Terminal List sees Chris Pratt attempt, and succeed, at being a hard ass. He’s almost as hard as Alan Ritchson in Jack Reacher, only less charming. The Terminal List has some great elements to it. If you are after an action show, it will tick those boxes. However, it completely lets itself down on its premise and on an opportunity to showcase trauma. Instead it leans heavily into an over the top glorification of violence, and its apparent holier than though ability to offer justice.
Violence for the sake violence
Okay, firstly, I’d also get violent if some shadowy ops team killed my wife and daughter. And James Reece, a sad looking and rarely smiling Chris Pratt, is violent. After an ops mission goes horribly wrong, he returns to be interrogated about what happened. The problem is his version of events seems to be different to other, more official, versions. Our hero appears to be suffering from PTSD, but tries rejecting this because it’s not what a ‘real’ man would suffer from. Mmm, not the best optics there. It doesn’t matter though, because it isn’t just PTSD (if at all). It’s a brain tumour brought about as a side effect of the military testing drugs on its own Navy SEALS. Drugs that are supposed to supress PTSD…
The book the bad and the ugly
Investigating this is also a reporter. Who is the closest we get to a reliable narrator. You see, this series is based Jack Carr’s 2018 novel that is apparently great because the narrator is absolutely unreliable. He’s unreliable because he’s confused, paranoid and is delusional. You get those parts in the first 2 or 3 episodes of The Terminal List, and I was delighted. I sat there wondering ‘wait, did he just kill that innocent dude because he thought he was going for a gun but he wasn’t really?’ and I thought we were onto a winner. It would have separated this show from the many MANY others out there that kneel and worship violence as some kind of pure justice, but it doesn’t.
Sadly, The Terminal List quickly devolves into an algorithm of action beats and conspiracy shenanigans that I’ve seen so many times before. I’ll give it to Pratt though, he’s convincing in this. He gives it his all and you most certainly do not look at his character and think Star Lord. But other than him, I honestly can’t say that much stood out. I mean, other than the action.
The action beats were damn good. The sounds of the guns, the visceral feel of Pratt knocking the wind out of baddies, all of that worked well. You want him to avenge, oh damn, he does. Want him to cut a guys abdomen open, and pull his guts out and use it as a leash? Yes, he does that.
Side note: My girlfriend is a doctor and said this was very unrealistic. Thanks, honey.
The biggest grip about the action? A similar gripe I had with The Grey Man, you can’t fucking see most of it. Why oh why directors/editors are making it difficult to see what’s on screen is beyond me. Is this some sort of new Bourne device to make it edgy? It doesn’t work, peeps. If I have to, and I did, adjust my graphics card because I think the contrast is off, I am not going to be happy. For much of the series a dark blue filter is used, unless its our hero having flashbacks. Then we can actually see. I will offer it a little bit of leeway in the sense that we are as confused as Reece, so if this was intentional, well done. But there is such thing as overkill.
The Terminal List is a weekend binge if you are bored. It’s a series that will appeal to the older gen who are used to 80s action beats that have no substance, no meat on the bone, as many other critics have said. If you have a choice between The Terminal List or Reacher, reach for Reacher.
I give The Terminal List a terminal…