The Terminal List

A covert mission goes sideways, which is just the start of SEAL team commander James Reece’s (Chris Pratt) long nightmare. Reece has lost men in combat before. But days after returning stateside one of the few survivors kills himself. Or did he? Reece isn’t buying it. Something isn’t right with Reece’s head, either. During an MRI he’s attacked by masked assassins. He kills one and seriously injures the other. Rushing home, he finds the bloody remains of his wife and daughter (Riley Keough and Arlo Mertz, respectively).

The Terminal List, a new eight-part series on Amazon Prime, doesn’t try to hide its influences. It’s Death Wish if the bereaved husband was equal parts Jason Bourne and John Rambo with a beard and ballcap. Without his brothers-in-arms and family, Reece feels that he’s lost it all. Remembering the Old Testament, Reece admits that while Job never broke, he’s “Pretty d-mn close.” 

Yet he’s not alone. War correspondent Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) offers her help uncovering who compromised the mission and why. And Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch), a former SEAL, has resources that aren’t exactly legal. Liz Reilly (Tyner Rushing), a pilot whose life Reece once saved, is there to take him where he needs to go. They, along with others, stand with Reece as he wages his one-man war. Even as it becomes apparent that this is a suicide mission.

There’s no hint of Andy Dwyer or Star-Lord in Pratt’s performance. He is James Reece, one of the most dangerous men on earth. I’ve never met a SEAL, though I have known some Marines, and everything here rings true. The characters swear fluently, drink fearlessly, and handle weapons as easily as most of us do silverware. That realism also carries over to the damage those weapons inflict on the human body. 

Frequent flashbacks and hallucinations drag down the story, which only has short bursts of action as is. The scenes of Reece’s domestic life lost my attention every time. The action scenes are top notch.

It’s only human to long for justice in an unjust world, even though we know better than to take it into our own hands. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). Desiring justice itself is never condemned. We crave it. Taking revenge isn’t allowed. 

“I am vengeance,” Reece snarls at the end of the penultimate episode. In this world he can be the avatar of vengeance, so perhaps we can still enjoy stories like The Terminal List if we accept them as fantasies. We want to see bad guys get their due, but we must keep in mind that imperfect men can only distribute imperfect justice. Whether we want this on our terminally long watch lists, with its harsh language and violence (and seemingly obligatory trip to a strip club), is one in which we want to indulge, might be another matter. (Rated TV-MA for violence, offensive language, sexuality. Amazon Studios)

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