Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is able to take advantage of the long-form narrative storytelling but the action is few and far between.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels were so long that to make a film means having to condense the narrative. When I first learned that a television series would happen, my first instinct was maybe this could be a good thing. It has some positives to enjoy but unlike the films, the television series has too little action scenes.
John Krasinski stars as the titular character. This is one of the most iconic characters in literature–and to an extent, film–history. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine have all portrayed Ryan in previous films. Krasinski isn’t an action star, which is why his starring in the series is so perplexing to say the least. He hasn’t been able to branch out as much from his role in The Office to where we’re able to see beyond Jim Halpert.
The one thing the series has going against it is that it’s been four years since the release of the film starring Chris Pine. It was intended to be a second reboot to launch a new franchise of films. So far, this has yet to happen. There’s a similarity in that this incarnation of Ryan also fought in Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11.
The series follows Ryan as he’s forced from the comfort of his desk job into the field. Assigned to cover Yemen, Ryan has uncovered some suspicious activity involving bank transfers. As Ryan transfers to the field, James Greer (Wendell Pierce) takes him in under his wing. Greer is a CIA veteran but because he stepped over the lines, he’s now working a desk role in a supervisor position. He is eager to get back into the field and sees quite a bit of himself in Ryan. The long-form narrative enables us to get to know Greer better as a character.
We see some of the relationship between Cathy Muller (Abby Cornish) and Ryan. The thing is, we’ve seen this relationship depicted on screen so many times that it doesn’t even feel fresh anymore. Every incarnation is different. The relationship is one that could have been better explored with the longer narrative.
The season sees Ryan traveling to France and the Middle East to hunt Suleiman (Ali Suliman). Suleiman is purported to be behind a deadly attack in Paris. It becomes a game of cat-and-mouse if it means being able to capture him and thwart another attack.
For a contemporary thriller, the series commits a cardinal sin in its use of derogatory slurs towards the transgender community. This comes when said slur is used in the third episode of the season, “Black 22.” I won’t repeat said slur but I’d expect better from everyone involved in the series. The usage comes when a co-worker is asked how they got a black eye. Surely, the writers could have come up with something that wouldn’t offend transgender viewers.
Before people get started up on the free speech argument, slurs are slurs. They absolutely should not be used. What makes me especially angry about the usage is the way in which they use it. It honestly punches down the transgender community and turns off viewers such as myself.
Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland developed the series for television. On paper, it seems like a good idea. It’s only through the execution in which the series starts to falter. While Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan does manage to stick to some of the things seen in the films, the Jack Ryan series is one that’s best portrayed in a cinematic format.