Chris Pratt‘s Amazon Prime Video series “The Terminal List” debuted on July 1 to interminably bad reviews. Critics loathed the series, with The Daily Beast calling it “an unhinged right-wing revenge fantasy. Meanwhile, Variety described it as a “military vanity project for a charisma-free Chris Pratt.” In a word, ouch.
But the show found a fanbase fast, with Nielsen reporting that the show earned 1.6 billion minutes viewed in its first week. Those numbers are so great Pratt took to Instagram to celebrate them, citing a Daily Mail article that hails the show in its title as “The New Yellowstone” that “defies woke critics’ scathing reviews.” What’s the high praise here: a show as popular as Taylor Sheridan‘s show or one that refuses to cater to the liberal demographic whatsoever? Variety reports that for former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, who wrote the book the show is based on and serves as co-executive producer on the series, it’s obviously the latter.
In a recent interview with Fox News (via Mediaite), Carr insists the show did poorly with critics because “there’s not this woke stuff that’s shoved into it.” He maintained throughout the interview that the series is neither ‘woke” or “anti-woke,” but that it simply doesn’t “promote” critics’ agendas. “We don’t mention right, left, conservative, liberal, none of those things are even mentioned,” Carr continued. “The Daily Beast, in particular, their review was quite mean. But they see an American flag and they get upset. Or they see someone who is competent with weapons and has a certain mindset and holds those in power accountable for their actions and they just kind of lose it a little bit.”
So, just to recap: Carr doesn’t think his show (or book) is politically-driven, and its lack of “woke stuff” caused critics to despise it. But wouldn’t that make the show “anti-woke,” just like Carr claims it isn’t? No, not quite. “There’s no ‘woke’ or ‘anti-woke,’” Carr blathered, “but just because there’s not this ‘woke’ stuff that’s shoved into it, then it’s perceived — by critics, at least — as not promoting their agenda, so they’re going to hate it.” So, “The Terminal List” conceivably doesn’t have any kind of agenda, woke or anti-woke. It’s somehow a totally unbiased depiction of a Navy SEAL mission gone wrong where the boundaries between military and civilian life are porous to non-existent, any and all government is corrupt, and the entire world is a canvas for bullet-ridden spec-ops shootouts. Yes, Carr is absolutely correct and his logic is entirely unfllawed.
Anyone who’s watched “The Terminal List” recognizes it as a work of a right-wing partisan. The Playlist’s review of the series asserts as much, saying, “the source material here apparently contains a number of Conservative talking points and liberal takedowns that have been reduced even if one can still sense the project’s political stance.” A severely reduced political stance is still a stance, and Carr can’t hide behind “woke/anti-woke” buzz phrases and deny that. Does Carr even care? Not really. “We didn’t make it for critics,” Car added. “What’s important to me and to Chris Pratt was that we made something that would speak to those members of the military who went down range over the last 20 years so they could sit down and say, ‘These guys put in the work and made a show that speaks to me.’”
If a show as narratively inert, brutishly simple, and oafishly violent and dull as “The Terminal List” is what speaks to military veterans, then Carr hit the nail on the head. But if this is what military vets only want to watch, then military combat really might be as soul-crushing and de-humanizing as so many filmmakers have made it out to be.