Jack is back on Prime Video.
This is a SPOILER-FREE review of the first season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. All 8 episodes are currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
In Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1, the sixth live-action adaptation of the titular hero, creators Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Graham Roland (Fringe), successfully breathe new life into a screen franchise that hasn’t been relevant since the early ’90s, when the character was portrayed by actors like Harrison Ford (Patriot Games) and Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October).
This time around, we’re given a much younger version of Jack Ryan, played by John Kransinki (A Quiet Place), who goes from a lowly analyst sitting behind a desk to an action-oriented field operative, trying to take down the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
For two-thirds of the season, the series succeeds in differentiating itself from other titles within the genre by giving the story a compelling antagonist, named Suleiman (Ali Suliman), and two likable heroes, in Krasinski’s Ryan and Wendell Pierce’s James Greer — Jack’s new boss at the CIA. Towards the end of the season, however, the series devolves into the standard “let’s kill the evil terrorist” tropes and forgets what made the first 6 episodes so enjoyable.
A big reason for the show’s success is Suleiman, an Islamic extremist who’s hell-bent on making the West pay for a crime they committed against his country when he was a boy. Instead of simply making him into a caricature, writers Cuse and Roland build an intriguing backstory around him, through the use of flashbacks and the interactions he has with his present-day wife and children.
The unsung hero and matriarch of the Suleiman Family, Hanin, is played by Saudi actress Dina Shihabi (Madam Secretary). Hanin gives us an inside perspective of what it’s like being married to a terrorist. She also helps to humanize her husband, who at times is very loving, but can also be scary when he needs to.
As good as most of Suleiman’s backstory is, there could have been even more. We’re never given a sense of why he turned out the way he did, or how he and Hanin became romantically involved. There’s nothing wrong with a little ambiguity, but the final episodes take a break from Suleiman’s character development and focus more on Jack Ryan saving the day, which is exciting to watch but lacks the narrative depth established in those first few episodes.
Speaking of Jack, Kransinki leaves his A Quiet Place man-beard behind, in favor of a clean-shaven face, emphasizing Jack’s youth and relative inexperience. At this point in his career, Ryan is not a grizzled veteran like Ford and Baldwin were in their versions, but an up and coming analyst trying to make a difference. His buddy-cop bromance with Greer is endearing, and definitely one of the highlights in Season 1.
While Ryan has some military background, he doesn’t know the first thing about politics, so whenever Greer and Ryan are in a briefing, we’re treated to the awkwardness of seeing Ryan chime in when he’s not supposed to, followed by Greer’s uncomfortable squirming as Ryan says all the wrong things. There are some other humorous interactions throughout the season that we won’t spoil here.
And it wouldn’t be a Jack Ryan story without some spectacular action sequences, which the show delivers in spades. Even though the final few episodes could have used a greater focus on the motivations of the villains, the directors, stunt crew and fight choreographers deliver clean, frenzied hand-to-hand combat and fight sequences that heighten the gravity of the scene. Even the locations feel like they’re straight out of a big-budget movie, making it clear that Amazon spared no expense in delivering a truly cinematic experience for the small screen.