Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TV Review: Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan - Season 1

by Michael Drinan

Amazon’s new series, Tom Clancy’s: Jack Ryan, is the latest version of the “Ryanverse” that includes Tom Clancy’s best selling novels and the films The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Sum of All Fears (2002) and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014). Let’s just say, the “Ryanverse” has been a little shaky since 2002. 

John Krasinski is the latest incarnation of Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who uncovers a suspicious trail of bank transactions from Lebanon. He presents the findings to his new boss, James Greer, which begins a pretty cantankerous working relationship that causes Greer to throw Ryan into the field to chase down an ambitious and fanatical Islamic fundamentalist named Suleiman.

The show is a fun ride showcasing both the analytical, information gathering side of CIA work while mixing in some action sequences and explosions with a few twists and turns. Even though there are some scenes throughout the series that seem a little cartoonish, it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of watching it play out. The characters are fleshed out with great care in a way where you don’t really need to be told outright their backstory or what’s going on in their heads, you can just pull it out from what you see on the screen. 

Krasinski, in my opinion, makes a really good Jack Ryan and I hope he continues playing him. It is said that this version of Ryan is drawn from Harrison Ford’s take on the character which is exactly how I want him to be played, very straight forward, professional, emotional but not irrational. He’s vulnerable but keeps his head and works the problem out. There is one fight scene in the entire season and Krasinski doesn’t overplay it. He fights like a former Marine turned CIA analyst would fight. There’s still that everyman, regular guy charm about Krasinski that shows perfectly in this role, because Ryan is a regular guy. All this show does is make me like and appreciate Krasinski’s talent as an actor even more. 

Wendell Pierce is also a joy to watch as James Greer. Even though there are sharp contrasts to James Earl Jones’ take on Greer in the films, it works very very well. He doesn’t take any bullshit and isn’t interested in having a friendship with Ryan at all, but you can tell here and there throughout the season that he does care about him and likes him a lot. There is one scene where he calls Ryan at 3 a.m. for a briefing with the President and tells him to wear a tie. When Ryan walks into the briefing room, filled with CIA officers, he notices everyone is dressed casually and noticing Greer with a slight smirk on his face once the prank hits home. Just like Krasinski, I hope Peirce continues in this role. He does a great job with the character.

There are some things that had me rolling my eyes. Having the CIA chase down an Islamic fundamentalist turned terrorist as a premise is a little played out. During the first episode, when it revealed who they were after, I sarcastically said out loud “Of course it’s an Islamic terrorist we’re after.” Hopefully they can find a more creative plotline for the second season. Also, I wish they would show a little more of the analyzing data and collaboration with other officers instead of cutting to out in the field to hunt down a lead. One of the most interesting moments in Patriot Games is Ryan at the CIA headquarters going through leads and scenarios with his team of CIA analysts, pouring over files and photos. That’s mostly what happens in Zero Dark Thirty and that was just as thrilling as any action sequence. It would allow the show to expand on characters and the plot a little more. 

All in all, the first season of Jack Ryan was really good. Aside from the slight changes to some of its characters, it still maintains that Clancy feel. It made me want to watch Patriot Games and Hunt For Red October just get more Jack Ryan! Everything from the acting to the writing was good. If you’re into the Jack Ryan character and the stories, I recommend giving this series a go.

I give the first season **1/2 out of ****

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