On Reacher, the girth is canon. Based on a series of novels by Lee Child following fictional analyst Jack Reacher, the new series on Amazon Prime is singularly focused on getting you invested in its mysterious titular character. Is Reacher ex-military? You know that he is. Does he arrive in a tiny Georgia town via bus with nothing but the shoes on his feet, the clothes on his back, and a mysterious World War II medal in his pocket? He sure does. Does Reacher have his own moral code that you—or the law—might not agree with but that he follows no matter the cost? You bet your ass.
But the most important thing to understand about Jack Reacher isn’t that he’s perceptive, or intuitive, or that he can always tell when someone has recently quit smoking—it’s that this guy is fucking huge.
Like Bosch, Ray Donovan, and Young Sheldon before it, Reacher is seemingly a show for dads. First of all, it’s based on a series of books for dads. And Lee Child’s 26 novels and 15 short stories and novellas devoted to the Jack Reacher character have, over the past 25 years, set a certain expectation for the physicality of Reacher. As described in Child’s first novel, Killing Floor, upon which the Amazon Prime series is primarily based—and which inspires the slightly nonsensical title card that opens each episode kind of suggesting that the Reacher novels are autobiographies written by their own fictional character—Jack Reacher is “extremely tall, extremely broad, long-armed, and long-legged.”
As early as the first book of this series (which would go on to sell over 100 million copies), we are told that Reacher stands at 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs around 250 pounds. These are not just details; these are bible: In 2012, in the character’s first on-screen adaptation, Reacher was cast to be played by—hold on to your crew cuts—Tom Cruise. For millions of dads around the world, this would not stand. It wasn’t that the Jack Reacher films were terrible, or that Cruise did a bad job in them; it’s simply that Cruise, more goblin than orc, did not fit the canonical description of Reacher. And the heroic effort it’s taking me not to crack a “reach” joke at Cruise’s expense right now proves it. (Please clap.)
A decade later, enter Alan Ritchson, the actor chosen by showrunner Nick Santora and stamped with approval by Lee Child himself to play Reacher on the small screen. Even though I previously knew him only for playing the micropenis guy on New Girl, Ritchson is now the giant axis around which my unexpected interest in Reacher spins.
Having devoured all eight episodes of the series, I can now safely tell you that Reacher is not just for dads—it is for anyone who wants to turn their brain off and watch a big, giant, mountain of a man use his brain instead. In the history of hot, stony detectives, there have been those as slick as Reacher, those as quick as Reacher, but absolutely no one’s neck has been quite as incredibly thick as Reacher’s. In the third Jack Reacher book, Tripwire, Reacher’s pectoral muscles save his own life when their sheer density stops a bullet from entering his heart. Yes, technically Reacher is human, but his body is practically mythical. And Ritchson sells every second of it. If this man isn’t playing the villain in a Fast & Furious movie by 2024—and then the hero in the next one a year later—I will be stunned.
Ritchson is actually 6-foot-3, 2 inches shorter than Reacher as described, but he carries himself with the general size, gravitas, and seating capacity of a Mercedes Sprinter van. Ritchson, already gigantic, put on 30 pounds to play the role properly and the result is a man who looks like someone took the four Hollywood Chrises, stacked two of them on top of one another, then stacked the remaining two on top of one another, and, finally, placed the two Chris-columns beside each other, wrapped the whole humongous cube up in a trench coat, and gave them Thanksgiving turkeys for hands. That’s Reacher. The experience of watching the premiere episode is one of deciding whether you are watching a human man or a beautiful series of boulders piled atop one another in a most pleasing form, and it only becomes more captivating from there.
But I didn’t come to marvel at Ritchson’s size all by my own accord. Reacher features a whodunit plot about small-town wrongdoing, and mysterious deaths, and an ongoing fascination with animal feed, of course—but ultimately, the series wants nothing more than for its audience to understand that this is a very big boy. There are many ways Reacher’s size is quantified throughout the eight episodes, but rest assured—it is always being quantified. And as Reacher himself will tell you: details matter. So just how large is Jack Reacher in the TV series Reacher? Let’s catalog everything we know …
Too Big for Normal Handcuffs
Trouble tends to find Reacher. Maybe that’s because he’s unknowingly connected to some very bad people in the very small Georgia town he rolls into at the beginning of Reacher … or maybe it’s because he has the general shape and overall presence of a flashing exclamation point. Either way, the Margrave, Georgia, police have their barrels trained on him moments after he arrives in town. But the officers have to put Reacher in zip ties because the regular handcuffs won’t fit him. And later, when they go fetch the box cutter to get them off, Reacher proves he could have taken them off himself all along by simply … flexing them off.
Too Big for Prison
Reacher’s brief time in gen pop makes it clear to us that he is wide, and longer than a prison-issued twin bed. There are no prison jumpsuits big enough for him, so he’s put in a set of scrubs previously worn by a giant Samoan meth dealer, which features a festive cap sleeve that comes in handy when …
Not Too Big for Sunglasses
Reacher immediately breaks a guy’s arm who was attempting to intimidate his much smaller bunkmate. In return for the bullies breaking his bunkmate’s glasses, he demands equal repayment.
Which reminds us that the most extraordinary thing about Reacher’s size is that it’s human. He’s not half-giant or infused with super soldier serum—his size is of this world. And in this world, there are certain things you can’t grow. Reacher is just a simple, jazz-loving man with genius intelligence, biceps the size of honeydews, and eyes the size of eyes. Ritchson’s eyes are definitely large enough to broadcast the many complex emotions of an often silent man, but they’re also not so big that they can’t be contained by a simple gas station aviator. (Reacher also helpfully notes while refusing an unnecessary strip search that nothing about him—or inside of him—is so large that it could personally accommodate a handgun.)
