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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

The Terminal List is a fascinating look into PTS

Prime Video released its dark military thriller The Terminal List over the 4th of July weekend, with Chris Pratt as the main protagonist of the series. Based on the book series of the same name by author Jack Carr, the series is a dark revenge tale within the special forces. The series stars Chris Pratt, Taylor Kitsch, and Constance Wu, with production work by renowned director Antoine Fuqua, director of Olympus Has Fallen, The Guilty, and both Equalizer films with Denzel Washington.

The Terminal List follows special forces operator James Reece portrayed by Chris Pratt. James is a distinguished Navy SEAL, having served multiple tours in combat. His latest mission is operation Odin's Sword, a top-secret mission to eliminate a chemical weapons expert. The mission begins smoothly but quickly goes wrong, becoming a deadly ambush. Rescued by other operators, James learns he and his fellow operator Doozer are the only survivors of the team, with the others having perished. Upon returning to the states, he is shaken but slowly tries to return to normalcy when tragedy strikes with the death of Doozer, apparently by his own hands. James soon comes to grips with the fact that darker forces are conspiring against him and soon sets off on a dark and violent journey of revenge while battling enemies both within himself and around him. When he gets the name of his target, he puts them on a terminal list.

I know some may be reading this and rolling their eyes, and I wouldn't blame the reader. Chris Pratt, who danced off with Ronan The Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy and has been appointed as the voice of Mario for the Mario movie, is a grizzled Navy Seal who picks targets off with a sniper rifle and disembowels enemy combatants with a tomahawk. It almost seems uncharacteristic, especially for those who first saw him in Parks and Recreation, but as a civilian and someone that tries to keep up with the Joneses, I found myself more than satisfied with The Terminal List. The story dragged at parts, and it was a slow burner, but when the action hit, it was grounded in an authenticity that I hadn't seen in other shows.

The show can be seen as a criticism of the military-industrial complex, big pharma, bureaucracy, and the lack of any supporting care for special warfare operators. The overall series is anchored by a strong performance from Chris Pratt and Constance Wu, who stars as a reporter attempting to uncover the truth behind Operation Odin's Sword. There are plenty more strengths to mention regarding The Terminal List, including the fact that a large number of cast and crew are former military and former special operators. However, one of the more striking aspects of the show that I respect is how it handles mental distress and trauma.

In most military revenge tales, any aspect of mental distress is mentioned but mostly cast aside or done so in a manner that doesn't seem to be authentic. In The Terminal List, there is a constant sense of the show being taken through the lens of Reece's brain and questioning what is seen. Is what is happening really as they appear to be, or is it all projections of trauma and feeling? What is real and what is not? Are the memories and imagery authentic, or are they created? While watching, there were moments where I questioned if what was happening was genuinely happening or if it was related to the trauma of the mission.

Reece battles with the trauma experienced in combat, losing his friends, and the sacrifices he has made for his family and country. As he pieces together the mystery of what happened on his ill-fated mission, he starts literally walking through different moments. One moment has him walking through his home before opening a door and walking into the caves where the mission takes place, witnessing everything, including himself, from a spectator's view. As a SEAL and special forces operator, Reese realizes the fear all operators have, and that is their work breaching their own personal lives. It's a complex depiction not seen in other shows, and how it is handled is appreciated.

Granted, this viewpoint of the portrayal of such trauma is from a civilian observation. PTS, its effects, and how it affects a person is an entirely different circumstance for each person. One doesn't necessarily have to have been in the military to experience PTSD. Additionally, The Terminal List may be grounded in an authentic reality and based on real-life events, but in the end, it is a work of military fiction.

As of this posting, The Terminal List hasn't been a runaway success with critics, but audiences have seemed to appreciate its more authentic setting and darker revenge story, becoming a top streaming sow for the Amazon Prime service. The Terminal List isn't a game changer as a military fiction tale, but its careful consideration of the serious subject matter and its choice to put many Veterans into its cast and crew is commendable and is hopefully something we see more of as military storytelling takes new turns.

The Terminal List is now streaming on Prime Video.

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