The Tension Builds – Review of “Reacher” Episode Two “First Dance”

With the revelation that one of the murder victims seen in the first episode was the brother of Jack Reacher, the stage is set for bloody vengeance. The second episode of the season picks up shortly after the ending of the first. Through the run time, tensions (of more than one kind) grow, leaving the mystery behind the murders only growing in intensity. At that center of it is a trio of investigators who seek the truth but have no idea what finding it will entail.

Spoilers ahead, so don’t read this if you haven’t watched the episode.

Murder-mystery stories rely on tension and dropping hints to the nature of the crime. Reacher works in an honest method to introduce the principal characters and antagonists without giving away exactly who is involved and who isn’t. It’s a fair bet from the beginning that both Roscoe Conklin and Oscar Finlay are on the side of the angels. Everyone else is suspect, as the trio discovers over the course of the episode. Willa Fitzgerald brings some fire to her performance as Roscoe and her chemistry with Alan Ritchson is apparent immediately, as is the growing sexual tension between the two characters.

Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) and Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald). Source

The introduction of Hubble’s wife Charlie (portrayed by Smallville alum Kristin Kreuk) and their two daughters adds an additional wrinkle to the story. The Southern accent affected by Kreuk is a bit too on-the-nose but it’s serviceable for the story. While at the residence, Reacher finds a flowery burr attached to one of Hubble’s dress shoes, an indication that he’s been outdoors somewhere in the area where the burrs are present. Little details like this are what makes a murder-mystery story run, so I applaud the show for taking the time to apply that logic to the story.

But in the midst of all this, the gruesome murder of the police chief Morrison and his wife, done in the fashion Hubble mentioned in the previous episode, indicates that the plot surrounding this seemingly idyllic Georgia town is anything but typical. The show does not slink away from the horror of Morrison’s murder, showing in gruesome detail how he was not only crucified in his home but also castrated. It is this murder that galvanizes Reacher, Finlay, and Roscoe into teaming up to investigate all of the murders and the root cause of them.

We also get a chance to see two of the potential antagonists for this season: Mayor Grover Teale (played with smarmy charm by veteran actor Bruce McGill) and Kliner (portrayed by Currie Graham), a wealthy business magnate who set up shop in Margrave and practically owns the small town. McGill is a fine actor and one who can easily slip into any role given to him. He doesn’t do much in this episode, aside from establish early on that he is attempting to railroad the investigation into a dead end. Kliner shows us that KJ (his son introduced in the first episode) is a byproduct of his father’s greed and ambition. Both of these characters are charismatic narcissists but that’s what generally makes for entertaining villains.

With the death of the Morrison family, the Hubble family is potentially next in line, spurring Reacher, Roscoe, and Finlay to call on Picard, an FBI agent out of Atlanta to save guard the family. With the family safe for the time being, Reacher sets out to confront Spivey, the guard at the prison Reacher and Hubble were sent to that arranged for them to be put with the general population in the hopes they would be killed. When Reacher meets Spivey, he is confronted by two skilled South American mercenaries who are an even match for the retired soldier. The appearance of these mercenaries indicates to both Reacher and the audience that there is more going on than just murder in a small town.

The best part of this episode for me, though, are the quiet moments between Roscoe and Reacher. After the trials of the day, the pair head over to a roadhouse in Alabama for a drink. The growing affection the pair have for each other is palpable, particularly during the dance they share while listening to Patsy Cline. When the pair have to hunker down in a motel room for the night due to flooding from a severe rainstorm, we get a chance to understand both characters a bit more. It would have been easy for the writers to put them in a sexual situation immediately and that would be the expectation for the viewers as well. Instead, we see two people who are, for all intents and purposes, alone in the world connect on a real level. Even with how taciturn Reacher is, he is able to open up some to Roscoe, and she in turn confides in him the recent losses she’s endured.

Coupled with these moments are flashbacks to Reacher’s childhood, specifically a part of his family’s life stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The Reacher brothers soon run afoul of the base commander’s son, a bully who enjoys mistreating others. We see the relationship Jack and Joe Reacher share, bolstering the feeling of loss that Reacher is silently dealing with. Having grown up in similar circumstances with my own brother, there is a bond that forms that while not always easy to maintain, never fully disintegrates. Instead, it endures, even when the brothers go their separate ways later in life.

When Roscoe and Reacher return to her home the next day, they find that it was visited by the same group responsible for the killings in town. It is readily apparent that the trio are beginning to get too close to the truth, making them a target for whomever is responsible. The episode ends sharply, setting the stage for the following episode. And since all of the episodes were dropped on the same day, it’s the perfect cliffhanger ending to ensure the audience watches the following episode immediately.

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