Reviews Too Late: Pandemical Browsing

by wjw on February 11, 2022

Like all of you, I’ve been consuming a lot of popcorn TV during the latest Covid blitz. Here’s some of what I’ve seen.

The Lone Ranger Reacher.

Reacher is so very much the Lone Ranger that the series even shows an episode of the Clayton Moore series in the background during a key scene. (Of course Jack Reacher doesn’t have the Lone Ranger’s reluctance to take human life. Taking human life seems to be Reacher’s Plan A as far as this Amazon series is concerned, and the baddies line up to be slaughtered the way they always do.

(Baddies never have bad morale in these sorts of series. They never run away, they just gamely keep walking into one ambush after another until nobody’s left.)

A stranger comes to town; a stranger leaves town. This classic trope is behind every episode of the Lone Ranger, and behind every one of the twenty-odd Reacher novels I’ve so far encountered. (I’ve never read one, I’ve only listened to a few audio books borrowed from the library.)

Both the Lone Ranger and Jack Reacher can be counted upon to run into trouble in whatever dusty American backwater they wander into. The Lone Ranger is a former Texas Ranger, and Reacher is a former Army M.P., so they have experience dealing with violence and with bad guys, even if neither can arrest them legally. Both seem to do without the company of women pretty much, and of everyone else as well. (At least the Lone Ranger had a horse and a sidekick he could talk to. Reacher doesn’t even have a cellphone, or for that matter a gun.)

Reacher, played by Alan Ritchson, is also a 6’5″ Frankenstein’s monster who runs over bad guys with the colossal impact of a Mack truck, and is also a weird polymath who seems to know everything he needs to know. All the stuff you need in a hero.

Except that Reacher is too laconic to make a very interesting hero— the most commonly-repeated phrase in the novels is “Reacher said nothing”— so the filmmakers surround him with more dynamic personalities, Willa Fitzgerald as a feisty cop who serves as one of Reacher’s brief love interests, Maria Sten as a P.I. who’s about as good with killing bad guys as Reacher himself, and Malcolm Goodwin as an arrogant, by-the-book Harvard-educated detective.

(You know that in one of these kinds of stories a by-the-book detective is in for nothing but endless humiliation, and you won’t be disappointed.)

The Lone Ranger became a masked avenger after his brother, also a Ranger, was killed by outlaws. Reacher’s brother is killed in the opening scene of the series, after which— because the story is set in a stereotypical Southern small town— Reacher (the stranger who comes to town) is promptly arrested by the local goobers and charged with murder.

Well, that does not stand, and soon the cops need a tank named Reacher, and then we’re off into a confusing tangle of plot lines, cliffhangers, chases, and massacres.

While the series consists mostly of things you’ve seen before in other action thrillers, there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing even cliches done well, and Reacher does what it does very well indeed. If this is the sort of thing you like, then you will like it.

I miss the Lone Ranger’s pretty horse, though.

Aliens The Silent Sea

This Korean science fiction series makes no sense, but is very pretty and very well-acted, and its absurd plot generates genuine suspense, even if most of the plot beats are recycled from the Alien series.

For some reason most of the Earth’s water has disappeared— no reason given— so the Korean government sends a spacecraft to their moonbase which had been abandoned some years earlier due to a “radiation leak” that killed most of the crew. That the scientists aboard are being lied to should be obvious from the fact that all the crew of the ship are carrying firearms, just in case . . . what?

Of course there was no radiation leak, something else killed the station’s crew, and there seems to be a deadly being prowling the station’s ventilation shafts. There’s also an abandoned waif misplaced from Aliens.

The plot hinges on “lunar water,” which is different from Earth water in the same way that Ice-9 is different from regular ice. Lunar water can reproduce itself, and would fill up Earth’s oceans in jig time, at least if it didn’t run amuck.

I know, I know. It’s an idiotic premise. And the ending is really stupid, and is probably meant to set us up for a second series. Which, however pretty, I won’t be watching.

Squid Game

Enough has been said about this wildly popular Korean series already, so all I can add is that if you’re after a series in which a bunch of sympathetic people are forced by evil death lords to kill one another, I’d recommend you watch Battle Royale instead. You’ll save a lot of time.

Stay Close

Another Netflix adaptation of a Harlen Coben thriller, this stars Cush Jumbo, who seems to be one of those actors who suddenly comes out of nowhere to appear in every damn movie or TV show in sight, and who is doing very well in all of them.

Jumbo plays Megan, whose been living an upper-middle-class lifestyle with her boyfriend and three children for the last 17 years, and has finally succumbed to his pleas for marriage. Megan’s life is about to go into the crapper, and it’s revealed that she’s actually a former exotic dancer named Cassie, who disappeared 17 years earlier, at the same time as her evil violent stalker, who has been presumed dead. But did she bump him off, or someone else?

Cassie seems to attract stalkers, because she’s becomes subject to the renewed attentions of former boyfriend Ray, whose life was shattered when she disappeared, and who isn’t about to let her go once he finds her again. There’s also a cop obsessed by the disappearance of Cassie’s stalker, and who connects that disappearance with the disappearance, on the same day 17 years later, of some rich asshole’s son.

Becoming the object of stalkers’ attention seems to be inherited, because the rich asshole’s son tried to roofie Cassie’s teenage daughter, got roofied instead, and ended up vanishing as he was chasing her through the forest. Is history repeating itself, and why?

Add Eddie Izzard as a sympathetic junkie lawyer, and a pair of preppy assassins named Ken and Barbie, and you’ve got a sinister plot that takes eight whole episodes to wind up.

Like everything else on this list, it’s solid effort. It held my interest to the end, and odds are it will work for you, too, though if you’re new to Harlen Coben adaptations, I’d start with The Stranger.

mearsk February 11, 2022 at 10:31 am

“Reacher” did a far better job of translating the books to screen than the forgettable Tom Cruise movies about the same character.

The one thing that “Squid Game” did very well was take a hugely unlikable character and make you end up rooting for him. The ending was kinda weird, though.

John Wilson February 17, 2022 at 5:34 pm

Reading your review of Reacher reminded me of this time years ago when a friend of mine was describing the Honor Harrington books to me, because I hadn’t read them. He described the plot of each book in the series, and the whole time I was thinking…

…hang on a minute. This sounds like the Horatio Hornblower books.

And it turns out that the resemblance is deliberate.

Steinar Bang February 27, 2022 at 6:17 am

Philip Pullman (“His Dark Materials”) on twitter thought The Rock (aka. Dwayne Johnson), would be ideal for the role of Jack Reacher.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Contact Us | Terms of User | Trademarks | Privacy Statement

Copyright © 2010 WJW. All Rights Reserved.