Chris Pratt stars as Navy SEAL James Reece in The Terminal List on Amazon Prime Video. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
The Terminal List is finally here, and holy shit, does it deliver. Apparently, I’m not the only person who thinks so. It has only been a week since the new series premiered, and it’s already the No. 1 most-streamed show on Prime Video. With sharp twists and turns, and no shortage of John Wick-level gunplay, the SEAL-centered action thriller, based on Jack Carr’s bestselling novel of the same name, is the streaming version of a summer blockbuster. That said, there is a lot to unpack here. Time to dive in.
The Terminal List stars Chris Pratt as Navy SEAL James Reece. The show follows Reece on a journey of revenge as he hunts those responsible for the deaths of his family and teammates. The series makes several key deviations from the plot of Carr’s novel, but the story is driven by the same unrelenting suspense and nonstop action.
James Reece (Chris Pratt) suffers from mysterious headaches after returning from a deadly mission in Syria. Photo courtesy of Prime Video.
Pratt is joined by Taylor Kitsch, who plays Reece’s former teammate-turned-CIA operative, Ben Edwards, a loyal friend, ever-ready to grab a gun — or laptop — and unconditionally support Reece. Pratt and Kitsch — who each played SEALs previously in Zero Dark Thirty and Lone Survivor, respectively — both give convincing performances as cold-eyed frogmen. The duo’s banter makes it clear the actors spent some time in a team room picking up the good-natured chiding that fills those pre-mission moments. On par for accuracy with the dialogue is the realistic weapons handling and fight choreography. Here again, it’s obvious that Pratt and Kitsch also spent a significant number of hours behind the trigger to transform their characters into believable operators — a detail that, had a shortcut been taken, would have doomed the series.
Obscured by all the blood and gunsmoke were some cool Easter eggs that people who have already watched the series may have missed. In the first episode, for example, Reece appears downing some whiskey at the bar before kindly telling off a reporter and offering her a “Hooten Young, on me.” Hooten Young is a high-end American whiskey distilled by none other than Delta Force Master Sgt. Norm “Hoot” Hooten, made famous by Eric Bana’s portrayal in Black Hawk Down. Diehard fans of Carr’s books may have also noticed a cameo by the author himself, who appears on screen just long enough to get killed by the fictional hero he created. (Carr, a former Navy SEAL, also served as one of the show’s producers.) Our parent company, Black Rifle Coffee Company, makes cameos as well — keep an eye out for BRCC apparel in episodes one and three.
Taylor Kitsch stars as former SEAL and CIA operative Ben Edwards in The Terminal List. Photo courtesy of Prime Video.
Another awesome detail is Patrick Schwarzenegger’s tribute to legendary SEAL Charles Keating IV, sometimes known as Chuck Heavy for the memorial workout he inspired. A photograph of Schwarzengger’s character — complete with massive cigar, sleeveless uniform, and cool-guy headband — bears striking resemblance to a popular photograph of Keating.
The series largely sticks to the plot of The Terminal List book, ending at the same point in the story where the first novel in Carr’s series concludes. But with Carr having penned four successful sequels, a second season of The Terminal List seems likely. The fact that IMDb once listed, then removed, Rafe Hastings — a major character in the book’s sequel Savage Son — as a character on the show adds even more credence to that theory. And while a second season has not been confirmed, Carr recently announced a new podcast in which he and showrunner David DiGilio will give fans of the series in-depth breakdowns of each episode.
For all its well-designed action sequences and Jason Bourne-style surprises, The Terminal List is most remarkable for providing Pratt the space to give his best dramatic performance to date. There’s none of the fart humor or funny one-liners that Pratt has become known for, thanks to his roles in Parks and Recreation and Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead, Pratt morphs into a trained killer who conveys deep emotions with perfectly subtle changes in expression. Pratt’s portrayal of a man suffering from post-traumatic stress is refreshingly realistic. He is not the cliche of a former operator with a shattered psyche. Pratt never over-acts a scene; instead, we see feelings of terror and confusion flash across his face like lighting, then dissipate just as quickly. Pratt is no longer your typical two-dimensional action hero.
Pratt taps his inner frogman for the second time in The Terminal List, after starring as a SEAL in Zero Dark Thirty. Photo courtesy of Prime Video.
Despite the show’s immediate popularity, critics have been harsh. Roger Ebert went so far as to label The Terminal List “an Alpha Male Cry for Help.” The Rotten Tomatoes critics’ Tomatometer gives it a lowly 43%, even though audiences praised it with a score of 94% fresh. And as Carr recently pointed out on Instagram, this show isn’t for the Roger Eberts of the world; it’s for “those in the arena” — people like the many special operations veterans who fill the show’s extras and minor roles and add their real-world knowledge and experiences to the overall authenticity of the show and, in particular, its action sequences.
Last thing I’ll say: For fans who enjoyed the series but haven’t read the book, there are enough differences to keep the story fresh. The books are worth your time, especially with the possibility of a second season looming. In the meantime, hardcore fans will just have to cycle through season one like the smooth action of Reece’s customized SIG Sauer P226.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that The Terminal List is currently streaming on Prime Video, not Amazon Prime Video.
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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