Amazon Prime Video has been building quite the rapport with Chris Pratt. Not only did he bring in quite the success during the pandemic with The Tomorrow War, but he’s now also working on a series adapting the novel by Jack Carr, The Terminal List. The series follows the story of James Reece, who after facing the loss of his entire Navy SEALs platoon starts to question his own memories and loses grip with reality as the story around him starts to unravel, which may endanger the ones he loves. Can the premise also deliver with this new series?
One thing is for sure, the base premise is quite a promising one. Especially in the first two episodes it starts to play with the viewer’s understanding of what is and isn’t true. Audio clips and flashbacks start to intertwine in ways that make you wonder what exactly is real or isn’t. Pratt sells the performance as Reece, and it does push you to question what exactly is going on. The dramatic turn of these earlier episodes also adds some weight and further solidifies the difficulty of discussing topics like posttraumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.
Yet, the series slowly devolves into a rather simplistic plot of vengeance with some political turmoil. There are some interesting ideas at play, but it does continue to throw in new characters and unravels the “bigger picture” at the expense of what was the initial personal drama that gave the series an amazing hook. It’s not bad mind you, but it does feel like a missed opportunity as its strongest moments still remain with elements from that core concept that help develop Reece as a character.
There’s a lot of gray in this series, and no person is truly good. Some are definitely more corrupt than others, but it does become a boiling point where if you can’t go with Reece’s vengeance, you may lose interest in the series as that’s the main driving force. Chris Pratt gives a great performance and it is always strange to see comedic actors take on some rather dark roles. In a way, this is Pratt‘s Breaking Bad in a way, as he tackles a complex and broken character. It simply hinges on if you are going to join his journey or not to truly invest in this eight-episode series.
There is a strong supporting cast here,e especially Taylor Kitsch’s Ben Edwards who plays a vital role in supporting Reece throughout his journey. Though Constance Wu may be a personal standout in this series as journalist Katie Buranek alongside Jeanne Tripplehorn‘s Lorraine Hartley. Though, I can’t help but highlight the hilarious twist on casting Jai Courtney as a war-loving multi-billionaire CEO given his perchance of action roles. The way they play with his character was probably the one thing I least expected from the series and it worked in its favor.
The series is, at its core, a military conspiracy drama and works quite well as such. When they pull out their action sequences, they are great and you can see the influence of director Antoine Fuqua‘s experience with Training Day and Equalizer at play here. Though Ellen Kuras also offers some strong work here, especially echoing her work on projects like Ozark and The Umbrella Academy. Action is tight and purposefully dramatic when it needs to be, even if it does pull its inspirations from various military and gun-focused projects.
You can tell this was a passion project for Pratt, who also was an executive producer on the series. The series hits its stride when it comes to emotional moments, as Reece is pushed further and further throughout the story, especially as he starts to have a hard time connecting what is and isn’t real. And, as a personal taste in what could’ve been shouldn’t overshadow what the series is going for, it should be praised for what it delivers. There’s an interesting intrigue at play that caught me off-guard even by the end, as sometimes the camera would play with us on where certain characters stand.
There’s a middle section where the series seemingly takes a brief detour to introduce new characters that don’t have a stronger play into the overarching story. It was interesting as it added a new perspective on some characters, but it felt like the aspect of this story could’ve easily been tightened for the adaptation, as it pretty much feels like a brief detour in the middle of the story.
I repeatedly caught myself wondering if that was the end until realizing I was only halfway through the series. It does come at the expense of dragging at times and making me wonder if they may have had to pad out the eight-hour run, but it was still interesting to see how the series continues to just escalate. It also has something to say about PTSD and how strongly it affects soldiers. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the military; not even a little bit. It doesn’t indulge in the violence but adds a visceral aspect that forces you to keep watching.
For what the series is, The Terminal List pulls off what it’s trying to be. While I still wished it played a bit more with its audience, there’s something genuine at play here and it could’ve played a bit more morally grey on some character decisions. Yet, your enjoyment of the story strongly depends on how you feel about Pratt‘s character and his emotional journey throughout. There’s a strong supporting cast and while it has some moments where it could’ve tightened the plot, the series still has something to say that was worth telling.