– By Tyler Carlos –
In 1984, writer Tom Clancy’s published his first novel titled “The Hunt for Red October.” In this novel, Clancy introduced the world to Jack Ryan, a former US Marine now working as an analyst, and occasional field operative, for the CIA. Since then, 15 other books have been released that continue to the story of Jack Ryan, with each book being a standalone novel. The character of Jack Ryan first came to the screen in the 1990 film adaptation of “The Hunt for Red October,” and was portrayed by Alec Baldwin. Since the 1990 film, there have been four other film adaptations of the Jack Ryan character, and he has been portrayed by many big-time Hollywood stars, including Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine.
But now, for the first time, Jack Ryan is making his way to the small screen in the Amazon’s new original series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski as the titular character. The show acts as an origin story of sorts for Jack Ryan, a former marine that works as an analyst for the CIA. His specialty is finance and economics, which is fitting as the character is also a doctor of economics. The story picks up as Jack discovers a potential new terrorist named Suleiman, who is very skilled in finance and has been moving millions of dollars through bogus LLCs and financial apps across the globe. Along for the ride is Jack’s new boss James Greer, who has just been demoted back to Langley for an unknown reason.
Not wanting to dive too deeply into the story, here is my review of the show. Beware, spoilers do follow.
Taking a look at the story told over this 8-episode season, the show really started off on a strong note. The pilot introduced the main characters very well – Jack as the damaged yet intelligent CIA analyst, Greer as the tough but arrogant boss, and Sulieman as the brilliant and ruthless terrorist. While there were many CIA acronyms to struggle through as the world was established, it still accomplishes everything it sets out to do in setting up all the needed relationships and characters. The pilot also ended on the biggest, and most exciting, action sequence of the show, as Jack and Greer struggle for their lives during a full-blown attack in the deserts of Yemen. Overall, the pilot set up an action packed and tense season the way any pilot should.
Like I said, however, the best action was right there in the first episode. Episode 2 had its fair share of action toward the end, but from there, the action sequences are few and far between. In fact, it was in episode 3 that the series seemed to come of the rails a bit. The focus was pulled off of Jack Ryan and put onto other characters, some of them new, in order to set up what was going to happen for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, it led to Jack becoming a bystander, and he remained that way far longer than should have been allowed for the titular character.
To add to disappointment, the entire season ends with everything tied up perfectly in a nice little bow. Everything came together a little too well, which also means the ending was somewhat predictable. There was no way the bad guy was going to get away with his plan, and everything kind of worked out so that he couldn’t do so. The same could be said with Jack’s relationships with Greer and his love interest, Kathy. Jack and Greer’s relationship started off rocky, but eventually, they began to have a mutual respect for each other as they work together – to the point where Greer eventually tells Jack why he was demoted back to the Langley. As for Kathy, the relationship goes through a stereotypical cycle: the initial attraction, the hesitancy to date, the first night together, some kind of betrayal, then they come back together because “there is something there.” It’s a cycle we’ve seen in many shows, and with such a short season, this romance moves very quickly.
Another very interesting element of the show is the character known as “Tombstone.” Tombstone is a drone pilot based in Las Vegas, and is introduced in episode 3. The character seems to struggle with his position as a drone pilot, and we meet him as he achieves his 107th kill. During his two-episode arc, the character turns $107 into $30,000 at a casino by playing roulette, has a strange (and unnecessary) sexual encounter with a weird couple that ends with him being beaten, and then he flies out to the Middle East to meet the family of a man that he killed. And that’s it. The character was interesting, but his short arc does almost nothing for the story. In fact, all it seems to do is take time away from Jack. He has one important moment at the end of episode 3, but nothing else that contributes to the story. In fact, he doesn’t interact with Jack, Greer, or any of the other main characters. Why is he even in the show? Would it not have been better to take that screen time and give more character development to Jack, Greer, Kathy, or anyone else? It just gives the impression of sloppy writing. Why have an almost useless character? And if the answer is to set up a character for season 2, then the writers really needed to give more this character in season 1.
This leads me over to one character that seemed to get a lot more screen time than some of the others: Suleiman. If there’s anything a strong action needs is a good villain, and Suleiman accomplished that. His plan may have ended a bit predictably, but the way it was carried out was anything but. Suleiman and his plan provided great twists and turns that came together well for the season finale – particularly once we found out what he was actually planning. A few red herrings can go a long way, and it worked out well for this character. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be back for season 2, but it gives hope that the next villain will be strong and defined.
My last point to make about the show is Jack’s character. First, Jack, as a whole, does not seem to have any kind of character flaw. Greer makes pokes at him for being a “boy scout,” and makes notes that he is too self-righteous. But is this actually a character flaw? Being too good? Perhaps, if it ever actually came back around and hit him in the face. But it’s his self-righteousness, his humanity, that seems to get things done. Oh, and his intelligence. And his field experience. And why was he even in the field so much…he’s an analyst…hmmmm…..
Okay, I’ll stop rambling.
Overall, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan accomplished what it set out to do, if at the expense of a powerful storyline. It was an enjoyable watch, and there is more to look forward to as Amazon has already renewed the show for season 2. In fact, Amazon renewed the show well before season 1 began streaming. Hopefully, this is a good sign that season 2 will build upon the foundation created in season 1. Even though it may not be the best foundation, perhaps something great can still be created. For now, we can settle for good.
Season 1 Score: 3/5
About the Author
Tyler Carlos is a proud nerd originally from Baton Rouge, LA. He completed his undergraduate in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University, and graduated from JPCatholic’s MBA in Film Producing in 2016. In his off time, he enjoys Crossfit, escape rooms, and watching Gotham and This Is Us. His ultimate goal in life is to learn how to fly.