Amazon Prime Video’s newest series The Terminal List is based on the eponymous book which was co-authored under the pseudonym “Jack Carr” by former Navy SEAL officer George Petersen. The television series is by no means a flawless military/spy thriller, but it gets the job done where it counts.
Is it cheesy at times as 90 percent of SEAL fiction stories are cheesy? Sure. Is it fantastical most of the time as almost all “man against the world” stories? Again, yes. It falls squarely into the same tradition as Rambo: First Blood, Man on Fire, The Northman, and The Equalizer. And that’s a good thing.
Despite a few flaws, The Terminal List’s creators have managed to successfully produce a genuinely riveting adventure series, featuring special operators, corporate covert action, shady politicians, and cold-blooded vengeance. It is an ultimately satisfying revenge tale and will undoubtedly entertain you if you are looking for something new to stream this summer.
The series stars a bafflingly hair-dyed Chris Pratt as James Reece, an intense, brooding, highly capable, and highly lethal 40-year-old Navy SEAL officer. At the outset, nearly the entirety of Reece’s platoon of SEALs is wiped out in an operation targeting a WMD-dabbling scientist in Syria. The violence then follows Reece home to the States, where the action really fires up. Reece then spends the rest of the eight-episode series trying to figure out why the operation went sideways and who was behind it. He then plots revenge against the shadowy figures involved, while battling an initially mysterious PTSD-like mental affliction that renders him at times nearly catatonic, and striking names off his “terminal list.”
I kept thinking of that old Adam Sandler line, “Boy, am I glad I called that guy!” Sadly for the antagonists of this series — and there are many — merely apologizing to James Reece is not going to get your name struck off his terminal list. No, there is only one way to achieve that goal, and it involves meeting your maker. No one can hope for clemency once they make the list, no matter what their past ties to Reece might have been.
Lead actor Pratt manages to admirably pull off the performance, despite his dyed hair — seriously, why? — even if his dialogue occasionally comes across as though written for an overwrought Cyborg super-soldier. That writing style is sadly a common feature of lots of Hollywood SEAL-centric productions, and it is occasionally present in The Terminal List, as well. However, it is not too much of a distraction, thankfully. There is just enough of it to play a fun drinking game: a shot every time one of the SEAL characters utters a cringe-worthy bro-mide (definition: “a trite and unoriginal remark usually uttered by a fictional Hollywood SpecOps bro and involving such terms as ‘kicking ass,’ ‘taking names,’ and/or ‘the brotherhood.’)
The supporting actors also do well in filling out the cast of predictable villains and Reece’s support team. Taylor Kitsch is solid as the former-SEAL-turned-CIA-officer best friend; Constance Wu is believable as the dogged and intrepid reporter; and Jai Courtney inhabits the role of sleazy venture capitalist quite well.
The bad guys range from corrupt corporate wannabe soldiers to Mexican Sicarios, to amoral military brass who accept money in exchange for betraying their fellow comrades-in-arms. It is all mostly predictable in terms of the good guys and the bad guys. Yet the writers and six directors involved in the eight episodes manage to somehow pull it all off with aplomb. The result is entertaining and even gripping throughout.
So, despite the at-times cheesy dialogue and credibility-stretching plot, you will find yourself absorbed in the story, anxious to figure out the conspiracy, and even against your better judgment at times, rooting for Pratt’s James Reece to lay waste to the bad guys — the criminal justice system be damned!
Ultimately, The Terminal List is a satisfying tale of revenge, in which you are both rooting for Chris Pratt’s absurdly capable and qualified special operator to mercilessly kill all the villains, but also maddeningly frustrated that he doesn’t take a more sensible and legal approach to deal with a diabolical conspiracy.
He has his reasons, after all, and you will enjoy figuring them out as you watch.