THE TERMINAL LIST Review: When A Hero’s Homecoming Creates Villains
Created by David DiGilio and based on a series of novels from author and former U.S. SEAL, Jack Carr, Amazon Studios debuted the eight-episode action drama, The Terminal List last month. The show centers on Lieutenant Commander James Reece (Chris Pratt) who is forced to take matters in his own hands when members of his team are murdered, and his family is assassinated.
The conspiracy goes even deeper when he learns that a brain tumor he’s just been diagnosed with is connected to an unlicensed drug given to him and his team. Armed with all the artillery he can gather and with the help of dauntless reporter Katie Buranek (Constance Wu), CIA Ground Operative and former SEAL and BUD/S classmate Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch) and private airline pilot and former U.S Army Officer Liz Riley (Tyner Rushing), Reece sets out to find answers, and make all those who benefitted from the drug, its manufacture and pending sale.
The Terminal List is definitely the kind of show that has you conflicted. It’s not necessarily a straightforward revenge story, although it has all the right ingredients to accumulate one. Instead, it definitely forces you to confront yourself when a series like this one dares you to lend your empathy to a protagonist who winds up in a very dark place and goes out of his way to do some pretty questionable shit.
That being so, I love that The Terminal List at least allows for that kind of nuance to set in as we follow Reece’s phlegmatic, albeit visibly painful story as he goes from loyal solider, family man and patriot to being vilified as domestic terrorist and enemy of the state. The show outlines each and every main player, their deeds, and all but justifies why they deserve what’s coming.
It helps that the show turns out some truly amazing performances and character relationships. We see Buranek who is determined to get the full story on Reece and how deep she’s willing to go without compromising her own morals for the sake of Reece’s own vendetta, and the resulting fallout as the show progresses in one of its most pivotal and defining moments.
We also see the camaraderie and sense of brotherhood between Reece and Edwards as they and their allies entrench themselves to find his family’s killers. The role of Steve Horn (Jai Courtney) gets his day as a key villain underlined in Reece’s growing list of who’s-who to get even with as the President of a major drug company, whose alpha male demeanor gets completely stripped in the later episodes.
The show is also backed by some serious and intense action sequences featuring Pratt in one of his rawest roles yet. Apart from some of the show’s truly gruesome kills and horrific moments, there’s a scene in the fourth episode that will truly test your nerve as it reveals just exactly what Reece plans to do with a hatchet he brings on his missions.
Culminating the whole saga is a deeper message to be learned with The Terminal List as it pertains to corporate greed and political skullduggery and bureaucratic malfeasance within the higher ranks of the show’s more corrupt military officials. This gets even more emphasis with the involvement of FBI agent Tony Layun (J.D. Pardo) whose mission to catch Reece slowly evolves into something else, when his investigation starts to turn into perhaps the single-most eye-opening moment of his career.
Pratt’s Reece is an absolute scene stealer as he confronts every major person responsible for his misery and pain, right down to the show’s bittersweet and definitive and gripping finale. His mania is part and parcel to his suffering, and interestingly enough, his adherence to a code that keeps him grounded at times – certainly enough, at one point, to resusitate another FBI agent when he sets off an explosion that buries the agent under dirt and rubble.
I think the biggest message with The Terminal List is that with the ballyhoo and jingoism for America comes an unrequited element of evil that remains unanswered for. It’s an evil shrouded by the American flag which, when pulled back, forces you to see and understand human suffering as it happens on American soil. In this case, it comes in a fictional telling that touches all too closely to the daily horrors of recurring violence in America, especially when hearing of unhinged white men roaming into populated areas and committing terroristic acts.
That’s perhaps one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when watching The Terminal List. Indeed, it’s a story about a hero fallen to his own ills, and he is someone you definitely don’t need to lionize, though you can’t help but look when forced to discern between the lesser of two “evils”.
The Terminal List is available on Amazon Prime.Lead pic: Amazon Studios
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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February 1, 2023 @ 3:06 pm
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