The Terminal List is a Prime Video original series created by David DiGilio and based on the novel of the same name by Jack Carr. Lt. Commander James Reece (Chris Pratt) is the sole survivor of an attack on his Navy SEAL team, which leaves him with a crippling case of PTSD and survivor’s guilt. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s soon faced with conflicting accounts that lead him to believe that the death of his team wasn’t an accident. Reece embarks on a journey to uncover the truth, while also inflicting copious amounts of violence on those who’ve wronged him.
Every streaming service has carved out its own niche in the genre arena. Disney+ has a whole fleet of Marvel and Star Wars shows. Paramount+ has become the home for all things Star Trek. Prime Video, on the other hand, has branched out into all forms of genre. It’s offered alternative superhero stories like The Boys and Invincible, fantasy programming including The Legend of Vox Machina and the upcoming Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and military thrillers with Jack Ryan and Reacher. The Terminal List falls into that third category, although it’s missing some key elements that made the likes of Reacher such an enjoyable watch.
Key among them is the series’ leading man. It isn’t surprising that Prime would want to stay in the Pratt business, especially since his sci-fi film The Tomorrow War was one of the streamer’s most-watched movies and a sequel is on the way. But both projects run into the same problem: namely, Pratt often plays a blank slate of a character who can be boiled down to either “family man” or “army man,” based on the setting. His delivery of lines that are meant to be “badass” come off as unintentionally hilarious. For example, when he says “I am justice” to one of his victims I had to stifle a laugh. And the audience barely gets to know his fellow officers or even his wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and daughter Lucy (Arlo Mertz). Where Pratt shines as an actor is when he’s able to be part of an ensemble and showcase genuine human emotion: see Parks and Recreation as well as his turn in The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy.
To its credit, the series attempts to flesh out the world around Reese as more and more folks get involved in his quest for vengeance. Chief among them is Katie Buranek (Constance Wu), a journalist who winds up uncovering more about the conspiracy that Reece is a part of, and Reece’s old friend/fellow soldier Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch). Both Wu and Kitsch have some of the best moments in the series. Kitsch even comes off as charming enough to the point where I wish he had been cast as Reece. And both Jai Courtney and Pratt’s fellow Guardians alum Sean Gunn are clearly relishing playing corrupt corporate yuppies. However, JD Pardo‘s role as FBI Agent Tony Layun might draw unfavorable comparisons to The Fugitive.
The behind-the-scenes craft is a bit of a mixed bag, as well. Antoine Fuqua, who serves as an executive producer on the series alongside Pratt, helmed the pilot. It’s no surprise that this is the best episode of the bunch, as Fuqua manages to deliver action sequences that feel appropriately tense – viewers are put right in the thick of the action, with handheld camera movements and slow-mo shots that simulate the chaos of a war zone.
And while Fuqua and DiGilio deliver a story that hints that Reece may or may not be imagining things, the other writers and directors drop that in favor of more shootouts. While there is plenty of action – and I have to give credit to Fuqua and Pratt for enlisting the help of real veterans in the creative process – it gets monotonous after eight hour-long episodes. And much like Prime’s other military/spy fare, some of the fights take place in near-complete darkness. Prime, you do know that people actually want to see the fights in your series right?
The Terminal List is far too long and self-serious for its own good, especially where series lead Chris Pratt is concerned. As a piece of “dad TV,” it’ll probably scratch some viewers’ itch, but if you’d like a series with more meat on its bones, Reacher is available to stream. Given that this series is timed to the Fourth of July weekend, it’ll more than likely provide something for Prime viewers to watch during their barbeques and other activities—and gain enough traffic to potentially hint at a sequel.
The Terminal List
The Terminal List is far too long and self-serious for its own good, especially where series lead Chris Pratt is concerned. As a piece of “dad TV,” it’ll probably scratch some viewers’ itch, but if you’d like a series with more meat on its bones, Reacher is available to stream.