There are two good reasons to check out Amazon’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, which launches its first season August 31. First of all, this heavily promoted and internationally set eight-episode series, which has already been renewed for a second season, is a clear expression of the mandate the now Jennifer Salke-run Amazon Studios has from Jeff Bezos to go large and go populist. Put another way, this adaptation of the work of one of the bestselling authors of the 20th century is no Game of Thrones, but it successfully strives toward the big picture for the small-screen streaming service.
Secondly and more importantly for all concerned at the House of Bezos, the latest manifestation of Clancy’s near-iconic CIA character, now played by John Krasinski, is actually pretty good, as I say in my video review above.
Yes, there are some oddly flat elements and caricatures in the series run by Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, from its Morten Tyldum-helmed pilot onward. However, with strong performances from Krasinski and Wendell Pierce plus Abbie Cornish, Dina Shihabi, a slimy agency bureaucrat played by Timothy Hutton, and a complexly constructed villain portrayed by Ali Suliman, this Jack Ryan plants his own flag.
If you are one of the millions who have read Clancy’s books or seen Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine play the CIA analyst-turned-super-agent, there a lot of familiar elements and names in the updated series. In a TV spy series landscape peppered with the likes of Homeland, the recently departed The Americans and Fauda, to name but a few, there are also more than enough tropes and twists in Jack Ryan to keep you intrigued by the often too-good-to-be-true, scarred Afghan war vet as well as the overall narrative.
Obviously, the context this time round is no longer the Cold War of Clancy’s work, but the War on Terror and a well-paced race against time to stop an attack meant to dwarf the horrors of 9/11. It is a context that ultimately moves the ball forward for Amazon, even when you can feel the round holes being stretched to accommodate newly developed square narrative pegs.
Take a look at my video review of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan above for more of my take on the Amazon series. Do you plan to check out Season 1?