Big Enough to Single-handedly Maim and Defeat Five Men
Throughout the series, Reacher almost never fights just one person at a time. It wouldn’t be fair! Reacher knows he’s the biggest guy in all rooms, and the writers know we want to see him show it. If the other guy has a gun, Reacher has a knife. If the other guy has a knife—or a crowbar, or a shiv, or four friends to help—then Reacher has nothing but his bare Hamburger Helper hands, which he can and will use to poke his thumb directly into someone’s eyeball should the need arise. (It does, and I would advise you to look away.)
The most men we see Reacher take on in hand-to-hand combat comes immediately in the premiere, during his brief but eventful stay in prison. Five men come for him; five men hit the floor. However, what’s most stunning about this …
Not Big Enough to Avoid Being Challenged
… is that men keep coming for him. Are they minions sent by their bosses to defeat the outsider who’s come to town to destroy all their hard-earned criminal activity? Sure. But if I was tasked with fighting Reacher, and then set my eyes upon Titan from American Gladiators (played by Hawk from Titans, coincidentally), I would simply quit the crime business, move to another country, and live out my life with both of my eyes firmly intact. At one point, four drunk college kids attempt to intimidate Reacher because Margrave’s Johnny Lawrence gave them each $100, at which point he breaks all their hands except the one he leaves to drive them to the hospital. When two men take him at gunpoint and instruct him to get in the trunk of their car, he simply tells them it would be too uncomfortable …
And then he breaks their hands too.
Big Enough to Play Human Tetris
To be clear, Reacher doesn’t always stop at hands. He’s basically cut the population of Margrave in half by the time he and his police buddies (played by Willa Fitzgerald and Malcolm Goodwin, both elevating the series even further with their performances, if not their abnormally high muscle mass) have solved the case. When two lackeys attempt to take him out, he kills them, and stuffs them in the trunk of their own car. But since they already had a body in there, Reacher has to get, uh, creative with their positioning.
Reacher also goes on to play human hangman, which means what you think it means, but worse. To which I say: Squid Game–Reacher crossover, when?
Not Too Big to Thrift
Since Reacher travels with no clothes but is constantly splattering himself in the blood of his enemies, he finds himself in need of a new outfit multiple times throughout the series. And this man with a Michael Phelps wingspan, and Kings of Comedy–level fabric needs continues to just walk into thrift shops and return with a perfect utility jacket that tapers ever so slightly at his waist.
OK, the secondhand clothes do skew a little tight. Luckily, when Reacher is in need of a suit, he walks into the one tailor in New York City who was holding on to a custom job for a no-show New York Giant. I only wish said suit had looked a little more “draft day” and a little less “Book of Mormon for linebackers.”
Not Too Big for Junk Food
Reacher’s size isn’t maintained by protein powder, nor by the nutritionist and trainer who give those Marvel boys that Dorito shape. It’s simply a god thing, as far as we know. Because throughout the series, we mostly see Reacher eat sandwiches on white bread, handed to him in moments of desperation, and at one point a beer that—I kid you not—he opens with his bicep. When given the time to choose his own meal, Reacher orders two fried chicken thighs, fried okra, ribs, collard greens, poke greens, rice with giblet gravy, and cottage cheese with peaches.
Oh, and we see him eat a Clark Bar—a treat for all parties involved.
Not Too Big to Enjoy Short Stories
Get it? Short stories? Short stories! We have fun.
Big Enough to End Your Life With One Phone
Not Too Big to Camouflage
Too Big to Understand Average-Sized Humans
At one point, Reacher tells his Margrave Police pal Finlay to just run through a hotel wall like the Kool-Aid Man, as though that is something everyone can do and not just Reacher and the Kool-Aid Man. Instead, Finlay has to bust into the wall with a shower rod, and peel off significant chunks before he can throw his entire body through it with a running start. Not exactly Kool-Aid Man, but pretty impressive for a non-giant.
Not Bigger Than a Semitruck
Probably the only thing we see that Reacher is definitively smaller than: an 18-wheeler, which he has recently cut into with a knife.
Bigger Than the Other Big Guys
Other people always comment on Reacher’s bigness, but throughout the series, Reacher is always commenting on his brother’s equally hulking size. He mentions his brother needing to drive SUVs for the headspace, and that he was the only person Reacher ever felt small around. So many other people mention how much Reacher and his brother look alike, especially in regard to their size, that I felt sure when we finally met Joe Reacher on camera, he would be played by the huge guy who played Dickon Tarly, or the huge Bachelor who looks like the guy who played Dickon Tarly (Tom Hopper and Clayton Echard, respectively).
But he’s not. When we finally meet him in flashback, the Other Reacher is just … tall. His neck could easily fit in a dress shirt from the local Dillard’s. Because there’s only one Reacher …
Not Too Big to Cry
… and ultimately, the best thing about Reacher’s enormous frame is that it’s never equated to anything more than what it is: a physical attribute. Reacher doesn’t sub his size in to represent masculinity or capability or talent—especially not when relating to his begrudging colleagues on the Margrave police force. Reacher isn’t exactly an emotionally mature king; he’s just a minimalist sort of man who happens to have a maximalist aesthetic. Growing up, Reacher’s mother often challenged him to consider how he would use his extraordinary strength. (She also exclusively called him “Reacher,” even though that was the entire family’s last name.)
And the answer is, he uses it in a lot of ways—including to cry after his mother’s death. See you in Season 2, you absolute unit.