Squawk Box: The Terminal List/Secret Invasion

The Terminal List: I know that this show is based on a series of books by Jack Carr and I have not read any of them. (I haven't read any of the Jack Reacher books either) so given that, I feel a little reluctant to judge The Terminal List too harshly. For all I know, it could be decent to the good adaptation of the books that's pretty faithful to the source material but again, I haven't read 'em so my initial impression of the show was, "Man, this has a lot of Jack Reacher vibes to it." And I think that judgment is somewhat unfair-- for a start, the main character, Lt. Commander James Reece (Chris Pratt) of the Navy SEALs comes across as just that- a Navy Seal. There's no- and again, I hesitate to use this word because I haven't read any of the books- savant-like behavior. This isn't, 'what if Sherlock Holmes was an MP with a dark past'-- no, Lt. Commander Reece goes on a mission, it goes, very, very badly, and in the aftermath, he figures out that he's stumbled onto something big and very, very bad.

Reece and his platoon of SEALs are sent to Syria to move in on Dr. Kahani, a chemical weapons expert. However, on the way in, they're ambushed and the whole team- except for Reece and his friend, Boozer (Jared Shaw). NCIS flies over to their evac point in Turkey to start an investigation and Reece starts to notice that some of the details are displaced, making him wonder what actually happened during the mission- despite a doctor mentioning maybe a CT scan would be a good idea, he is medically cleared and he and Booze fly home.

He relays what happened on the mission to his best friend and former SEAL, Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch) who seems dismissive of foul play- but the next day, Boozer is found dead by suicide and Reece doesn't buy it. His wife Lauren (Riley Keough) and daughter Lucy (Arlo Mertz) also notice it and his headaches are getting worse, but when he goes to get a CT at a local medical clinic, he's attacked by armed men and, rushing home, fearing the worst finds Lauren and Lucy dead in his house.

Suddenly, Reece has found a new mission and soon, he makes himself a list. (Presumably, the titular 'terminal' list,) and starts working his way through it. Soon, he realizes the conspiracy leads through the NCIS agent that investigated him, to the Vice President of Capstone Industries, Saul Agnon (Sean Gunn), and higher than he could possibly believe- including the upper echelons of his own command structure, including the Secretary of the Navy, Lorraine Hartley (Jeanne Tripplehorn). 

It turns out, there are tumors in his head and his Seals had been subject to an experimental drug, designed to remove traumatic memories/PTSD from soldiers/SEALs-- Hartley feels especially passionate about the idea because repeated deployments take their toll and too many veterans- including her own father- are lost to suicide. Reece, unsurprisingly, is not enthused at the news of being an experiment- though a friendly reporter, Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) who has been helping Reese to put the pieces together manages to keep Reece from killing her- she takes her own life instead. Reese gets through his list, only to find there's one name missing and it might be the most important one of all.

Overall: It was okay. Solid performance from Pratt. The storyline doesn't piss about and with eight episodes it's a perfect, solid binge you can get through at a decent clip if you're so inclined. I feel a little hamstrung on really judging this because I don't know how it measures up to the source material, but if you're looking for something to scratch that itch for action/revenge/conspiracy while you're waiting for Season 2 of Jack Reacher to drop, you could do a lot worse than The Terminal List. 

Would I watch a second season? (It has been renewed for one.) I think I would, actually. It's a solid debut season and I feel like the show has potential-- so I'd check out at least one more season. (Also, I've seen the occasional complaint about how lacking in light television shows are these days, and while The Terminal List isn't too bad, it's got a muted color palette and shades of blue up the wazoo that makes it hard on the eyes sometimes. On the infinitely small chance that someone involved in the making of that show is reading this: give me some colors, next season, will you? My Grade: *** out of ****. Solid, decently entertaining, and has the potential to give a second season a look.

Secret Invasion: Oh, this show was frustrating to watch. I'm just going to say it: Marvel needs to slow down. We're officially getting into quantity over quality here and the latter part is definitely starting to suffer. Quantumania was a decent movie, but felt like it should have been far more entertaining than it actually was and I don't know why. Moon Knight had an interesting premise that was kind of interesting to watch but didn't strike me as appointment viewing. The Falcon and Winter Soldier had a decent buddy-cop vibe. She-Hulk got a bit too meta at the end, but overall wasn't bad. Really, I'd say Loki, Ms. Marvel, and then She-Hulk have probably been my favorite series so far, but none of them- with the possible exception of Loki have really stuck with me. They're just the kind of shows you watch and they've represented an odd kind of downturn in what had been a pop cultural juggernaut.

I think you could have skipped a couple of these shows and focused on making three really great ones and gotten better results for your troubles, but 'MOAR CONTENT' seems to be the order of the day everywhere, not just at Marvel.

My first impression of Secret Invasion was that this should have been a movie. Of everything I've seen, it comes closest to capturing that tense, paranoid, thriller feel that made Captain America: Winter Soldier one of Marvel's best movies. It's also an interesting concept, full stop. Remember the deal that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) made at the end of Captain Marvel? Which allowed the Skrulls to blend in and secretly live in peace on Earth? What happens if that arrangement breaks down-- on that premise alone, I think this is worth making and it shows signs of real promise and in the end... falls flat.

Olivia Colman just about steals this entire show straight out from under Samuel L. Jackson as MI-6 agent Sonya Farnsworth and the two of them have excellent chemistry together and bounce off on one another quite nicely. (If Marvel ever wants to get into Captain Britain territory, she absolutely needs to be a part of it.) She's popping up all over the place these days and wherever she goes, she makes things instantly better. 

This might be a mild spoiler- but I wouldn't have killed off Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) right away. I might have been inclined to make G'iah (Emilia Clarke) into the Super Skrull at the end, but I would have had Hill hunting Nick Fury along with Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and I would have kept them all guessing as to who the secret Skrull actually was as long as possible and if I really wanted to make a daring choice, it should have been Nick Fury. 

But hey, I didn't write this, so we got what we got. 

Plot? Well, TL;DR is that the arrangement/deal that Fury made to let the Skrulls immigrate at the end of Captain Marvel gets hijacked by a radical splinter faction that wants to take over Earth for the Skrulls and Fury has to stop them doing that and put everything back together again, which he more or less does. 

Overall: Probably the most frustrating of the Marvel shows thus far because there is so much potential here and they are fumbling around and almost reaching something great, but it doesn't quite click. The stakes don't feel high enough. The paranoia could have been greater. The thriller aspects heightened. But, we get Olivia Colman- who honestly looks like she's having fun in her role- and that ain't nothing. I don't want to call this a 'slump buster' for Marvel, but it feels like they're fumbling back towards peak form again, and whether that holds remains to be seen, but it's heartening to see. My Grade: *** out of ****. Solid, largely 'meh' in parts, truly excellent in other parts, There was a ton and a half of potential here that didn't quite gel. 


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