While there is no shortage of loner do-gooders in the action thriller genre, something with which we can all agree on is the fact that having the assistance of a sidekick or partner increases the appeal of such narratives. In Jack Reacher’s case, the snarky, sharp, quick-witted PI Frances Neagley fits the bill, and if her increased role in the second season is any indication, the reception of her character among the viewers of Amazon Prime’s Reacher is wildly positive. As a former colleague of Jack Reacher in the military police and a vital member of his 110th unit of special investigators, Neagley’s presence in Reacher’s life has gradually moved beyond professional boundaries and she’s become the closest thing the wandering nomad can regard as family.
In the series, the Margrave saga of Reacher’s adventures introduced Neagley as one of his trusted acquaintances in the first season, and in the second season, she was given the crucial role of drawing Reacher to the central crisis and being his partner in crime from the get-go. To assess her importance in the lore of Reacher, we will take a look at her arc explored in the context of the central narrative of the second season. Additionally, we will highlight a key feature of her character, which provides much gravitas to one of the most tragic moments of this season: the death of Detective Russo.
Neagley’s Character Explored
As an adaptation of Bad Luck and Trouble, the second season of Reacher focused its attention on Neagley’s past and present, piecing together conversations, flashbacks, and present scenarios scattered across the narrative. After learning about New Age’s Littlewing conspiracy, Neagley’s fellow 110th unit member Calvin Franz approached her first to share the details, which she unfortunately overlooked due to work pressure at the moment. Later, Franz was brutally murdered along with Sanchez and Orozco due to conducting an investigation against New Age, and reasonably, Neagley holds herself accountable to some extent for their predicament. Therefore, while for Reacher, Dixon, and O’Donnell, the quest to avenge the deaths of their comrades might stem from a moral responsibility, for Neagley, it’s a way to absolve herself.
Neagley’s composed, calculative demeanor acts as a foil to Reacher’s bold, all-guns-blazing modus operandi, which is the reason why she acts as the brains of 110th most often. Through the flashback sequences, it is shown that after her inclusion in the 110th, Neagley faced the brunt of power abuse, being ranked lower than her compatriots, when the entire unit led by Reacher stood by her side. This event perhaps marked the beginning of the friendship between Reacher and Neagley, which grew stronger through the years. Reacher’s pride and trust in his unit is unquestionable, and it is even strongly felt in his camaraderie with Neagley, whom he trusts with his life and considers to be his best soldier.
Neagley being an extremely private person, more than even Reacher himself, little is known about her personal life, especially about her life before joining the army. What we get to learn is that she came from an impoverished background. During her conversation with Dixon at the Boston charity gala about the complications she is facing for wearing heels for the first time, she reveals her teenage years were bereft of usual merrymaking affairs, as she had to shoulder the responsibilities of a breadwinner from a young age. Aside from her military private investigator friends, the only person Neagley cares about is her ailing father, and Reacher is aware of that. After getting his hands on the buying price of Littlewing, Reacher decides to share it among the unit members and sends a portion to cover up Neagley’s father’s medical expenses.
Why Didn’t Neagley Shake Hands With Reacher?
One of the curious aspects of Neagley’s interaction with Reacher is seen when, finally, after all is said and done, while seeing Reacher off, Neagley doesn’t shake hands with him and instead makes a hand wave sign from afar, which Reacher reciprocates. This is in conjunction with her interactions with others as well, as except for combat, she prefers not to touch people at all. Previously, in a flashback scene during their tenure in military police, Reacher mentioned her unwillingness to touch people—and it’s more of a compulsion than a choice. While some of the viewers of the series are unaware of the reason, the readers of Lee Child’s Reacher series are well aware of her haphephobia, a condition that can generate a fear of touch. This is probably also why he dodges any form of romantic suggestion hinted by other characters and strictly avoids similar interactions.
Neagley’s condition comes into play in one of the most pivotal scenes of the season, during the death of NYPD Detective Russo at the climactic moment of the sixth episode. Reacher’s team went to the rendezvous point to ambush Langston by using Marlo Burns as a lure, but eventually learned about Langston’s crew being on Russo’s tail, whom they had entrusted to save Jane, Marlo’s daughter. Reacher had sent Marlo and the rest of his team to protect Russo while staying behind himself to apprehend Langston. Unfortunately, Russo received fatal wounds while protecting Jane, and by the time Reacher’s team had arrived, he was about to breathe his last. In Russo’s final moments, Neagley holds his hand as a signifier of assurance and comfort and chooses to temporarily overlook her condition. The scene executed the tragic moment well, and Neagley’s action of overcoming her fears to convey respect to an honorable man like Russo made the execution powerful.
Reacher’s self-contained adventures sprawled through dozens of books continue to change settings, sets of characters, and central crises with each venture, and although Neagley is a recurring character in the lore, she appears in only a handful of them. The showrunners of the series might reconsider the decision given how popular the character played by Maria Sten has proven herself to be and turn her into a series regular.