‘I’ ON CULTURE
Amazon Prime’s new hit series The Terminal List is a blockbuster in terms of number of viewers. However, it is one of those projects (an eight-hour miniseries) that critics hate (39 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences love (94 percent approval from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes). Normally it takes an Adam Sandler comedy to get a disparity like that. What causes it in this series?
Chris Pratt plays Reese, a Navy SEAL who had his team ambushed and almost all killed in Syria. “I have12 men flying home in caskets now,” he said. “This is personal.” His problem is that he was severely concussed and has no clear memory of what happened. But he wants to find out what happened, and that sets up the main plot.
He is tormented and then attacked, and his wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and daughter Lucy (Arlo Mertz) are murdered. That settled it for Pratt, and he goes off the rails to find out the secrets. Now, everyone who slept through the past decade or so will scoff at the notion that there are secret powers who want what they want, but suffice it to say that there are metaphorical fingers pointing to Secretary of Defense Lorraine Hartley (Jeanne Tripplehorn).
Reese also has allies. Reporter Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) does key research for him, providing support for his ideas and key information. His buddy, former SEAL and now dark ops guy Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch) provides more backup, but he may not be exactly who he claims to be.
There is violence — a lot of violence. And, of course, Reese is handling the good guy side, while it seems that half the government thinks he’s the bad guy, and he’s officially designated a terrorist. The real issue, which occasionally does seem to be a matter of doubt, is whether or not there was a real plot that caused the ambush. And the ending, which echoes the book by Jack Carr (which I liked and had read earlier), is ambivalent.
The acting is good. Unfortunately, Pratt is a bit one-dimensional, but he carries out his action hero role pretty well and provides star power. But the rest of the cast really shines. Kitsch is strong in a tricky part, and Wu shows some real acting chops. However, Keough and Mertz are just wonderful in smaller parts. Their deaths provide a great springboard for explaining Pratt’s actions.
The series runs on too long. This would have been a fabulous feature film, but because of the need to fill eight episodes, there are sub-plots galore, many of them to no real purpose. So, there is a bit of a drag.
Why was there such a gap between critics and the public? Politics, of course. Some of the critics absolutely hated the idea of old-fashioned Americans going after the bad guys. A few of the critics wondered how anyone could doubt the honor of some of our land’s finest institutions. The term “right wing fantasy” showed up in some reviews. Carr, a former SEAL, was sharply harangued by some.
Most of the audience, on the other hand, liked the tough attitude. Many said they like the attention to military detail, how the series “got things right” about equipment and attitude. A few of the viewers wrote that they had been in the military and appreciated the care taken with important details. Things like that made them comfortable with the action, which they said was far better than most of those things in other series and films.
The series was pretty good, although its length meant that there was too much time spent in preparation for action, a few extra plots, a few villains allowed a bit more time to preen, etc., than should have been the case. But if you like good, old-fashioned Americans shooting up the bad guys’ action, this may be the series for you. If you have Amazon Prime and you fit the qualifications, try it.