Chris Pratt has made quite a transformation since his breakout roll as the bumbling and goofy Andy Dwyer in Parks & Recreation. Since then, his most famous roles such as Peter Quill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Owen Grady in the Jurassic Park Franchise have done much to position him as leading man material in Hollywood. However, with The Terminal List, Pratt is performing what is arguably the most serious role of his entire career, and one that sees the humour and charm that he has injected into most of his roles to date replaced by grief, confusion and anger.
It comes with the territory: Pratt plays Lt. Commander James Reece, a Navy SEAL who has returned home after an ambush on his platoon has resulted in twelve deaths. As he tries to settle back into family life, his mental recovery is hampered by how his memories conflict with the account of official events, and as the plot unfolds he begins to suspect that there may be a conspiracy around the ambush. What develops across the rest of the season is Reece's quest for the truth, for which he recruits investigative journalist Katie Buranek (Constance Wu) and old friend Ben Edwards (Taylor Kitsch).
The series itself is tonally dark, never letting up on the sense of claustrophobia, pressure and intensity that mimics the emotions the audience is meant to follow through Pratt's Reece. For fans of gritty, true-to-life military based drama, The Terminal List will be a rewarding watch, showing how capable and highly trained Navy SEALs are through Reece's ruthlessness as the series progresses and he realises that the odds are against him. There is no trace of many of the good-guy personas that Pratt has played in the past: although there is never any doubt that it is Reece's journey we are meant to invest in and root for, the way he evolves into somewhat of an antihero has the audience questioning what side we're really rooting for.
Both Taylor Kitsch and Constance Wu do great turns in the show, with Wu's dynamic-yet-logical determination playing off the darker energy Pratt brings to the show, to delightful effect. Likewise, Kitsch's Ben Edwards eats up the scenes he's in, and as with Wu, his good chemistry with Pratt brings out some of the best in both actors.
Those coming to The Terminal List hoping for something more tonally in tune with a classic Hollywood action blockbuster may find themselves disappointed: although action is aplenty, the show is driven by the conspiracy and revenge elements at its heart and rarely overdramatises. It relies heavily on the viewer's investment in Reece's endeavour to discover the truth - and with it, perhaps finally, some peace of mind - to keep the audience's attention for all eight episodes, with the violence and action just an important aspect of the show as opposed to the entire lynchpin of the series. Its dedication to portraying military experiences as truthfully as possible comes across throughout the entire series, from the experiences of the SEALs to the political machinations behind the scenes.
In that sense, it is easy to see how and why the show won't appeal to all: some viewers might not enjoy the relentlessly dark intensity of the show, the heavy focus on the revenge/conspiracy plot and the show's justification for Reece's violence, and could find eight one-hour episodes of this too much of a drag. But fans of the genre will greatly appreciate being able to immerse themselves for so long in the same military and political depth that will turn others off. Ultimately, the strong performances and interplay between the main cast, as well as some great set pieces anchor The Terminal List, which does the job of giving Chris Pratt another showcase as a leading man.