Possible spoilers ahead!
I wasn’t too sure about Amazon’s new Jack Ryan series at first. But then came a moment in the first episode that completely won me over: Ryan, played by John Krasinski, is at a fancy birthday party that he didn’t want to attend. As soon as he arrives, Ryan is pressured by his former Wall Street boss to reveal government secrets about the current strategy toward North Korea.
Politely, Ryan refuses to answer his old boss. Ryan then turns his attention to an attractive woman, Cathy (Abbie Cornish), who also happens to be his ex-boss’s daughter. But in the middle of a promising conversation, everyone at the party looks up to see a Coast Guard helicopter that soon lands on the lawn. Military personnel leap out, sprint out looking for Jack Ryan. Before being pulled away, he turns back to Cathy. “I dunno, maybe I could …?” he tries, apologetically, as the helicopter pilot cuts him off: “Sir, we have to go.”
From that scene on, John Krasinski became Jack Ryan, and I was onboard for the ride.
Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” aims to capture the spirit and the tone of films like “Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger,” and “The Hunt For Red October.” The show succeeds at this, and it’s a welcome change from the version of Ryan we saw in “Sum of all Fears” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” But the series distinguishes itself in other ways, like the way it presents its title character as a humble, and smart CIA analyst, who is hiding the fact that he’s a formidable Marine with a back full of scars to prove it.
John Krasinski is easy to like in the role, and very believable as a guy who just wants to help make the world safer. I also liked that Ryan is given more back story, including a moment during his time in Afghanistan that still haunts him today. There are multiple layers to this Jack Ryan, and John Krasinski is able to handle them all extremely well.
The new show has plenty of action too, and multiple episodes feature big explosions or large action sequences. But the nice thing is that this show doesn’t rely on the action scenes, it’s all about Jack Ryan’s story. How ge got into this line of work, why he does some of the things he does, and who his mentors are. For me it was also fun seeing this version or Ryan grow from a somewhat quiet CIA agent, to the glove trotting leader.
As for the res of the cast, I enjoyed the scenes where Ryan is at odds with his new boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce). Greer is on his last leg at the CIA after an incident at his last assignment made him persona non grata at the agency. At first, Greer doesn’t get along with Jack, and the two go at it a few times. But after Greer realizes Jack knows his stuff, the relationship becomes more of a mentor type. The way Greer handled Ryan, even gived the show some of its funniest moments.
Abbie Cornish was good as love interest Cathy Mueller. As I mentioned earlier, Cathy is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who wants to use Jack’s talents for some inside trading or something. However, past the scenes at the party, none of this is mentioned again, which I found odd. However, I did appreciate how Mueller’s story linked to Jack Ryan’s later on.
This season’s villain is Ali Suliman, who stars as Mousa Bin Suleiman. For the first few episodes, Suliman was a riveting character. It was almost as if he played two different characters one who is a family fan with a quiet life. The other is the world’s most dangerous terrorist. However, by the last couple of episodes, I thought the character fell back on the usual terrorist stuff you see in movies and tv.
The big surprise in the cast was Dina Shihabi as Hanin Ali, Suleiman’s wife. I thought Shihabi was brilliant, and her story arc led to some of the show’s most tense, and dramatic moments. Shihabi is a terrific actress, and I hope her work here only leads to bigger and better things for her.
The one thing I didn’t care for in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” was a subplot involving a drone pilot. At first, I thought this story would link up somehow with the main plot, but it never really went anywhere. I think exploring the lives of drone pilots would be interesting, but here, it slowed everything else down.
In the end though, I really enjoyed “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” season one. The show built of what came before, but it also created its own world and characters. John Krasinski is great as Ryan, and with a stong supporting cast, he shines as the show’s lead. This usn’t your dad’s Jack Ryan, but its perfect for today. Now that the stage is set, I can’t wait to see what season two brings.
“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” score: A-