At the end of a month dominated by talks of snubs and cancellations, it’s nice to be reminded that sometimes TV dreams do come true. When I wrote about the latest season of Reacher—which concluded on January 19th—I noted how strange it was that instead of adapting Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books in the order they were published, the showrunners have chosen to cherry-pick the ex-military police officer turned reluctant civilian hero’s misadventures at random. (Season 2 was based on 2007's Bad Luck and Trouble, the eleventh book in the series.) I quickly got over that, though, when I realized that we wouldn’t need to wait for a hypothetical season 7 to see an adaptation of what I believe to be Reacher’s finest hour: the claustrophobic New England-set revenge-tale Persuader. Now, just days after season 2 wrapped, star Alan Ritchson has confirmed our prayers have been heard: Reacher’s going undercover in Maine.
First, for the uninitiated: there’s a special thrill your average Reacher novel holds, that inspires even the high-minded literary devourers among us to go full Airplane Mode and pick one of these potboilers up outside of the comfort of a Hudson News. Child’s series tracks Jack Reacher—honorably discharged from the army and in constant pursuit of a life with absolutely no ties, responsibilities or burdens—as he travels across the continental US following whims and vibes. Except, as a six-foot-five, two-hundred-fifty-pound behemoth who was one of the military’s sharpest detectives, he often finds himself drawn into nefarious conspiracies, sometimes by happenstance and sometimes as a result of a run-in with someone from his past.
Persuader is a fun fusion of both: A chance sighting on a busy city block reveals to Reacher that Quinn, an old enemy from his army past he thought was dead and buried, is actually alive, well and once again up to no good. Quinn has ties to a wealthy yuppie named Zachary Beck, who the DEA suspects of drug smuggling; Reacher and a DEA agent (beautiful, irresistible to his charms, of course) conspire to stage a kidnapping of Beck’s son so Reacher can rescue him, get close to the Beck family and thusly, close to Quinn to settle one of his past’s biggest lingering demons once and for all. This all just spans the first chapter.
It’s a classic undercover yarn, with melodrama stemming from the truly twisted Beck family; they’ve endured an actual kidnapping ordeal before, and those events color everything they’re involved in with Quinn now. Meanwhile flashbacks play out that slowly but surely unravel the case that put Quinn in Reacher’s crosshairs back during his MP days.
Child’s Reacher novels are fun, brisk reads for their deceptively simple mysteries; Reacher is uniquely suited, moreso than his potboiler contemporaries, to unravel the most finely crafted conspiracies with an investigative acumen that had him leading one of the military’s sharpest units—and then solve his problems with fists the size of small boulders. He has a dry wit, but he’s also a straight shooter, which contrasts well with Child’s affinity to take the stories to bleak depths. The endings are mostly always happy, but they’re earned after tussling with some casually cruel villains.
So it should hold weight when I say that Persuader may be one of Reacher’s most intense adventures, immediately amplified by the decision to write this one in first person (Child flip-flops between first and third throughout the series). You don’t go to Child to re-invent the wheel, but instead to read someone who excels at the craft. It’s not a spoiler to say that the young officer working with Reacher to nail Quinn in the flashbacks meets a violent end—why else would present day Reacher, defined by his unbotheredness, have such an unshakeable vendetta?
But Child plays against that inevitability to ratchet up the dread—when we finally get to the what and the how, it hits like a ton of bricks. Most of Reacher’s missions end up with him avenging someone somehow—the first book, Killing Floor, kickstarts with the death of his brother—but there’s a different kind of fury powering Reacher’s pursuit of Quinn that feels raw and gnarly in ways the series doesn’t quite explore elsewhere. The implied brutality is right there in the title, which is a double entendre to Reacher’s undercover mission but also refers to the Mossberg shotgun Persuader, a blunt killing machine.
It’ll be perfect for television. As Reacher, Alan Ritchson may come off a bit too smug than the character is on the page, but he nails everything else: the muted charisma, the simmering intensity, the sheer size. It’s a little goofy and redundant to do another Reacher-avenges-the-dead-homies tale after adapting Bad Luck and Trouble, in which Reacher’s old unit reassembles to solve the murders of three of their fellow members. But—and this feels crazy to say following a season that saw Robert Patrick tossing people out of helicopters and revealing he’d killed Reacher’s last missing comrade by presenting his eyeball in a mason jar—Persuader is inherently darker. While season 2 coasted on band-back-together energy, the Reacher of Persuader rarely cracks a smile and as he pretends to be an undercover goon at the Beck house, the vibes are always on edge.
Reacher books are inherently adaptable, so much so that the series at times feels more basic-cable aesthetic than it needs to, but this one should be a layup. The reaction to Ritchson’s teaser announcing the new season revealed that I’m not alone amongst the Reacher Faithful in regarding Persuader very highly; hopefully he and the creative team step up to the task. I want to see inspired casting, especially for Quinn. I want fewer smash cuts to basic rock songs. And I do not want any restraint on any of the grim flourishes that make Persuader such a memorable installment, even in a series that’s pushing 30 novels.
Call your dad, a new must-watch is loading.
Originally Appeared on GQ