You Don’t Know Jack (But You Should)

We spent Labor Day weekend cocktailing by the pool, grilling steaks, and playing beer pong on an inflatable table in the pool.  Then a tropical storm popped up out of nowhere.  So we finished the weekend watching Jack Ryan, Amazon Prime Video’s much-hyped and long-awaited thriller.

Luckily, TS Gordon was big on rain and not on wind, so the power stayed on and we knocked out the first half of the eight episode season. And this is good, exciting TV that’s fun to watch.

More Is More

Of course, Tom Clancy’s character has been around for decades.  We first discovered him in The Hunt For Red October, when he was portrayed by Alec Baldwin. And while the movies are always fun popcorn fare and the books are real page-turners, the TV version gives us more time to develop plots than the movies and more visuals than the books.

The show allows small moments to play out just a moment longer, and gives the audience a chance to digest why Jack, or his target, terrorist Suleiman, make the choices they do.  You feel more connected with all the principals, even the ones you don’t want to contact with at all!

Analyst With An Attitude

Officially, Jack Ryan does logistics for the State Department, which is just a bland cover for his real job as a CIA analyst.  In every book and movie, when called upon to go to some far-flung destination on a moment’s notice, Jack is always quick to point out he’s ‘just an analyst.’

Of course, he’s much more than that.  He’s ex-military with a distinguished record, and he did not come out of the service unscathed.  That’s all standard canon. But here his scars are much more pronounced, literally and figuratively.  As we watch the back half of the season they will, hopefully, come into play and be explained.

But Jack left the military and Wall Street to try to save lives, not head back out into the field and open fire. These demons, or “Boy Scout attitude,” are as much a scar on his psyche as the ones on his back.

All this is to say the writers are taking Jack to new levels and exploring new parts that we haven’t seen before, and the extra time allowed by commercial free television helps this move along nicely.

Good Being Bad

The show isn’t all “Jack and CIA are good and bad guys were born bad and that’s all there is to it.”  No. We are also getting a look at why these terrorists do what they do.  Suleiman and his brother are driven by the disruption of a somewhat happy childhood. He has marital issues. He’s smart.  He’s human.

This isn’t like The Americans, where we are kinda-sorta rooting for the Russian spies. Suleiman and his less-than-merry band of radical terrorists are bad.  But they are motivated by more than slogans or unclean infidels.  And that makes their scenes compelling to watch.

Overall, Jack Ryan is fun, compelling to watch and, thanks to the TV format, gives us a deep dive into an already well-known literary and cinematic character.  John Krasinski does for Jack Ryan what Benedict Cumberbatch does for Sherlock Holmes.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

Go get yourself a big bottle of Jack.  You and a friend will kill it by the end of episode eight.  And don’t wait around for a tropical storm to watch this series!


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