‘Reacher’ Season 2 Is Now Officially One Of The Worst Shows On TV

I am Jack’s crushing sense of disappointment.

Something terribly, terribly wrong has happened over at Amazon Prime Video. I was going to say “Something terribly, terribly wrong has happened in the writer’s room for Amazon’s Reacher Season 2” but it’s not just the writing that has capsized this season. That’s a part of it, but the problems with this show extend much further. Maybe it would be best to just list off everything that went wrong in Season 2, Episode 6—“New York’s Finest”—because there’s a lot.


  • We’ll start with that little jab. The characters in Reacher’s second season all speak like robots who say the same phrases over and over again ad nauseum. One of these is “Details matter” though it apparently doesn’t apply to anyone who actually works on the show itself. Others include “Did I ever tell you that you’re smart Neagley?” and “You don’t mess with the Special Investigations Unit!” I keep waiting for someone to say “The sea is always right!” or “We need to help people to make up for all the bad things we’ve done.” (Sorry, but as this show approaches Rings Of Power and Fear The Walking Dead levels of quality, I can’t help myself).
  • The fight choreography is terrible. This is partly because they have so many people fighting now rather than just highlighting Reacher and his massive club-like fists, but it really just feels like amateur hour. People just stand in the open and if you’re on Reacher’s team your plot armor stops every bullet. Bad guys stupidly walk into Reacher’s bus to get murdered. In Russo’s heroic scene, he leaves cover and walks directly at the guys shooting at him.
  • Speaking of Russo, why didn’t he drive to a police station that wasn’t his corrupt boss’s? Or call for backup? They’re in New York City. There are countless places he could go that would be safer than just driving. It’s not like his boss is the boss of all the police in NYC. Also, where’s the traffic? Where is anybody at all as he’s chased and shot at through the city? Why doesn’t anyone call the cops? What is this sloppy crap?
  • I laughed out loud in dismay and disbelief when they were questioning Marlo, the lady from New Age, and she was telling them the truth about Swan. She starts to tell the crew about Langston and how bad he is and then lists off the disreputable people he has in his pocket. In order, it’s the exact same bad guys who attacked Reacher’s crew. “A biker gang,” she lists off and they basically say “Check.” “Some hitmen,” she says lamely. “Check.” Truly stellar writing here, Amazon. Wow.
  • The gamer stuff was a mixed bag. It’s cool that Neagley is a gamer but the writing makes me think the writers of the show are not. “I am a first-person shooter” was a funny line, but the rest of it fell flat.
  • Reacher’s quirks can be charming when the show isn’t beating us over the head with them. For instance, I’m not really sure where you buy your clothes, but I rarely find any at convenience stores. This is partly because very few convenience stores sell much more than maybe a touristy t-shirt and sunglasses. I’m the same height as Alan Ritchson (6’3”) and finding clothes when you’re a bigger guy isn’t always easy. Reacher is 6’5” in the books. There is approximately a 0% chance that he would find a shirt and pants that fit on the one rack in the entire bodega. Beyond the unlikeliness factor, do we really need this many scenes of Reacher getting new clothes and tossing his old ones? I get that’s his schtick, but in this context—when who knows if he’ll need that suit again—couldn’t he leave some of his clothes in the back of their SUV?
  • The ending, when they find Russo and just sort of let him die without even trying, and Neagley holds his hand despite not liking to touch people which we were reminded of by the stupid bodega clerk who wanted her to “scooch in” ugh. Ugh, how corny and predictable and lame all of this was. Good grief. Also, Russo was a better character than literally anyone on Reacher’s team other than Neagley, but they kill him off in this absolutely ridiculous way. What a waste.
  • Speaking of corny and lame: They discuss the missile system and how easy it will be for AM to learn how to use the chips and they’re told that an engineer could explain it pretty easily. Barely an inconvenience! Then moments later they cut to a room with a big ENGINEERING sign and we see Langston talking to an engineer and they have effectively the exact same conversation. The acting from these smaller part characters is truly atrocious, by the way. Both Marlo and the engineer really deliver lines. Not well, mind you, but they say the words. Wowza.
  • AM is the worst villain ever. In what universe does a police officer examine a nice SUV parked at a rest stop and give a written warning to the driver for having something hanging on the mirror in the middle of the night? Are cops really this bored that they’re doing this crap? And then he waits until she phones it in to kill her? And he kills her with one stab of a SUPER TINY KNIFE???
  • I am now convinced that the showrunners of Fear The Walking Dead have taken over Reacher in secret. It’s the only explanation for just how thoroughly this show has jumped the shark. It’s honestly a little heartbreaking!

