TV series review: Tom Clancy's 'Jack Ryan'

July 27, 2020
Jack Ryan

JACK Ryan is the most successful action hero created by writer Tom Clancy whose novels about him have been filmed five times, played by different actors. Alec Baldwin starred in the very first movie, “Hunt for Red October”, in 1990 or exactly 30 years ago. Harrison Ford then played Jack Ryan twice in “Patriot Games” (1992) and “Clear and Present Danger” (1994). Ben Affleck did one movie, “The Sum of All Fears” (2002) and Chris Pine also one movie, “Shadow Recruit” (2014).

They have now turned it into a TV series on Amazon, titled “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” played by actor John Krasinski (who’s also a hit director as he helmed the horror-thriller “A Quiet Place” which starred him and his wife Emily Blunt). It has had two successful seasons as a political spy thriller and a third one is now underway. 

In the first season, we see Jack Ryan as a former Marine who now works as CIA analyst for the T-FAD (Terror, Finance and Arms Division.) He discovers a series of suspicious bank transfers. Upon closer investigation, he learns that this is the work of an Islamic extremist, Suleiman (Ali Suliman), who wants to establish a united Islamic caliphate against the West and is about to do a ruthless act of terrorism. 

Jack works with CIA boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce, the dad of Megan Markle in the hit TV drama, “Suits”), and he is taken away from his desk job to actively pursue Suleiman. It’s an exciting 8-episode series, fastly paced and with many big high octane action scenes rarely seen on TV. 

One of its producers is action honcho Michael Bay, so you more or less have an idea of how the action set pieces can be truly explosive. John is a likeable Jack and it’s clear he’s having a good time playing the action superhero in this show. He plays the Jack character the way Harrison Ford did, as an innocent but idealistic bystander who’s unwittingly drawn into all the action. 

Season 2 is an original story and not based on any Tom Clancy book. It’s even more action-packed and satisfying than the first season. The story is set in Venezuela, a country that’s so economically unstable (this is not fiction but truth) that it’s on the brink of collapse, no thanks to its corrupt politicians. 

The irony of it is that Venezuela is a rich country with rich natural resources and it also has the biggest oil reserves in the world, making it a leading exporter of oil. But as a result of poor leadership, it struggles with poverty, unemployment, shortage of basic good, malnutrition and other ailments that caused the Venezuelan migrant crisis where 3 million fled the country. 

The crisis led to a deplorable human rights situation, extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary imprisonment of human rights advocates. All of these is reflected in “Jack Ryan Season 2” with Venezuelan President Reyes (Jordi Molla) undoubtedly not just a corrupt but an autocratic, dictatorial leader. 

A female contender has won the sympathy of the people, Gloria Bonalde (Cristina Umana), whose husband Reyes has ordered to be abducted and became a desaparecido. No wonder the Venezuelan government criticized the show calling it “a crass war propaganda disguised as entertainment.”

Well, the makers of Jack Ryan can claim they took a lot of liberties in telling the story but it is still fictitious. Actually, we find it even more entertaining than the first season. It’s faster paced in its story-telling, more action-oriented and more fun. 

In the course of his investigation, Jack uncovers a far-reaching conspiracy between the Venezuelan president, some greedy European businessmen who enjoy exploiting developing countries, and someone who’s even connected with the higher echelons of the U.S. government who becomes Jack’s biggest catch.

In Season 1, Jack is given a love interest, a doctor (Abby Cornish), but she’s now completely missing in Season 2 and this time, the female lead is played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace who does very well as Harriet, a German spy who happens to be a very gray character, She turns out to be the ex-girlfriend of Max, the assassin who kills Jack’s senator friend while they are in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. 

They are adequately supported by Wendell Pierce as Greer, the CIA Station Chief in Moscow who gets reunited with Jack in Venezuela, and Michael Kelly as Mike, the CIA Station Chief in Venezuela. Kelly is one of our fave character actors after we saw him playing a very dark character as the henchman of Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards”. The last episode of the series showed him in a deadly final confrontation with Robin Wright as the female U.S president. But then, that’s another story.