and hard to believe that the filmmakers couldn’t have scheduled their production to make that happen since those scenes are self-contained in certain locations. There are other inaccuracies, such as botched military salutes. These are head-scratching moments as there’s no way a show like this didn’t have some kind of military/police advisor. How did they miss the obvious when they get other maneuvers spot on?
There are other story decisions that bothered me. The romance is rushed, reaching the climax too early in the season and spoiling the opportunity for great sexual tension. In fact, there’s more chemistry and tension in one scene between Reacher and Neagley than there is the entire time between he and the woman who ends up being his love interest. Though it would contradict the novel, I think this season would have been stronger if it stayed away from a consummated affair and stuck with tension and banter between its two strongest characters.
Well, the actual show-stealer isn’t one of the “special investigators” but Domenick Lombardozzi as the police detective. He’s a familiar face to anyone who loved THE WIRE and recently watched TULSA KING. Here, he does the best work I’ve seen him do, bringing his A-game to every scene. He comes off as smarter than Jack Reacher, good for Domenick but not good for the show. However, these filmmakers don’t even seem to understand how good Lombardozzi is, completely botching the conclusion of his character.
The first season struck a perfect balance between action and character. The story was rarely far-fetched and mostly grounded in reality. It even managed to portray its Southern setting in an insightful and not inaccurate way, a rare event for movies/series from the Hollywood engine.
My friend John mentioned seeing an article about the creators of REACHER tried to fix from season one while making season two. Well, there’s the route of the problem. There wasn’t anything to fix! It worked surprisingly well and this season shows they clearly didn’t realize what they did right. Let’s hope that is a fluke, a hiccup in what could be a long running show, and that season three sets its sights back on the target.