With any new story comes a new set of thematic arcs. Typically, action flicks sideline the themes for flashy chases and fights, but each iteration of Reacher goes through his own arc and, as usual, wins the fight.
The original “Jack Reacher” is the most straightforward one. Reacher shows up, kicks butt, and solves mysteries. This doesn’t make the film any less engaging, though. Most of the viewer’s attention is directed toward the twists and turns of the unfolding mystery, and most critics and audience members seemed to prefer this succinct storytelling over the sequel’s attempt at a thematic subplot.
Granted, that subplot in “Never Go Back” is pretty basic: Reacher unwittingly learns to become a father. The story is split between the aforementioned murder case involving Major Turner and a paternity suit filed against Reacher by a woman he’s never heard of. In the process of meeting this alleged daughter, Samantha, she gets tangled up in Reacher’s misadventure. Turns out, Samantha is more like Reacher than expected, and he grows into the role of father, though the paternity question is left unanswered until the film’s final moments.
The show, with more time, is able to flesh out several thematic and character arcs. There’s the relationship between Reacher and Roscoe, as well as the rivalry between him and Finlay. There’s also the intriguing depth added to Reacher’s character by the death of his brother. Reacher, the quintessential loner, is forced to open up about his grief and learns that there are friends out there, even for people like him.