Before it starts ricocheting snipers’ bullets off gravestones, the fifth episode of Reacher Season 2 (“Burial”) is all about illumination. Remember last episode, when the special investigators found themselves fighting a motorcycle gang sicced on them by Shane Langston? Before that highly entertaining incident – “you do not mess with the…” etc. etc. – Reacher’s plan was to split his team in search of answers. And in Denver, Neagley and Dixon chase the shipment of 650 Little Wing missiles and launchers that just departed the New Age Technologies manufacturing plant, while in Washington, Reacher and O’Donnell trade notes with DHS agents Karim (Abraham Asto) and Hernandez (Antonio Ortega) about the elusive “A.M.” Homeland has his “Azhari Mahmoud” alias tagged in their system, but next to nothing else. He acts as a facilitator, connecting bad actors with worse tools. But with no known political or religious affiliations, A.M.’s only god is money. And he prefers bearer bonds, aka the million dollar bills of unregistered financial instruments. To find out who was moving the bearer bonds, one could check the usual fences. But Reacher could also be present at the point of sale. “The bearer owns it. So no way A.M. lets anyone deliver payment but him. That’s where he’s vulnerable.”
On a lonely, snowy state highway outside of Denver, Neagley and Dixon discover A.M.’s crew in the middle of their Little Wing truck heist, and a brief gunfight ensues. Three bodies and a shot-up rental vehicle mean they have to make themselves scarce, but the encounter does shed light on some hard intel. Ex-110’er Tony Swan signed the bill of lading for the New Age missile shipment via biometric imprint from the company’s New York office. And though the tractor trailer containing the missiles was soon discovered abandoned, it’s believed that A.M.’s people will fly the shipment across the country and link up with him in NYC, where payment will occur. A.M. also has another testy conversation with Langston, who assures him that “Swan’s people” – meaning the surviving members of the 110th – are being taken care of. Langston doesn’t seem to ever learn that one does not simply walk into Reacher’s life and “take care of” anything.
Speaking of Reacher’s life as an itinerant giant, this episode also gets another chance to contrast his existence with elements of his old friends’ day-to-day. O’Donnell lives in DC with his family, and as he prepares to evacuate his wife and kids as a safety precaution, Reacher stands in his home, his entire bulk and vibe utterly incongruous with domesticity and the two little kids that chase each other around the flat. Reacher says he never figured O’Donnell would settle down. But he also never figured that Tony Swan, who like all of them in the 110th was handpicked, would ever turn on his fellow investigators. Is that really what’s going on? Could Swan, whereabouts still unknown, really be working with Langston and his goons?
The DC trip also bears more fruit for the group. Kind of. It’s the kind of development that could actually be covered in orangutan feces. But for now, an impromptu face-to-face Reacher has with Senator Lavoy (Noam Jenkins) is intriguing. At a surreptitious meeting inside the primate house at the National Zoo, Lavoy says he knows it was Reacher who sweated his legislative aide in Boston. He knows about his connection to Margrave and the counterfeiting operation that was blown sky high. But Lavoy, a real smooth guy, says he wants the big fella to do the same thing for the situation with New Age. Detonate the op from within. Go full Hulk Smash on whoever’s involved with leaking Little Wing to terrorists. And get away clean with the senator’s blessing. “I’m not asking for your help,” Lavoy tells Reacher. “I’m offering you mine.” But Reacher’s wary as hell. Lavoy would not want to be connected with helping to create Little Wing in the first place. That could lead to indictments. And god forbid the weapons technology was used on commercial airliners. But is he really offering Reacher help in taking down A.M. and Langston?
As the group gathers at a New York cemetery for Franz’s funeral, Reacher still isn’t willing to admit that Swan might have helped put their friend in the ground. (Watching the inner workings of Reacher’s thought process, as Alan Ritchson tightens his jaw and works the muscles in his face, is like seeing heavy machine parts function in grudging concert with one another.) He also has another run-in with Gaitano “Guy” Russo, who vehemently denies that he’s bent while revealing another tidbit. It turns out Langston and the other New Age security higher-ups are all former NYPD who retired before internal affairs could tag them for investigation. It’s those guys who were dirty, Russo says. And it’s those guys who could’ve needed somebody like Swan, an ex-military investigator with weapons expertise, for an illegal operation like Little Wing.
Franz’s funeral is very solemn, and full of military traditions like a 21-gun salute. Which is the perfect time to disguise a sniper hit on Reacher and his people. (It really isn’t the perfect time, with tons of bystanders present plus cops and even Franz’s wife and young son. But we’ll allow it for the sake of ramping up the action.) As gunfire rings out, shattering a framed photo of the fallen former soldier and sending everyone running for cover behind the gravestones, Reacher orders Neagley to take out one of the snipers while he draws fire. Neagley is a crack shot, but she’s worried because Reacher’s an enormous and painfully slow target. She eliminates one shooter as the other guy turns tail and runs for his vehicle, but Reacher’s not going to catch a BMW on foot. And who arrives ready to give chase but Russo in his unmarked police vehicle. “You trust me now?” the detective shouts at his enormous counterpart, and the two tear off to catch the escaping sniper.
Even with biometrics, wouldn’t it be pretty easy for Langston to fake Tony Swan’s involvement? If you’re willing to throw a guy out of a helicopter, then it’s not a leap to chop off the hand where his thumbprint is. The captured sniper says he was supposed to be paid for the job by Swan at a meet in an abandoned Queens warehouse, and that’s where the team sets up next. But when it promptly explodes, they’re no closer to determining Swan’s involvement, nor finding a new route to nabbing Langston. Sometimes what’s illuminated is not fresh intel, but Reacher’s huge face as his jaw grinds like ball bearings rotating inside a shaft.
Johnny Loftus (@glennganges) is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift.