‘Picture Says a Thousand Words’

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS


Reacher

Picture Says a Thousand Words

Season 2

Episode 3

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

Photo: Amazon/Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

One of the most rewarding elements of Reacher’s first season was the deliberate pace at which it let us watch an unlikely team coalesce. Grieving big-city detective Oscar Finley (Malcolm Goodwin) and sharp-witted patrol officer Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald) — the only two cops in Margrave, Georgia, who weren’t bent — were locking the big man up when we met them. Their gradual realization that he wanted to solve the killings that had rocked their sleepy town even more than they did was predictable but pleasurable in the antagonistic buddy-cop tradition. By the time Finley stripped down to his A-shirt for some John McClane– or Roger Murtaugh–style I’m-not-a-cop-tonight payback and lit a fuse using one of the cigarettes he’d tried so earnestly to quit, the Reacher-Conklin-Finley trio — plus the late-arriving Frances Neagley (Maria Sten), a longtime Reacher ally — had gelled into a unit we’d follow anywhere. Or at least into a burning warehouse full of innocent hostages; thick-necked henchmen; pallets of counterfeit hundred-dollar bills; at least one verbose, patricidal sociopath; and, most crucially, vertigo-inducing catwalks (the better to throw you from, my dear).

This second season has followed what I’m calling the Neagley Arc rather than the Finley Arc, leaning heavily on Reacher’s unbreakable bond with the surviving members of his old unit, the 110th Special Investigators. (Motto: “You do not mess with the Special Investigators.” I mention it here because only one individual person speaks it aloud this episode one single time. Maybe some script pages went missing.) Their hoo-ah camaraderie is fun, and who wouldn’t want to be part of a group that has as much faith in and loyalty to one another as this one, but their open adoration of their size-XXL leader just isn’t as much fun to watch as Reacher schooling the locals — and occasionally being humbled by the revelation that they actually know what they’re doing sometimes too.

Third episode “Picture Says a Thousand Words” gives us both. It opens with a flashback to poor Calvin Franz’s torture and murder via helo-drop, letting us see for the first time that Robert Patrick isn’t a just an evil puppet master but the kind of bad guy who gets his hands dirty, personally breaking Franz’s legs with a crowbar when Franz refuses to talk. When he asks the bloodied, broken man why he’s smiling, Franz says he’s “just thinking what the big guy is gonna do to you.” Hero worship to the end.

Now we find the big guy at a sporting-goods store, helpfully explaining to the proprietor the Reacher-size loopholes in New York gun laws that will allow him to walk out with two Glock 19s, a Glock 17, and a Beretta 92. (We’ll shortly learn which member of the team favors each specific sidearm, because, again, this is a show for dads.) Reacher plunks a fat wad of 50s on the counter to remind the gun-store guy just how open to interpretation these weak-ass gun laws are. The arm-twisting pedantry with which Ritchson’s Reacher explains things to the shopkeep is, as ever, a joy to behold, but it’s gotten awfully hard to enjoy scenes like this in blood-soaked 21st-century America.

Now that they’ve all got some firearms to bear — besides the legally registered ones that they can’t use for whatever extralegal justice they’re about to perpetrate, I mean — the four are immediately pulled over by an NYPD squad car. Reacher, intuiting what’s about to happen from the fact that the patrolman does not immediately call Emergency Services, the New York National Guard, and maybe the Giants’ defensive line for backup, tells his pals he’ll be taking a nap until he’s arrested. This is the most enviable of Reacher’s superpowers: his ability to sleep anywhere for exactly the amount of time he has available or that he wishes to remain unconscious.

That detective Reacher air-bagged and coldcocked in the prior episode, now fully recognizable as television’s Domenick Lombardozzi, is the guy who wakes him by rapping on the passenger-side door. There are three jokes at the expense of Rutgers University Law School as O’Donnell introduces himself as Reacher’s attorney. That detective, whose name is Russo, puts Reacher and O’Donnell in an interrogation room without formally booking Reacher, deepening the big guy’s suspicion that Russo might be dirty. Russo is so offended by Reacher’s suggestion he’s bent that he removes Reacher’s cuffs when dared, becoming the latest physically unremarkable specimen to reveal that his survival instinct is critically misfiring by challenging Reacher to fisticuffs.

But Russo really just wants to know what’s up with all these bodies dropping, especially since several of them have dropped from 3,000 feet. After Russo earns an ounce of credibility with Reacher and O’Donnell by sharing a clue the Special Investigators missed — an arrest warrant for a suspected terrorist that was in the print queue at Sanchez’s trashed office, but which was held up by a low-ink cartridge — Reacher and O’Donnell decide to trust the cop with the list of names they got from Franz’s flash drive. The name on the warrant and the names on the list all share the initials A.M.

