TV Series Review
"I'm only an analyst!"
Sure, Jack. You keep telling yourself that. We all know the truth.
Through 22 novels and five movies, the late Tom Clancy's cerebral hero has saved princes, rescued soldiers, killed drug dealers, foiled terrorists, piloted a pilfered Soviet sub and even become the President of the United States—twice. His passport has more stamps than the corner post office, and he's logged more frequent flyer miles than most pilots. Ironic, considering how he hates to fly and all.
But Ryan's wild career had to start somewhere, and Amazon gives us the lowdown on how it all began.
It's not that Jack Ryan hasn't already lived a fairly full life. The Boston College graduate has already served as a military helicopter pilot, recovered from a broken back and worked as a stock broker.
But by the time Ryan's titular show opens on Amazon, he's been a CIA desk jockey for about four years—and he kinda likes it. No one shoots at him. No one asks him to make questionable financial decisions. Nope, Jack just gets to sit around all day and analyze data. What could be more fun than that?
But about the time he gets a new, cranky boss named James Greer, Ryan uncovers some suspicious financial transactions in Yemen. Just like that, Greer yanks Ryan away from his desk and throws him into the field, the two of them gallivanting around the globe after the mysterious terrorist kingpin Mousa Bin Suleiman, who just might be plotting the downfall of Western civilization.
The Sum of All Fears
Jack Ryan's star, John Krasinski, is the fifth person to portray Clancy's famed analyst. And Krasinski's own career reflects, in a fun-house-mirror sort of way, Ryan's own. After all, Krasinski rose to fame in The Office before transitioning to action in 13 Hours and playing an imperiled family man in A Quiet Place. The muscled everyman comports himself well here, battling bad guys when he must, while still making us believe he'd rather be back home watching Jeopardy.
Some viewers might have the very same feeling.
True, Jack Ryan is a slick, well-paced and well-made television thriller. While some critics note that the show's plot has been dumbed down a bit from Clancy's deep-in-the-weeds storytelling, maybe that's to be expected in our attention-addled age, when few of us read novels at all. And the show retains Clancy's wonkish, patriotic vibe, what with its smart, never-say-die heroes working to protect the United States from who knows what. Jack Ryan's a little like 24's Jack Bauer, only without so much torture.
I'd like to say the show dispenses with any torture, but alas—Jack Ryan can torture its viewers something awful. Clearly, Amazon did not skimp on blood or gore. Some episodes feature scenes that might make even a Game of Thrones Lannister wince. Nudity—incredibly gratuitous and wholly unwarranted—turns up in the mix as well.
But even if the show throttled back the sex and violence, viewers would still have to deal with the profanity. If this prequel was shown on the big screen, like its Ryanverse forebears, it'd be only the second entry in the franchise to scream past a PG-13 rating and land as an R.
That's disappointing, because I know many a discerning couple who'd love to sit down and watch a taut thriller like Jack Ryan, but who don't want to stomach the levels of gore, language and skin included here. Perhaps some whip-smart analyst at Amazon can point this out to his or her superiors.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
+Aug. 31, 2018: "Pilot"
Readability Age Range
John Krasinski as Jack Ryan; Wendell Pierce as James Greer; John Hoogenakker as Matice; Abbie Cornish as Cathy Mueller; Ali Suliman as Suleiman; Dina Shihabi as Hanin; Haaz Sleiman as Ali