On Reacher

It is a policy of mine to never review something that I don’t like. I want to celebrate what I feel is the good in my culture, and not dunk on something, just because it doesn’t fit with my tastes.

Which is a problem when I think about Reacher, the TV series on Amazon. Reacher is Pringles. I like Pringles. It’s an extraordinarily efficient and pleasant way to get tasty things into my body: carbs, fats, salt. Reacher is like that. It’s a lot of fun as it’s going in; when it’s in there, digesting, maybe not so much fun.

In the show, Jack Reacher is played by the absolutely massive Alan Ritchson. Smaller versions of the character can now be forgotten. In the Introduction to Killing Floor, the author of the Reacher books, Lee Child, has said his aim was to avoid the underdog paradigm. Jack Reacher was to be an “overdog”: “I wanted the kind of vicarious satisfaction that comes from seeing bad guys getting their heads handed to them by a wrong-righter even bigger and harder than them.” Alan Ritchson ably presents that overdog.

What Child has done is create a kind of Superman. But more of a Zack Snyder version. Our hero is an outsized man and he doesn’t have time for smalltalk or awkward social interactions of any kind. He says No a lot, if he doesn’t want to do something, which is appealing. He’s a Holmes-level detective and an impeccable shot. He strides through life, taking each day as it comes, jumping on cross-country buses on a whim, at the service of nothing but his own desires. And, unlike the detective he finds himself paired with in the show, he eats whatever he wants, doesn’t exercise, and still looks like a carving of a Greek god.

And sure, maybe he gets into trouble a lot. But that’s because he doesn’t back down. Not ever. There is no problem he can’t use his mind to solve – and his fists (and forehead, knife, gun) to put right. He ends up carrying an outsized gun, to right outsized wrongs, which might be a not-subtle Freudian reference, but I figure is likely because a standard-size handgun would look ridiculous in Ritchson’s massive hand.

But it’s also definitely a Freudian reference.

And he’s licensed to kill. I mean, not really licensed, but morally licensed. Bad guys – especially bad guys that hurt women and children – are dispatched with cold-blooded efficiency and zero accountability. He has no morality but his own; he serves only his own needs; he kills without a second thought. He’s a hero. And it’s thrilling to watch.

Until the indigestion hits.

He has no morality but his own; he serves only his own needs; he kills without a second thought. He’s a psychopath. And it’s thrilling to watch.

So, you know, I don’t know what that means. But it’s something to consider.

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