Russo runs the names and finds that one is booked on a flight from Denver that very day, but A.M. — who turns out to be the dapper guy we’ve previously seen burning just-stamped passports and casually throwing perfectly good comic books into airport trash cans, which he does again this episode — is one cool customer. Arriving at the airport, he instantly spots the extra security personnel disguised as travelers, confirming his suspicion by pretending to bump into one of them and knocking over his suitcase. It’s empty, which means the guy’s a cop. Cool detail!

Meanwhile, Dixon and Neagley visit some outfit called New Age Enterprises, following up on the parking pass they found in the car of one of the goons who tried to kill Dixon and Reacher in our last exciting episode. They get the address of the person to whom the parking pass was issued, which Reacher intuits is another trap. This leads us to the episode’s big set piece, a raid on a house in Queens that finds all four reunited members of the 110th engaging in some John Wick–style close-range gun-fu. Reacher actually executes a signature Wick move, giving one assailant two shots to the body and one to the face. Upstairs, Dixon finds that at least one of these goons is wearing body armor that apparently bestows magical powers upon him, in that after taking several close-range shots to the chest, he’s able to leap right up and do some kung-fu fighting after playing possum for a few seconds. O’Donnell disproves Dixon’s claim that he “couldn’t hit a donkey’s ass with a banjo” by saving Dixon’s life with a head shot that finishes her attacker.

The capper to this big set piece comes when Reacher spots a man driving by to check on the success of the ambush that’s been laid for the Special Investigators (unsuccessful, obviously) and Reacher, again demonstrating his surprising speed and agility for a guy who looks like he ought to move like a tectonic plate, chases the vehicle down on foot. The driver is a pudgy, sedentary type with an I.D. from New Age Technologies and an evident aversion to violence. He immediately goes into cardiac arrest when Reacher pulls him from his vehicle, leading us to a very funny bit wherein Reacher is administering chest compressions to the man while attempting to question him. When I last renewed my CPR–First Aid certification, the instructor told us to be careful about how much force we exert when giving chest compressions. I can only imagine that getting them from Reacher would turn one’s rib cage into bag of tortilla chips that’s been stepped on and then run over by a Humvee.

Russo, being a law-enforcement professional, gets word of the big gunfight in Queens and charges over to the cheap hotel room the 110th have booked, demanding to know what they’ve done. He admits to having protected them by scrambling their physical descriptions in his report of the incident but, being an honest man, warns Reacher never to put him in that position again — and no more cowboy shit.

Naturally, cowboy shit is exactly what Reacher has planned for his friends. They return to New Age Technologies that very night, smashing a van into the lobby of the place and stealing all the files and hard drives and such that they can find within the two-minute window of exposure they’ve given themselves. But their big discovery requires no password guessing or disk decrypting. It’s a framed all-staff photo that shows one of their missing-and-presumed-dead old buddies, Tony Swan, smiling right next to Robert Patrick. That’s right: Swan was an employee of the outfit the surviving veterans of the 110th are now pretty sure has been trying to kill them.

Now we’re cooking with pipe bombs. Detective Russo proving himself an ally rather than an antagonist is an appealing echo of the Reacher-Finley relationship from season one. Finley was smarter, though. He stood up to Reacher but never implied he could take the big guy physically.

• Russo responds to O’Donnell’s unimpressive first showing as Reacher’s attorney by calling him “Dershowitz.” Later, O’Donnell returns the jab by calling Russo “Sipowicz.” Did Domenick Lombardozzi ever turn up on NYPD Blue? That seems, like Thanos, inevitable.

• Hey, did no one ever think to test Alan Ritchson for Thanos?

• Looking over the cache of firearms Reacher has extralegally sourced for the team, Neagly says she likes her Beretta 92F. That fits with her pop-cultural era: The 92 was a staple of ’80s and ’90s action cinema, carried by Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs in all four Lethal Weapon films and by Bruce Willis’s John McClane in the first three Die Hards. I kinda hate that I didn’t at least have to look this up. I do not own firearms.

• The unabridged audio version of Bad Luck and Trouble, the 2007 novel on which this season is based, like many other of Lee Child’s Reacher novels, is read by a man with the Reacheresque moniker of Dick Hill. I can only assume that Mr. Hill’s early life resembled Reacher’s, and that his own mother addressed him simply as “Hill,” while calling his siblings, if any, by their Christian names.



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