The second season of the series about Tom Clancy’s most popular character remains more faithful to the spirit of the novels than ever
Season one of Jack Ryan managed to capture the audience’s attention and soon became one of those universally enjoyed titles, to a greater or lesser degree, but which few people really defending its continuity tooth and nail. The series has basically become a victim of a very widespread syndrome affecting all action shows, according to which it’s classified as great fun and enjoyed immensely, but given its nature is systematically ignored when it comes to talking about “quality”. It’s a bit like what happened with 24, hardly ever mentioned when referencing modern TV classics, or titles as recommendable as Condor, the best in recent years, despite insisting on its treatment as that of a long distance runner. The first installment of Jack Ryan took a series of decision which ensured its success and led it to arouse suspicion among action genre fans. The most colorful being the choice of John Krasinski to play our protagonist, which the actor quickly resolved by bestowing him with several unusual nuances, never-before-seen in action productions, but also screenwriters efforts to make the storyline a hybrid product, somewhere between Homeland and the Jason Bourne saga, which in itself is not a fully-fledged adaptation of Tom Clancy’s books. Despite everything, the formula seemed to work well because the show’s creators knew how to avoid the typical clichés of action storylines. The most important, and this is in no way a minor feat, was the configuration of the baddie, which writers insisted on not presenting as your bog-standard terrorist.
The second season, recently premiered on Amazon Prime, maintains its referential airs (the chase across London clearly inspired by Mission: Impossible – Fallout), but raises the stakes and goes all-in like its predecessor didn’t dare. Jack Ryan leaves the hyperrealism to one side, without totally betraying it and delivers a full-on action-packed performance while seeking to generate the suspense that is such a hallmark of Clancy’s work. And as far as we’re concerned, they achieve their goal here. Okay, ideologically it becomes much more ambiguous and, okay, there are situations (the one he raises in the last episode, for example) that are worthy of a Cannon production. But the question we should be asking here is this: So what? Herein lies the beauty of Clancy’s novels and also of this series, the ability to make a diagnosis of the geopolitical intrigues of the world without turning it into an unabashed farce. Jack Ryan features some truly beautifully-shot action scenes, light-opera villains (no less than the president of Venezuela, played by Jordi Mollà), touches of the ‘buddy movie’, sophisticated spies and biblical revenge. There are pot-shots at bureaucracy, false patriots and administrative obscurity; also well-buried humor, characters who evolve and tributes to the other on-screen Ryans. Krasinski has hit the nail on the head with how he interprets his character. Wendell Pierce and Michael Kelly embody the type of supporting actors who only add value with every appearance and the fate of the genre is secure. It was never anyone’s intention to do otherwise. Finally, in this time of long series that extend to exhaustion, the fact that one of them knows exactly when to stop and may even leave you feeling that it stops short, is worthy of merit and applause.