It took about 4 years to finally got what we deserved! It was in 2018 that Amazon Prime Video got us back into the world of author Tom Clancy, with his most famous character at the helm of a new streaming TV show: CIA Analyst Dr. Jack Ryan (featuring John Krasinski as the titular American spy). Fair to say, the first two seasons that we got were ‘unimpressive’ to say the least. Although season 1 got the job done showing us Jack caught in between his workplace at Langley, Virginia, and the Middle East, season 2 sent Jack into a political conflict in Venezuela that felt so out of scope, leaving the fans completely lost. Then, the pandemic hit, of course, forcing them to pause any future projects.
Amazon Prime Video did well to take some time off to reflect on their work and dissect what they got wrong with their modern Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, leading us to friendlier territory in season 3, three years later. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they went back to the source material and decided to play with the political conflict that made the Jack Ryan novels great in the 1980s: The Cold War. Little did they know, the post-Cold War context and the implication of Russia and Eastern Europe would resonate a lot more with us this year. Surprisingly enough, Amazon wrapped the script on season 3 BEFORE Russia invaded Ukraine in February, which (unfortunately) makes the stakes in the show more ‘meaningful’ for audiences.
And so…Jack Ryan finally got the treatment it deserves in this action-packed production that is by far the best season of this show. Let’s open the mission dossier, shall we?
The Plot of Season 3
Season 3 of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has some obvious references to Tom Clancy’s best book: The Hunt for Red October, especially in the climax where naval forces will be implicated in the conflict. A couple of years after the events of season 2, Jack (John Krasinski, a bit more on auto-pilot here) is stationed in the US Embassy in Rome, alongside his supervisor James Greer (Wendell Pierce) and Station Chief Elizabeth Wright (Betty Gabriel). He is working with a network of informers to uncover an old USSR weapon project called ‘Sokol’, which did involve a nuclear option. With the hard belief that the project is still active since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Jack will uncover secret details from a kidnapped Russian scientist (an obvious wink to No Time to Die maybe?) about a current plot to start a conflict between Russia and NATO. At the same time, the current Russian Defence Minister is assassinated in the Czech Republic, and so Ryan’s discoveries will force him to go rogue, and be pursued by both his employer and Russian Secret Service alike. His search will lead him to Greece, Austria and the Czech Republic, before infiltrating good old Mother Russia in order to find the guilty parties who wish to see a World War erupt between the East and the West.
Caught right in the middle of this plot will be many key secondary characters who are as important as Jack in the plot, namely President Kovac of the Czech Republic (Nina Hoss), her father of Russian descent (Peter Guinness, excellent!), his CIA colleagues stationed in Europe (including Greer and Wright), his old colleague turned private contractor Mike November (Michael Kelly, the comic relief) and an old Russian official who was a KGB enforcer in the Cold War (James Cosmo, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch from Game of Thrones). Who are the good guys and the bad guys? You’ll find out!
More Action, Less Solving
In an attempt to make Jack Ryan perhaps more thrilling for viewers who probably forgot about the show completely, season 3 is more focused on bombastic action and political warfare than corporate espionage, as Jack is perhaps not even the biggest character aboard in terms of screen time. In that sense, as a field agent constantly on the run from one city to the next, Jack is closer to a Jason Bourne or a Jack Bauer here, and the puzzle-solving is left in the hands of his colleagues. Krasinski has never played Jack Ryan with so much physical intensity, as Ryan fights his way through with guns and hand-to-hand combat on numerous occassions. His analytical skills are only used on the road for him to decide his next destination or target. Sure, this is a show that moves, this is one way to look at it…and it can work well for some. This is clear in the very first episode, as Jack is already infiltrated in the field, in Rome, and is later joining a Black Ops team boarding a Russian carrier.
Although this season is pretty good overall from a plot and action perspective, it dismissed some key character traits from Ryan that we usually really enjoy! For example, and this is quite apparent in the motion pictures that were released before the show, Jack likes to state that he is ‘just an analyst’ and that he’s not the obvious candidate to send to the field along with the armed forces. Sure, he was a Marine (causing his famous helicopter accident that broke his back) before being recruited by the CIA, so he knows how to handle himself…but only when the situation absolutely calls for it. Season 3 calls for it all the time!
The Unique Career Trajectory of John Krasinski
We did say in the title that season 3 of the Amazon Prime series got Jack Ryan right, but it’s fair to say that the ‘World of Jack Ryan’ surpassed how the character himself is portrayed, and that’s also due as to how Krasinski played him. Although he is in top physical shape here, more so than in the previous seasons, Krasinski’s Ryan is a lot more stoic and emotionless here, almost as if he’s been turned into a mindless killing machine. Sure, we can agree that the bad situation he’s in during the season is the explanation for it, but Jack is usually a character that finds ways to be humoristic and charismatic, whereas the showrunners seem to lend those qualities to Mike November in season 3. Compared to the other actors who portrayed him in the past (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine), Krasinski offers the most physically-fit version of John ‘Jack’ Patrick Ryan.
Rare are the examples of actors who started off in comedies, movies or TV alike, to become high-profile action stars like that. He started as Jim Halpert in the hit NBC series The Office (2005-2013), but an interesting gamble from director Michael Bay (also a producer on Jack Ryan) to cast him as a US soldier in 13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) made him fit for the blockbuster action genre. Forging himself an acting, writing and directing career comparable to the ones of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, is Krasinski the next biggest action star to look out for? Quite possibly and good for him! Let’s not forget, this guy is also, at least for a brief moment, Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four group in the Multiverse of Marvel.
Where Does It Stand in the Jack Ryan Filmography?
All in all, the third season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is a good way to either be introduced or rediscover the world of Jack Ryan. It’ll never top the movie classics featuring Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford as the CIA analyst, but Amazon was able to get us somewhere close in terms of world-building and intrigue. Apart from a strong focus on action and a sometimes underwhelming performance from John Krasinski, the plot is well-crafted enough for a binge-watch during your holidays.
*All three seasons of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan are currently streaming on Prime Video.
*See all the movies and shows featuring Jack Ryan ranked here:
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Patriot Games (1992)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3 (2022)
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1 (2018)
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 2 (2019)
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
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If you liked watching John Krasinski, Tom Clancy’s CIA agent Jack Ryan, and are looking forward to seeing Henry Cavill in Winston Churchill’s Ministry for Ungentlemanly Warfare, read about a real ungentlemanly spy on the run. His name is Bill Fairclough (MI6 Codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington. In real life Bill Fairclough was recruited by Colonel Alan Pemberton CVO MBE (MI6). Pemberton’s People in MI6 were genuine ungentlemanly heroes and even included self-confessed silent killers and Churchill’s bodyguard. For more about them do see the News Article dated 31 October 2022 in TheBurlingtonFiles website. It’s called Pemberton’s People, Ungentlemanly Officers & Rogue Heroes. By the way, Bill Fairclough is the protagonist in the factual stand-alone spy thriller Beyond Enkription, the first novel to be published in TheBurlingtonFiles series.