Amazon’s Reacher is finally here, but you might not have known it. Amazon basically sucks at advertising the existence of their shows. You either fall over them when browsing Prime, or you find out they have been released on websites like this one and decide to check them out.

The Grand Tour, Jack Ryan, and Clarkson’s Farm are all things I watch on Amazon and they always just arrive with little fanfare. As the new home of the most expensive television show ever made in the form of The Rings Of Power, they should probably worry about this.

Reacher

For now, though, let’s talk Reacher. This is a planned series of adaptions of Lee Child’s wildly successful Jack Reacher novels. 26 novels, and counting, have been published so far and this current series is an adaption of the first novel, The Killing Floor.

If you are unfamiliar with the character, Jack Reacher was formerly a Major in the 110th Special Investigations Unit of the Army’s Military Police Corps. This was the unit assigned to investigate particularly difficult criminal cases within the army. As Reacher once told a regular policeman:

“I did exactly the same job as you, but the people I was running down were all trained killers.”

Reacher resigned his commission and having been raised in an army family, moving from base to base across the world, he doesn’t really have roots. On leaving the army he therefore decided he wanted to see some of America. He travels, usually by Greyhound bus, wherever he wants to. He lives a parsimonious life sleeping in motels and eating in diners, funded by his army pension. He shops in the thrift store or at goodwill, replacing clothes after wearing them for a while, invariably just jeans and a t-shirt. All he carries on his travels are a toothbrush and his passport for ID.

Most of his adventures take place in the various places he chooses to stop as he travels. These are usually Red State small towns. His inquisitive nature and general sense of morality frequently bring him into conflict with certain forces in these towns, usually organized crime, local hoodlums, and racketeers. His investigative skills and physical prowess end up defeating the bad guys. He blows into town like a one-man A-Team, with no fear.

Lee Child has frequently spoken of Reacher’s personal ethics and wandering lifestyle being reminiscent of the chivalrous knight errant of medieval lore as opposed to an anti-hero tormented by addiction and haunted by past misbehavior. It is this refreshing straightforwardness that has helped make the books so successful.

As you know, some of the books have been adapted before. They were made into movies starring Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. This is where the trouble started. The movies were absolutely fine. Entertaining, enjoyable, with Werner Herzog as a particularly memorable villain in the first one. However, they were just not Jack Reacher.

Alongside Reacher’s investigative skills, his main characteristic is his physical appearance. He is, to put it bluntly, a f*cking massive unit. 6 feet 5 inches tall and built like a tank, and from his time in the army highly proficient with weapons and beyond exceptional at hand-to-hand combat. Cruise is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and not.

Reacher

Even though he was giving it his all, because as we know Cruse always brings his A-game and never phones it in, every time you watched the movies you were thinking:

“There goes Tom Cruise!”

So how have the makers of this show handled the character? By casting Alan Ritchson. He is a very big guy. Tall and built like the Jack Reacher in the books. It also helps that outside of mostly TV work he wasn’t that well known.

That really helps the show as from the moment he appears on screen he simply is Jack Reacher.  He does the taciturn, glowering Reacher well, but also the sardonic, and the violent.

And it is nicely violent. It was always going to be a feature of the show, given how Reacher usually solves his problems in the book. The violence is explosive and well done. It’s not cartoonish and designed to shock, like Banshee or The Boys, it serves a purpose, but everyone likes to see some ass-kicking, right? An obligatory prison fight early in the first episode is much more effective and blood-soaked than what was shown in leaked clips a few months ago.

Reacher

After being wrongly arrested for murder shortly after his arrival in Margrave, Georgia, Reacher is about the leave town when the identity of a second dead body changes his plans. Reacher then serves as the audience cipher as we watch him slowly uncover some deep, dark secrets in Margrave that have led to the body count rising. Certain interested parties want him gone, or dealt with. Unfortunately for them, it is Jack Reacher they are dealing with and they are probably going to need more help than Reacher will, now he’s pissed off.

Everything from the books is present and correct. The thrift store shopping, the greyhound bus, the diners, the taste in music and, most importantly, Reacher’s character.

He is ably assisted by Willa Fitzgerald’s Roscoe Conklin, a local cop. She is good fun in the role and proves a perfect way for the audience to learn more about Reacher as events unfold.

Reacher

There is a lot of humor in the show, with a proposed anal examination on arrival in prison coming up against Reacher’s legal knowledge being played for laughs. It seems to be following the book closely so far, which is a good thing. It also just works because it’s not trying to cram everything into 120 minutes like a movie, so it gets time to breathe.

This lets us watch the show in the same way people read the books. It follows the same model in that we see Reacher solving the case as he goes, until about 8/10th of the way through when he cracks something and from then on is one step ahead of all of the other characters and the audience. The books are basically a modern-day Agatha Christie “whodunnit” with lots of punching, and based on the show so far, they will go in the same direction. This is not a bad choice.

It is simple, it is straightforward, and it is a better show for it. The makers of this understand what makes the books work and are clearly trying to distill this into the adaption.

All eight episodes are available now on Amazon Prime and you will be hitting the “Next Episode” button like I was.

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