Early in Prime Video’s The Terminal List, Chris Pratt’s Navy SEAL character James Reece is described as “built to take a kick in the head.” These words can also easily describe this series – even though it may have already taken a few too many kicks to the head. A brutally violent and deadly military drama-slash-revenge thriller, The Terminal List (premieres this Friday; I saw the first three episodes) is like The Fugitive Meets SEAL Team meets a “Don’t Tread on Me” Truck Decal, with all the delicacies and nuances involved. It’s punishingly grim and hopelessly cracking … but at least it’s something new to recommend to the Amazon algorithm for your dad after he finishes Jack Ryan and Reacher.
Pratt’s Reece is a Navy SEAL commander who clears his entire peloton in an ambush that ends with a chaotic gunfight in an underground tunnel. A devastated reece promises revenge on the faceless terrorist leader who holds him responsible – I mean his name is “Haqqani”? Does it matter at all? – While the US military brass investigates what went wrong. But Reece’s nebulous memories do not match the evidence, and he begins to suspect that a deep-rooted conspiracy is telling him to know too much. He puts together a list of enemies to wipe out, Arya Stark-style … but can he even trust his own mind?
It’s a pretty basic setup for a paranoid conspiracy thriller, but the scripts of showrunner David DiGilio (Strange Angel, Crossbones) – based on the Jack Carr novel – are terribly short on current enthusiasm. In its place, we serve tremendous help from red meat masculinity, hardheaded jingoism, and heavy symbolism. (Oh, and many, many American flags.) The dialogue is generic, but it is also close to the point; it’s just a way for us to move on to the next action scene. And the action scenes are not even that great!
The terminal list plot defends the logic when you stop to think about it for even a minute, but it confidently pushes past such concerns. It is also very humorless, underlined by rough burst of graphic violence. Again, these are not effective: the action is bloody but not thrilling, and the story is overwhelming but not interesting. Meanwhile, we get saccharine family scenes and a paint-by-numbers conspiracy that becomes more complicated but no longer convincing.
The cast is talented to be safe, but they only go through the motions here. Pratt, as lively and goofy as Andy Dwyer at parks and leisure, is stoic to the point of constipation as a reece. Constance Wu has to relieve a lot of exposure as nosy reporter Katie, and Taylor Kitsch has great tattoos, at least, as Reece’s military buddy Ben Edwards. It’s sad to see a talented and versatile actress like Riley Keough play Reece’s brilliantly supporting military woman Lauren. It’s also hard to take Sean Gunn, aka Gilmore Girls’ Kirk, seriously at all as a slim company boss who tops the reece’s hit list.
There is certainly room on TV for a pulsating, thought-provoking conspiracy thriller with lots of action and intrigue – but in the case of the terminal list, this mission is badly cleaned up.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Save yourself some time and delete Prime Video’s brawny, boneheaded military drama The Terminal List from your watchlist.