Full spoilers follow for Reacher season 1. Potential season 2 spoilers are also incoming.
As Prime Video's promotional campaign wittily put it – complete with a picture of leading man Alan Ritchson from behind – Reacher’s back. Like a modern, all-American version of Arnie Schwarzenegger, albeit a little kinder (Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, perhaps), everyone's favorite man-mountain is indeed back for Reacher season 2, the show's latest adaptation of Lee Child's book series about the roaming, incredibly muscular ex-military man with a canny knack for solving murder mysteries on the spot.
And it's a welcome return for Ritchson, who easily persuaded viewers that it should have been him, not modern-day action hero Tom Cruise – and we don't talk about those Cruise-led films, got it? – who assumed the role from the very start. Given that we know a little more about the man of few words in this season, the writers have already made great headway into translating the character of Reacher from the page to a true TV hero, and which is why such a fandom has already amassed for the show, and – deservedly – for Ritchson himself.
With every loose plot thread essentially tied up as Reacher season 1 *ahem* reached its end, the titular character headed back out onto the road to do his own thing. Unusually for a TV adaptation of a hit book series, though, Reacher season 2 jumps forward 10 books to Bad Luck and Trouble, aka the 11th novel in the series.
Pleasingly, it turns out to be a great shout from showrunner Nick Santora and the producers behind one of the best Prime Video shows around. There’s only so much on-screen interest to be had in a solo guy wandering around small-town America, wreaking revenge on bad guys as he does so.
So, in choosing this novel, in which members of the 110th MP Special Investigators – a US Army unit Reacher was previously a part of – are bumped off in mysterious circumstances, Reacher season 2 immediately differentiates itself from what came before.
Season 1 saw Reacher have to *double ahem* reach out to the community around him to solve a case that would clear his name. In sharp contrast, the show's sophomore season sees the titular character respond to a proverbial call to arms from his former teammates. Well, the ones who are still alive anyway, which includes Frances Neagley (Maria Sten, also returning from season 1), David O'Donnell (Shaun Sipos), and Karla Dixon (Serinda Swan). Suddenly we’ve got ourselves a Marvel's Avengers team-up situation, albeit one devoid of superpowers, flashy gadgets, and spandex suits.
That said, flashbacks concerning how the team bonded border on the cheesy side – united after a brawl with other military personnel at the officers club, then swigging beer and bourbon amid a celebratory campfire sing-a-long – and their interactions often feel like shorthand tropes, but they still make an engaging foursome to follow. Interestingly, the guys all have the same deadpan intonation as Reacher, probably to highlight their similarities and closeness as a unit, but it can get a little bit repetitive – no, borderline irksome – with each passing episode.
There’s also obvious sexual tension between Reacher and Dixon who, as we learn, never quite hooked up while serving alongside each other. When the inevitable hook up scene occurs, however, it's rather cringe-inducing – like his sex scene with last season’s love interest Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald), while the writers and the actors go in all guns-blazing in season 2's many fight scenes to pleasing effect, the series hasn’t quite mastered the nuances of a sensitively-handled on-screen sex scene yet.
The all-new cast line-up also includes a welcome return from Domenick Lombardozzi, most famous for his role as Herc in The Wire. Here, Lombardozzi plays Guy Russo, a cop covering the same murder case as Reacher, and while Reacher is a pale comparison to the long-running David Simon show – in fact, seeing Lombardozzi here only serves to highlight The Wire's superior storytelling and expert craftmanship – it’s another sweary, shouty, and sardonic turn from the actor, and one who’s presence instantly makes itself known in any scene.
As for the villains, episode 3 begins to point towards a shady cooperation called New Age and a possible arms dealer/terrorist with the initials A.M. (a character played by Ferdinand Kingsley). Without spoiling too much, this season 2 plotline links these antagonists back to the murder of Reacher’s colleagues, but there’s enough suspense – especially with the cliff hangers at each episode's end that had me eager to immediately start the next entry – to keep viewers hooked.
Like the man himself, Reacher season 2 has made great strides to cement itself as one of Amazon's most popular TV originals. There’s lots to like, too: it’s a fun thriller whose engrossing plot doesn’t demand too much brain power – the constant exposition means you’re never going to fall behind from a story perspective – fronted by the stoic-yet-charming Ritchson, who was born to play this part.
The expansion of the cast also proves that – despite Reacher’s inner ethos – no man is an island. Some of season 2's strongest scenes are its ensemble pieces, so here’s hoping some characters may reappear in future seasons. Indeed, Reacher season 2 isn’t out yet, but a third installment is already on the way, so I'm praying we get a reunion between Reacher and his former colleagues next time out at the very least.
Sure, there are holes you can pick at, such as its stilted dialog and scenes bogged down in clichés, but Reacher season 2 is mostly an enjoyable watch. With a runtime sub-seven hours, it’s also a manageable choice for a weekend binge-watch, if you're happy to wait for its climactic finale in the weeks after New Year.
Given its impending (and explosive) festive season release date and one particularly snow-filled episode, by my reckoning, that makes Reacher season 2 a Christmas TV show. So, treat it like a very moreish box of festive candies: eat, feast, and be merry.
Reacher season 2 debuts on Prime Video on Friday, December 15. New episodes air weekly until the final episode on January 19, 2024.
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Laura Martin is an entertainment journalist who covers TV, film, and music. She's written for numerous big publications, including TechRadar, Esquire, BBC Culture, The Guardian, and The i newspaper. Her favourite stories usually involve prestige TV drama, reality TV, or true-life documentaries. Basically, the more obscure, the better!
- Tom PowerSenior Entertainment Reporter