Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan





Paul Asay
Kristin Smith

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.

Patriot Games

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 comfortable (in Season 1), Ryan uncovers some suspicious financial transactions in Yemen. And just like that his cranky boss, James Greer, pulls him from his desk and throws him into the field. Does that mean that Jack gets to be rewarded for a job well done and get his desk job back? Hardly. In Season 2, Jack and James Greer meet up in an unstable Venezuela where they investigate a mysterious, threatening scheme involving Russia, heavy arms and Venezuela’s economic collapse. And then in Season 3, Jack—now a full-fledged, in-the-field CIA operative—is trying to stop the Russians from launching an untraceable nuke and starting World War III.

No pressure.

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.

Episode Reviews

Dec. 21, 2022—S3, Ep1: “Falcon”

Stationed in Rome, Jack discovers that Russia has reinstituted a program from its old Soviet Union days: the construction of a small, untraceable nuclear weapon. It’s a critical part of an old Soviet plan called “Seven Days,” which is predicated on destabilizing a given region and sweeping into the chaos to claim more real estate. While Jack’s superiors are skeptical, events in the Czech Republic suggest that the Seven Days plan may be underway.

Several people are shot and killed—some in the head (accompanied by small explosions of blood). A politician is assassinated, also via a bullet to the head. A man is beaten before being killed. A frenetic car chase leads to one vehicle plunging off a cliff and crashing on the beach below. Other cars are damaged during another car chase, and dozens of civilians are threatened. In flashback, we see several soldiers rush into a laboratory, apparently to kill the scientists and engineers operating there. (We don’t see anything, but we hear gun shots and screams.) Jack is literally thrown out of a party.

A woman wears slightly revealing eveningwear. A male bartender flirts with a female customer after she’s apparently stood up by her date. (She’s drinking wine, and a beer sits on the bar beside her.) The two drink shots and, the next day, they go on a “date.”

Someone drinks wine with dinner. A party features fancy cocktails. One politician sends another a bottle of vodka. Someone mentions that he’s begun practicing meditation. We hear eight f-words, five s-words and a variety of other profanities, including “a–,” “d–n” and “h—.” Jesus’ name is abused three times.

Oct. 31, 2019 – S2, Ep1: “Cargo”

When Jack learns that Russia could be supplying arms to an unstable Venezuela, he and Senator Moreno head to Venezuela to investigate. James Greer requests to be moved from his position in Moscow to work with Jack in Venezuela.

As events unfold, lying, money laundering, extortion, economic collapse and political corruption are both seen and discussed. Violence ramps up throughout the episode as we see cars explode and men and women shot in the head, sending blood flying. A police official comes home to find his wife and kids have been murdered: He sees their tied, bloodied bodies. He finds the killer in his home and the two get into an intense fight as heads are smacked off tables, blood spews and a dog is stabbed to death. An injured James passes out and is pushed out of a car.

Jack flirts with a woman at a bar and the two go back to Jack’s hotel room. It’s implied that the two have sex, as he sleeps shirtless and we see her bare back and stomach as she puts on a jacket. A married man jokes about meeting a lover online. A woman wears a cleavage-baring dress.

Men and women alike consume hard liquor, wine and champagne, and they smoke cigars and cigarettes. The f-word is used nearly 20 times and the s-word, nine times. Other profanities include multiple utterances of “h–,” “a–hole” and “d–n.”

Aug. 31, 2018 – S1, Ep1: “Pilot”

CIA Analyst Jack Ryan uncovers some shady bank transactions perpetrated by someone he thinks is named Suleiman, perhaps the world’s next bin Laden. His boss, James Greer, a shamed ex-station chief demoted to head Ryan’s department, seems unimpressed at first. But when Ryan’s analysis bears fruit, the two speed off to Yemen in pursuit of the elusive Suleiman.

They make their way to a dark ops location in the middle of the desert, right about the time a group of local Bedouins drop off some grotesque and bloody bodies for identification and reward. (One corpse seems to have had part of its head blown off.) But it’s all a ruse. One of the bodies is actually a very lively infiltrator wearing another man’s skin face as a mask. Once locked inside the compound, he takes off his mask, tears open a corpse’s stitched-up belly, digs around in the intestines and pulls out parts of a weapon.

A massive battle takes place at the compound. We see several people get shot—one in the head, which is accompanied by a spray of blood. Explosions hurl others through the air (presumably killing them). Three people fight frantically in a cell, and one gets sliced across the midsection with a knife. Someone perishes in a hail of bullets during an apparent suicide mission.

People are choked and punched. In flashback, we see two boys horrifically wounded by a bombing raid in Lebanon: One boy suffers terrible burns on his bare thighs, while the other sears his hands lifting a burning beam off his brother’s legs. (Both are also covered in dirt and blood.)

In another flashback, we catch a brief glimpse of a blood-covered Ryan lying in apparent agony; Greer sees pictures of the crash that left Ryan, for a time, confined to a wheelchair. We hear people moan and scream. (“Leave your merit badges at the door,” Greer tells Ryan, referencing his Boy Scout reputation.) Two would-be terrorists are given debilitating shocks and thrown into the back of a van. Terrorists also seem to be smuggling something dangerous in olive oil.

Ryan drinks a beer while watching Jeopardy, and he orders another at a party. A stock tycoon (and Ryan’s boss at one point) asks him for inside information, which Ryan refuses to give. His former boss tells him that one day, he’ll regret his “self-righteous boy-scout routine.”

We hear references to both Shiite and Sunni Islam, and women wear the characteristic garb of conservative Muslims. A man takes several pills. We learn that Greer either got a divorce or is going through one. Characters use the f-word about 10 times and the s-word nearly a dozen. We also hear “a–,” “h—” and “p-ss.” God’s name is used with “d–n” twice, and Jesus’ name is abused three times.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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