Before this episode I was thinking about writing a slightly different critique of the show, focused mainly on the setting. I’ve already discussed how Reacher’s team isn’t clicking with me. There are too many people involved in the story this season and they’re all badass fighters this time around, and the team chemistry is off. But there’s something else different this season and that’s the location.

In Season 1, Reacher was in the small, artificially wealthy town of Margrave, Georgia. Reacher was a big fish in a little pond in that setting. He was also a fish out of water, if we want to keep reeling in this big metaphor. That was a nice hook. The town was, in many ways, another character in the show. Reacher turned heads. Everybody in the whole town was talking about him. He made a big splash everywhere he went.

In Season 2, he’s just another guy in New York City (though this is filmed in Toronto, and is pretty obviously not NYC). The Reacher effect—the books often take place in small towns or off-the-grid locations in Montana, Texas, New England and so forth—works best when he’s a force of nature in his surroundings. When he’s just another guy on a team, well there’s just not enough going on to make him a particularly compelling protagonist.

But I think I could live with that—and with Reacher’s boring team—if the writing and direction weren’t so awful. The show feels really cheap now. It’s like some budget network procedural with lousy, unimaginative cinematography, crappy fight scenes and bad writing. Everything good about the first season is gone. Reacher—or, rather, Ritchson—has gotten bigger, but he feels smaller and less important than he did before.

I hope the show’s creators listen to fans and critics and correct course for Season 3. Sure, the Rotten Tomatoes score is great, but that’s based on critics only watching the first episode or two, before the show crapped the proverbial bed. What a disaster.

Naturally, I’ve gotten both a lot of people agreeing with me about Season 2 and a lot of people who disagree (some in more colorful ways than others!) so I thought I’d ask people to watch this one scene from Season 1 to get a visual sense of what I’m talking about. This is the scene where Reacher and the accountant find themselves in prison and a group of prison thugs are sent to kill them. Little do they know, Reacher isn’t just a big dude, he’s a trained fighter who doesn’t flinch at smashing heads, gouging eyes and using whatever other means he can to destroy his enemies.Now compare this scene to the bus fight scene in the latest episode. In that scene three bad guys walk into the bus Reacher is hiding in, one at a time, and are killed one-by-one not in a badass fight scene, but in silence as Reacher strangles and chokes out each one. The scene is dark and hard to see. The bad guys act like bad AI in a video game.

After this, Langston’s phone rings and Reacher hears it, chases him and is then attacked by a helicopter which he easily avoids. He even pops out and shoots at the chopper lamely with his handgun.

Other fights in Season 2 are equally unimpressive. This scene with Reacher and his buddies taking on a gang of bikers is laughably bad, with choppy choreography in a fight that once again takes place in the murkiness of night. Season 1 Reacher could have taken this whole biker gang down on his own. This time we have to divide the fighting up between him and his team, which really dilutes the full impact of Reacher as a monstrous solo fighter.

The setup here is also just silly. They give over their guns so easily, but then just go to town with fists? Have the bad guys not heard of silencers? Regardless, all you need to do is watch the Season 1 prison fight—and then these two fights—to see what I’m talking about.

But there’s more! Just watch the moments after the fight in the prison as Reacher is led to his cell. The cinematography even in a mundane scene like walking down a prison hall and lying down in bed is leaps and bounds better than anything in Season 2. It’s more colorful. The shots are more dynamic and creative. The camera moves backwards as the characters move down the hall, filling the scene with motion. We get a really great framing of Reacher and his gigantic biceps as he lies down happily on his prison cot after a fight that left half a dozen men senseless on the ground.

I’m sorry, but if you can’t see the drop in quality in fight choreography, cinematography and writing, then I suppose reading criticism won’t help you. If you’re enjoying Season 2, that’s great, but this tendency I’ve seen lately to lash out at anyone who points out its shortcomings is immature and ridiculous. Yes, we all know that “it’s just a TV show” and that “TV shows are just entertainment” but when a TV show is suddenly nowhere near as good as it used to be, rational people actually do care. Surely the quality of a TV show matters regardless of whether it’s “just a TV show” in the same way the quality of a cheeseburger or a steak matters despite being “just a meal”.

I don’t know what happened to make this season so inferior to the first, but I hope that Amazon and the show’s creators, at least, take this criticism to heart. The only reason I write such scathing reviews is precisely because I do care about this show and I want more seasons and I want them to be as good as the first. One thing fanboys and sycophants never realize is that ignoring flaws only leads to shows getting cancelled as audiences inevitably drift away. And yes, I know, this season has drawn bigger numbers than the first. But that’s because the first season brought in a lot of new fans and they all turned up for the second. If people stop watching now, Season 3 will have a hard time keeping the momentum that Season 1 started. Season 2 isn’t more popular because it’s better, it’s more popular because that’s how audience numbers work.

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