Shooter - Season 3 Review
Released weekly, the first episode is basically the end of Season 2
Netflix's Shooter returns for a third season with plenty of loose ends to tie up after an off-screen accident brought the last season to an abrupt close.Antoine Fuqua's flashy 2007 Mark Wahlberg action vehicle, Shooter, doesn't immediately smack of hot franchise property, receiving middling reviews and modest Box Office returns. In book terms, however, its a positive wealth of almost Jack Reacher proportions, with a dozen source novels by author Stephen Hunter providing seemingly endless material for central character, ex-sniper Bob Lee Swagger.
All of a sudden a TV series seems like a sensible idea (as, perhaps, it is for the similar lone ranger, Reacher), and USA Network's Shooter capitalised on the book material, utilising a first season to tell an extended version of the same story in Fuqua feature film, whilst developing secondary characters and subplots which enabled the show to grow in its own right.
Sure, it's Jack Reacher-lite, but, then again, the last Cruise movie, Never Go Back, was already Jack Reacher-lite.
Ryan Phillippe was a good fit at Bob Lee, finding fleeting success in Hollywood in a few memorable parts (Gosford Park, Flags of our Father), but better in the smaller movies (the underrated gem, The Way of the Gun, where he starred opposite Benicio del Toro), although these soon turned straight-to-DVD. Enjoying a spell on TV in the legal drama Damages, his lead in Shooter is solid, becoming a tough action hero but also balancing the home life aspects of the drama which were not afforded any time in the original movie.
Whilst the first season followed - in basic - the film's premise of a decorated ex-Marine framed for an assassination attempt on the President, the second season spun up an entirely new tale, seeing Bob Lee haunted by demons from the past, as a mysterious old enemy hunts down members of his old military unit.
It was a solid enough season, blending flashbacks to his military exploits with the ongoing current-time events and crafting a worthy opponent in Josh Stewart's Solotov, whilst bringing one of the first season's antagonists - Omar Epps' shady ex-Secret Service Agent, Isaac Johnson - back as an unlikely potential ally this time around.
The trouble came when Philippe broke his leg during downtime, suddenly cutting the second season short before it had reached a natural conclusion or even a logical cliffhanger. The season just... ended.
The third season - which some are nicknaming Shooter season 2.5 - picks up as if it were just the 9th episode in the last season, continuing the events of episode eight, which saw things come to a head as Isaac Johnson teams up with Swagger's wife to help Bob Lee, who was wounded and then captured by Solotov after the villain threatened to blow up Swagger's family in a church.
Indeed, for fans of the show who waited to see what happened to the production before watching the whole of season 2, it actually works well as a solid season finale rather than a strong season 3 debut.
Until they get around to properly tapping into that wealth of Reacher stories on the small screen, you could do a lot worse than this.
Rushing events somewhat (the first season was 10 episodes, the second only 8, and it may have been prudent to devote the first couple of episodes of this 13 episode third season to rounding off the Solotov plot), the bloodied Bob Lee does surprisingly well considering the wounds that he has sustained, as the authorities follow the path of destruction left by Solotov, and Isaac and Bob Lee's wife try to get to him first.
It's hard to know from the episodes-released-weekly format of Shooter where this season will end up, as it also swiftly addresses the investigation of Bob Lee's friend, FBI Agent Memphis, who has been investigating leads in relation to Solotov's backers, including Harry Hamlin's slick businessman. With all that tied-up as well, it would appear that season 3 is intent on swiftly cleaning out any dead wood and starting a new story afresh.
From this single episode debut, it would appear that the show is also returning to the source novels and bringing in stories involving Bob Lee's childhood and his lawman father Earl Swagger, who was killed right in front of his young son's eyes. Here we are introduced to Earl right at the end of his career - and life - although further flashbacks expand upon that, and dying words ringing in Bob Lee's ears in the present day remind him of unfinished mysteries that he clearly needs to address.
Shooter was never standout drama, but it was often solid work, affording brutal fight scenes, tense confrontations and some fun sniper-centric action. Sure, it's Jack Reacher-lite, but, then again, the last Cruise movie, Never Go Back, was already Jack Reacher-lite. Until they get around to properly tapping into that wealth of Reacher stories on the small screen, you could do a lot worse than this.
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