An Essay about Amazon Video's Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan by James Bonner

Jack Ryan Amazon Video Review: A Thrilling Series That Exceeds Expectations

In popular culture, a handful of characters carry different series, and many of us have followed the development of these characters as authors continue to publish their stories. A few have been so well written that they are now part of the fabric of American culture. My favorite, and one that I grew up following—as a child, I was introduced to the movies, and then the books, as a teenager and young adult—is the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy.

My introduction to Jack Ryan was the movie The Hunt for Red October, starring Alec Baldwin (as Jack Ryan), followed by Patriot Games, and then Clear and Present Danger (the latter two starring Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan). I couldn’t tell you when I first realized that they were all the same character. All I knew was that I could watch the movies repeatedly, and still very much enjoy them, and sometimes get something new out of watching them. As far as the films go, my favorites, from most to least, are: Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and The Sum of All Fears.

However, when Amazon released the first season of Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski, and especially now—I finished the series finale of Jack Ryan on Amazon Video a few minutes ago—I can safely say that John Krasinski gives the best portrayal of Jack Ryan that I have seen; both in his accuracy of the character and Krasinski's faculty as an actor. Harrison Ford is a close second, although Ford, and perhaps based on nothing at all, but to me, plays Ryan at a later point in his career. Chris Pine (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), made for an admirable young Jack Ryan, but the movie was more action-oriented and failed to illustrate Ryan’s ferocity in a hearing room. Alec Baldwin (the Hunt for Red October), although it was a great movie, Baldwin missed the mark as Jack Ryan, I would wager that he neglected even to read a single book. And finally, Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears), perhaps if the movie had been better made, Affleck may have pleased; unfortunately, the Sum of All Fears was a mess.

The final two episodes of the fourth season of Jack Ryan on Amazon Video were released today, the episodes have been dropping every Thursday for the last three weeks. This show is phenomenal. John Krasinski is unbelievable, he’s done many great movies since The Office, but still, it’s his portrayal as Jack Ryan that will last for me. The storylines of each season have been brilliant, thrilling, and sometimes pleasantly complex. It has been exciting watching as each season unfolds. The writing is fantastic and smart. The acting and the casting are almost perfect. I like Wendall Pierce, although I believe he was miscast as James Greer. I feel like Greer should have a depth that Pierce couldn’t match. That was easier to ignore in the earlier seasons, however, it is taking a little away from season four, for me.

          The first season of Jack Ryan was about pursuing a highly educated, financial genius, who happens to be Muslim, although his motives are more personal than religious. The season did a great job of introducing Jack as an analyst, but more importantly in establishing his character as one who pursues logic to validate his gut (the seasons continue to expand on Ryan’s ability to rely on both his gut and reason, and that is, perhaps, what makes the series superior to the movies).

The second season follows Ryan as he works to unfold the schemes of a ruthless Venezuelan dictator’s insatiable greed. Season two begins to develop the characters that surround Jack Ryan. The season builds the cohesion that exists with his team in the books, and how important each one of them is to uncover the complex nature of the alarm of what Jack’s instincts are trying to make sense of.

The third season is about the rebirth of a Cold War Russian war game scenario manifested by a handful of old-school radicals. It's fun to watch, Jack and his team put the pieces together as the plot unfolds without a moment to lose. Season three might be my favorite (I still need to process season four a bit).

And the fourth, current, and last season, is about uncovering, and dismantling an open trade route to the United States via Burmese terrorists and Mexican cartels. And watching as the complexity of the story unfolded with each episode was, again, just a lot of fun, and very entertaining.

I have watched each season at least twice. And aside from my belief that Greer was miscast, my greatest objection is that there are only four seasons. I think Jack Ryan could easily pull off another two seasons, and the potential of what the show could be, given another season or two, is incredible; unless everybody dies at the end of season four (a possibility I’m not willing to discount yet). After finishing the fourth season, I am a little disappointed that the season has only six episodes.

There is enough story and potential for the production to have at least seven, if not eight episodes. Episode five was much too rushed, and that could have played out a bit better. Still, the worst thing I can say about Jack Ryan on Amazon Video is, “Well Done!” Jack Ryan is a must-watch. It’s a, “you must subscribe to Amazon Video even if you have little interest in watching anything else or have a deeply rooted hostility toward Amazon. You can ignore that for four seasons, I’m sure.”

Sometime this year I'll binge-watch season four, again, the next time I have seven hours to kill.

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