JACK IS BACK. Or IS he?
I am not sitting here and reviewing JACK RYAN, series 2. It speaks for itself. It’s high quality, substantial, well made, watchable television that you will devour. I know this!
And I’m not saying anything about John Krasinski as a leading man, either. He is taking off as both star and director now so Dr Ryan is just one string to his bow. Having said that? As a fan of the CHARACTER of Jack Ryan and the legacy of the books and films? I do have a few minor caveats that make it more problematic for me to truly embrace it. And I suspect some people even agree with me 😉
Ryan is NOT an action hero. He is a guy who has to rise up TO action, reluctantly. It’s a staple of what he does, it is not what he does as end in itself. That’s why Harrison Ford was so good in the role, because he too is a competent yet reluctant action hero in his own career. So, I liked the first series of Jack Ryan on Amazon, because Krasinski ‘got’ that sense of Jack having action thrust upon him rather than his seeking it out. But in this new season, bizarrely, the character is now some bicep showing, toight t shirt wearing, broody, moody vendetta seeking James Bond /Jason Bourne clone and a poor man’s take on both of those, at that!
They seem to reference Clear and Present Danger, even nicking the car jack / raid /explosion scene? But what’s truly baffling is that this eight episode arc manages to mangle the pace and emotion of its cinematic counterpart; the latter has clarity, vigour and economy, as well as a timeless realism that saw it used in actual training among special services and diplomatic units. And you felt Ryan’s personal loss and stake, as conveyed by Harrison Ford, without over-labouring the point.
By contrast, our current Ryan iteration is just a muddled and rushed mess where we barely know any of the players involved and yet are supposed to believe that one inciting incident turns Krasinski’s Ryan into some hell bent revenge seeking Super-man. It just feels like a hustle; the kind of in vogue half tribute to, half botched remake of superior material that is currently in vogue throughout Hollywood (see also: anything to do with Star Trek/Wars in the last ten years).
What else is Ryan? Well, he’s not a bed hopping lothario. He is defined by his marriage to Cathy. So why have him enjoying a one nighter with Naomi Rapace (lovely but absolutely terrible as an action heroine imho: sorry!; just comes off as a Victoria Abril /Lena Olin tribute act here; a woeful miscasting). It’s just not consistent with the man’s character as defined by books /films and indeed, the previous season of this iteration.
Above all, ‘my’ Jack is an academic man with potential designs on a return to his business interests / a run for political office. It’s why it’s a shame that they never made Executive Orders as a film, starring George Clooney, as mooted once (though Harrison Ford in Air Force One is a sort of unofficial Ryan movie in all but name; and Clooney may very well become President in real life, anyway?).
It’s also why Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck were so good in this role; they conveyed the idea that Ryan is something of a polymath and passionate about what he does and thinks. His aim is civility at all costs; he is the American dream, the perfect life of service and family life but with commercial and academic status opportunities intact. Action was incidental, something they were able and willing to take on yet by no means defined by.
Above all, never forget that for all the action and thrills in your average Tom Clancy story, they were also primarily based round discussion, investigation and even office politics but on a geo-political scale. The action is subservient and secondary to those dimensions rather than vice versa. Though patriotic and even simplistic on occasion too, the villains tended to be agent provocateur outsiders and middle men exploiting a situation, rather than playing to the idea of particular states or sponsors as the big baddies. And with a long arc of episodes available, let’s hope that the Amazon take on the property does not forget that quality.
Also, while at it? PS: Admiral Jim Greer..as played by James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman (albeit with the character renamed in his case): a gentleman; forceful, dynamic, distinguished. He did not drop f bombs every few seconds or go in all aggressive, like. WHY does this series portray the character in a way that simply does not engender that refined confidence of old? It’s all on the warpath, in extremes and in extrem-is..tone it down a notch 🙂
JACK RYAN SERIES 2 now streaming on Amazon Prime.