Reflecting on the television landscape for the last six months it would be easy to say 2022 is shaping up to be the year of Peak Dad TV. Programs like Peacemaker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vikings: Valhalla, Halo, and Jack Reacher are just a few of the new series that hit the sweet spot for a specific audience: men between the ages of 30 and 60.
Continuing this trend is Amazon Prime Video’s latest drama, The Terminal List. The ambitious and exciting, yet at times head scratching, series is executive produced by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) and based on a novel by former Navy SEAL Jack Carr. Not surprisingly, the lead of this new military drama is an actor many men have come to associate with this quickly growing genre—Chris Pratt.
If you’re looking for a 40-something male to be tough, action-oriented, charming, and hold a weapon with a smirk, Chris Pratt is your guy. So an easy-to-root-for, determined hero is exactly what viewers can expect from Pratt as Lt. Commander James Reece in The Terminal List. The gung-ho drama flowing with military jargon focuses on a Navy SEAL unraveling the mystery of how a subversive tech company murdered his family and killed off his platoon to cover up a complex conspiracy. It’s a bona fide buffet of dad programming. Action forward and loaded with intrigue yet with significant flaws, the series remains enjoyable due to its star.
When we first meet Reece he’s preparing for an important mission. His SEAL team has been tracking a Syrian chemical weapons specialist for years and they finally have reliable intel on how to capture him, or so they believe. Reece and his group are quickly led into a trap and his team is eliminated. Sustaining a severe head injury, Reece returns home but has memory lapses, headaches, and frequently zones out.
During its first few episodes The Terminal List feels like a conspiracy series. Reece seems paranoid and delusional and at times doesn’t even trust his memory. At one point he’s almost convinced that he killed his own wife and daughter. Yet midway through the third episode, there’s a massive tonal shift and the show goes from conspiracy to revenge fantasy. It’s jarring, and the first of many shifts in the eight episode season.
In this second act, Reece goes on a killing spree, taking out key members of a military contractor while getting help from a journalist (Constance Wu), a trusted CIA agent who was a former SEAL teammate (Taylor Kitsch), and friends from his past. While plotting out his revenge tour, he’s being pursued by an FBI agent (JD Pardo) following the trail of bodies Reece leaves behind.
The series shifts tone several more times, as The Terminal List deals with espionage, medical trials run amok, and the machinations of traitors within the government and the military. The pacing and atmosphere of this series, while always dramatic, is so varied it’s like listening to a mix tape with country, rock, rap, reggae, and a couple of The Chipmunks holiday songs. It’s an eclectic mix that blends together well (most of the time) and leads to a surprising and satisfying conclusion.
Tonally scattered yet engrossing, The Terminal List still suffers from several other nagging issues. An inconsistent plot line and odd story choices will, at times, lead to some confusion. Flashbacks to Reece’s family and former platoon are meant to provide backstory, but are told out of sequence and are so inconsistent they lack impact and proper context.
Reece also seems to have the most loyal friends in the world who just so happen to have unlimited resources. Money is somehow no object as the soldier frequently flies on a private plane, has enough weapons to supply an army, and manages to evade capture and complete his revenge mission despite having a debilitating injury. At one point he even triggers a rockslide and rides it to help him escape a group of SEALs. Basically, there’s a lot of belief suspension required when watching this series.
Many of this show’s numerous flaws may be enough to force the average viewer to look for alternative dad content, but what manages to still make The Terminal List bingeable is the always affable Chris Pratt. The 43-year-old actor has come a long way from the goofy, doughy, and charismatic Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation. He’s now Hollywood’s go-to modern-day hero who can fit into almost any role with an action bent.
Whether he’s a charismatic narcissist in Guardians of the Galaxy, a likable former soldier who became a teacher and has to become a soldier again in The Tomorrow War, or the scoundrel who can tame velociraptors with an open palm and a stern look, Chris Pratt has evolved into a reliable action star. You know what you’re going to get when Pratt is onscreen: a character dads can relate to.
Something else dads can appreciate is a decent story with plenty of action, even if it strains credulity. After all, we’re not that picky. This is why we can enjoy the deformed paperweight/pencil holder/sculpture/door stop our kids made in art class, or the poorly drawn portrait where we have a head, arms and legs but no body. We just accept things and enjoy them for what they are. While primarily made for the couch-surfing dad, if you accept this TV series for what it is, The Terminal List is an entertaining, adrenalin-fueled adventure.
The Terminal List is available now on Amazon Prime.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not avenging his family after learning of an overly complex conspiracy, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
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