Just another day at the office…
Main Cast: John Krasinski, Abbie Cornish
Creators: Carlton Cuse, Graham Roland
Jack Ryan is just a regular guy, really. He goes to the office, sits at his desk, does his work, jokes with his co-workers. Not all that different from Jim Halpert, on the face of it. He doesn’t even have his own cubicle. BUT WAIT. Jack Ryan’s office happens to be at the CIA, and his work isn’t selling paper, it’s hunting terrorists. Sorry Jim, you may be funnier, but Jack has a way more exciting job.
It’s been many long years since we first saw the character of Jack Ryan on the screen. All the way back in 1990 a young Alec Baldwin portrayed this Tom Clancy character in The Hunt for Red October. Through a whole bunch of novels, quite a few movies, and even a few video games, Jack Ryan has hunted down bad guys in just about every available media format. And now, thanks to Amazon, we have a Jack Ryan TV series.
John Krasinski stars as Ryan and in this iteration of the character he is already a part of the CIA, and apparently worked on Wall Street after his stint in the Marines. He’s now an analyst who tracks financial data and as we meet him, he meets his new boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce) in an unfortunate way. We also learn quickly that Jack does not keep his mouth shut or necessarily play strictly by the rules when he is sure that he’s right.
The entirety of this season focuses on one villain – a Lebanese terrorist whose financial operation is sophisticated enough to make alarm bells ring for our man Jack Ryan. He has to not only find the guy and take down the operation; he also has to convince the rest of the CIA that the guy even exists. It’s a lot. But Jack manages to sneak in a date or two with Dr. Cathy Mueller, a very smart infectious disease researcher.
So that’s all the plot you’re getting, and frankly all you need. This is a show about fighting Arab terrorists, and it’s pretty straight forward. Think Homeland light – a lot of the same themes but without the deep dive into the characters we would get from a longer season. At a brief eight episodes, we get a lot of plot and a little character development, leaving a whole lot of room for more in the future (hopefully).
Krasinski is a good Jack Ryan. I admit I had some doubts. Even after his stellar performance in A Quiet Place, it’s still hard to separate a clean shaven Krasinski from his character on The Office. But he makes it work. This Jack Ryan has a little bit of the wide eyed innocence of an in-over-his-head Jim, and we all know Krasinski has that part down pat. As the action and tension mount he dusts off his 13 Hours action hero muscles and picks up the pace. He’s an excellent, versatile actor who is managing to deftly overcome what could have been career ending typecasting that comes with starring on a long running TV sit-com. I like the character well enough, but it’s Krasinski who sells the show. The peripheral performances are solid, but none stand out as exceptional.
My biggest issue with Jack Ryan is the tired trope of the Arab terrorist. It feels more than a little racist at this point to be constantly pointing fingers at the Muslim world as the root of all terrorism when we’ve seen it sprout from fertile ground much closer to home. Like Homeland (but without the character development), Jack Ryan doesn’t make the mistake of too much overgeneralizing. The villain has a specific story, one not tied to some overarching hatred of Western culture. There are positively portrayed Muslim characters (though I would argue too few) and negatively portrayed Western characters (though I would argue FAR too few). I hope that in future seasons the creators will allow the character and the plot to grow and change and find interesting foes outside of the Muslim world.
Overall I liked Jack Ryan. I didn’t love it, as I had hoped, but I did like it. I think it has a lot of promise for future seasons if they let Krasinski evolve the title role, deepen the character development, and avoid some of the uglier clichés that showed up in this season. Three stars and a recommendation for anyone who has followed the character over the years or likes Clancy novels in general. It’s also a good fix for those of you who just really like John Krasinski.
Jack Ryan Season 1 is streaming on Amazon Prime Video and has been renewed for a second season.
You can usually find Sue watching dysfunctional family indie dramas in order to make her own household seem normal. She is the Editorial Manager at Silver Beacon Marketing and an aspiring Crazy Cat Lady.