JACK RYAN is considered a tentpole of sorts when it comes to the works and creations of author Tom Clancy. Since the 1980’s his seminal works have flooded Hollywood and his aura is nothing less than that of Robert Ludlum. JACK RYAN and his adventures have it all , what today’s world needs. A righteous US Nationalist, a patriot, a devout friend and family man, a guy who has a knack of getting into trouble again and again. Above all, Ryan is a staunch supporter and critique of America’s foreign policy. He questions authority inside the government as well as outside the government. But the top shining chink in the armor is that he is an idealist.
Ryan has been played by legends such as Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin to Ben Affleck and now John Krasinski.
JACK RYAN Season 2 takes a departure in shifting villainy from Radical Islamic jihadists to Political dictators in a developing country like Venezuela. Ryan and his old friend Senator Moreno travel to Venezuela to meet the country’s President Reyes to discuss some illegal activity happening in the Venezuelan sea and some “illicit” arms purchase from Russia. In the process of doing this Moreno and Ryan are attacked by terrorists and Moreno dies in the shooting on the spot. Ryan stays in Venezuela to uncover the truth of the murder and connect the dots if the hit was sanctioned by Reyes. He is helped by his CIA mentor Jim Greer and the American expats posted in Caracas. Ryan is also confronted by Agent Harriet of BND, German intelligence. The season chronicles around these events. The show stars John Krasinski, Michael Kelly, Wendell Pierce, Cristina Umana and Noomi Rapace with a host of South American actors. The show is now streaming on Amazon Prime in India and all over the world.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT IN THIS SEASON?
This season the writers have clearly taken some cues from the earlier movie in the Jack Ryan universe ie “Clear And Present Danger” where a US Senator convoy is attacked and ambushed in a similar manner and the US Govt operatives authorize a team to lead a covert operation in Columbia. There is high octane action and Jack encounters many situations where he is taken for granted. His relationship with Harriet (Noomi Rapace) is a case in point where Jack seems to be devoid of his razor sharp acumen, his eagle like response mechanisms. She is mostly ahead of Jack as a counterpart.
Purely from the story palate, the show doesn’t really do anything extraordinarily new. I mean the writers duo of Carlton Cluse and Graham Rolland haven’t really disrupted the Tom Clancy narrative from the books. They have tried to induce new objects and characters in story telling but they haven’t taken any big risk. Having said that, the inclusion of Michael Kelly as Mike November who heads the American consulate in Caracas is a welcome idea. Kelly who made his name in “House Of Cards” gives a fascinatingly refreshing government operative who is emotionally and professionally challenged. It’s his unexpected humorous scenes in which he is trying to de stress the situation which is something which stays with you.
Wendell Pierce as Jim Greer does a great job again. The character of Greer was played in the movies by James Earl Jones. It’s a difficult role to play but Pierce does get his rhythm right although he is a bit overweight and has problems in maintaining his stamina in most scenes.
The Venezuela landscape introduces us to the ensemble of the new protagonists ie President Nicolas Reyes and his close aide Miguel Ubarri. The challenger to his throne Gloria Bonalde whose husband is in exile.
The characters of Reyes, Ubarri and Bonalde have been etched out in detail and they do not look like props in a script full of seasoned Hollywood actors. The Venezuelan cast gets plenty of screen time. Gloria Bonalde is played by Colombian star Cristina Umana (Narcos) and she embodies modern liberal thinking. A lot of writing has been devoted to her and her rise from an underdog to being the big challenger.
DOES JACK RYAN SIGNIFY THE CURRENT GEO –POLITICAL ALIGNMENT?
Jack Ryan Season 2 is largely pro-American foreign policy and that is not reaping much dividends for the US as China is en route to being the world’s largest economy by 2030. It still plays around with the fact the US as an entity had no sizeable challenger other than Russia. I think that’s a gross mis statement of epic proportion. The plot conveniently moves away from the Middle-East to Southern America to just build a story with a different perspective. In fact in one of the opening scenes, Ryan clearly states that credible threat will never come from “China and Russia” with his own logic of exploitation of Venezuelan oil fields. Although its sugar coated, the show in a way promotes American jingoism. We have “Michael Bay” as an executive producer on the show which may reflect that.
The fact of the matter is that China with its trade war is hurting the US in many ways. As of today, China has more Fortune 500 companies than the US.
The show also doesn’t reflect the diversity of the American politics’ citizenry. It sticks to Hispanics, African Americans and Caucasians only. The fact is that South Asians are becoming a much larger lobby than before.
THE RELEVANCE OF TOM CLANCY’S WORK IN TODAY’S REALPOLITIK
TOM CLANCY’s work was of a different time and age. He wrote exhaustively of the Cold War and stories from it. The political and conflict flashpoints have changed ever since. In that vein, the Season 1 of Jack Ryan looks more relatable to its global viewers. Although Venezuela is credible from a content perspective, it fails to create edgy characters in the show. Clancy’s work like “The Hunt For Red October”. “Patriot Games”, “Clear And Present Danger” were written in the Cold War era.
The writers are now adapting characters of Tom Clancy in today’s reality. This may seem the solution but I feel that this is where his iconic characters might lose their signature appeal. It has been tough for any Clancy fan to stomach a much younger Jack Ryan who is built superbly like a soldier and kicks ass every now and then. In the books, he is largely a strategist and not a very action oriented character. This might create a mismatch and make characters like Ryan look like James Bond or Jason Bourne.
John Krasinski put his best foot forward as the torch bearer of the story and does act very well. I somehow was not convinced of his chemistry with Noomi Rapace. Rapace is pretty much wasted. The Venezuelan cast is above average and Cristina Umana steals the show.
I would give this show a 6 out of 10. It is good but the first season had a much better villain and better storyline which kept you on the edge.