Amazon Prime Review: Jack Ryan (Season 2)

John Krasinski joins an elite class of acting entering his second season of the streaming series Jack Ryan. Only one other actor reprised the role, and that was the great and grumpy Harrison Ford in 1994 with Clear and Present Danger, just two years after he starred in Patriot Games. In fact, the group of actors who have portrayed Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst-turned-agent is a pretty good bunch themselves: Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October), Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears), and Chris Pine (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). While Alec Baldwin still owns the film with the only Oscar win (for best sound editing, but still), I would argue that Krasinski owns the role of Jack Ryan. His days of playing a romantic goof in The Office lend a hand to Season 1 where he simply looks out of place as he is asked to step away from analyzing numbers to become the “everyman hero”. By the end of the first season though, Krasinski has become my top Jack and that carries over well into Season 2. If you have Amazon Prime, I recommend you check out Jack Ryan as arguably the best action thriller series on the streaming platform.
Jack. Is. Back. After helping stop an Islamic extremist group from carrying out a terrorist attack, Jack rejects his friend Greer’s offer to follow him to Russia, quits the CIA and goes to work for Capitol Hill…? Are we even still in the “Ryanverse” here? But straying from the books a bit does the second season more good than harm when it allows for the story to be less about the explosions and firefights and more about character development and story. Jack is working with an old military friend turned politician to track a Russian cargo ship that may be carrying nuclear weapons and has made it’s way to Venezuela, a country in the midst of a potential economic collapse over the upcoming election. When his path intersects with the CIA and Greer, who is following a lead on the same ship, they agree to put aside their differences and work together. After a distasteful meeting with the Venezuelan President, their convoy is hit by a roadside bomb and Jack goes rogue, disobeying orders to leave the country until he uncovers the truth about who is behind the attack.
Aside from the plot line with a female whom Jack is romantically involved with that never really pans out (*ahem* see also season one…), this sequel season is much more concise than the first. It tells a good story without getting too convoluted and bogged down with boring details, but still brings the big set pieces when they make sense. The first season was a little slow during the middle as we got to know Jack’s backstory more and he tried to rely on his analytical skills rather than being an agent (which to his credit was still technically his job). It was a good and fun season, and Ali Suliman (Body of Lies, Lone Survivor) did a great job playing the main terrorist, but it really needed a second season that stopped cramming details into the show and just let it run its course. And so it does. Jack has learned a lot from his first run as a field operative and shows some growth in how he handles difficult situations and practices restraint. In addition, the diverging relationship between Jack and Greer gives some additional weight to everything that happens during the season and was ultimately a nice touch by creators Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Graham Roland. I also think it was smart to not continue down the “terrorism” route but to instead take the character on a new adventure and one that didn’t come across as too similar to the previous one. There was more political intrigue (which I like) and a different cultural barrier that provided a refreshing feel of the setting and surrounding cast.
I really enjoyed binging this season, but also wanted to take a minute to look at it through the Harrison Ford lens, specifically his second film Clear and Present Danger. Since this is probably the closest angle to Krasinski’s Jack Ryan that we have, it’s intriguing that both characters are played in a similar way. Ford was a hero in his film, but a vulnerable one. He is taken advantage of by men more powerful than himself and struggles to maintain a sense of direction given his new role. Likewise, Krasinski struggles with listening to good advice and controlling his feelings surrounding the death of a friend. He repeatedly puts himself back into difficult situations where his chances of making it out the other side aren’t great, and while part of it is stubbornness I think the other part is not understanding the “clear and present danger” that he’s walking into. The two films are also similar in their focus on a South American country, a suspicious former agent, an ailing Greer, and Ryan’s desire to do what’s right no matter the consequences to his career.
There’s not much more I can say without starting to spoil things in this show, that is if you’re now interested in checking it out or have yet to continue watching. I think the antagonist of the second season had a more difficult character to shine with but some of the B and C characters (according to plot) really stepped up to bat, so to speak. So if you do tune in, I hope you enjoy it. I personally look forward to seeing Krasinski return to screen at least once more and the story that will follow as the show has already been renewed for a third season, so long live the Ryanverse! Cheers!

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