TV Review – Jack Ryan – Season 1

Creators: Carlton Cuse, Graham Roland

Writer: Carlton Cuse, Graham Roland & more

Starring: John Krasinski, Wendell Pierce, John Hoogenakker

Trivia: Unlike most previous instalments in the Jack Ryan film series, the show is not based on any of Tom Clancy’s novels. Krasinski described the plot as a “ripped from the headlines” story based on current geopolitics..

I really didn’t want to like this series. I even refused watching it until, a friend that I trust his taste, recommended it. I couldn’t let go of my fan-girl to Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, so you could understand my surprise when I liked it so much

Reviving a known hero figure is always a tricky and delicate process. How do you adapt a character who was a symbol of a bygone era to a totally new political climate and audience preferences?

Jack Ryan is the epitome of “The Good America”. He is the poster child of good old fashion values such as loyalty, integrity, decency and doing the right thing. No wonder John Krasinski was a candidate for “Capitan America”, Jack Ryan is not that different from that Superhero.

How do you bring such a character into the 21st Century when the USA is not the “good guys” anymore, when the enemy is not one country but all over the world, when fighting is done not face to face, but from the safety of a bunker thousands of miles away with a drone strike? How do you make such a character believable and liked?

I think that Jack Ryan Season 1 has managed to overcome all these challenges and passed their test with flying colors.

The solution the creators found is truly an interesting one. Instead of focusing on Jack Ryan, which they could not change much in his character, otherwise, he’s not Jack Ryan anymore. What they did was to focus on the villain and his world.

More than anything the first season establishes something that has been taking place in movies in the past few years, whereby we get to understand the villain side and the reasons he is doing what he’s doing. That does not mean we sympathize with him (or her), but they are not anymore a cartoon figure of evilness.

Post 9/11 the “bad guys” obviously would be terrorists and Muslims. Our antagonist is a militant Lebanese-born Syrian named Suleiman (Ali Suliman), whose charisma and bank statements cause Jack to take notice.

However we get to see Suleiman not only with interior life and believable motivations – having pulled his brother from the wreckage of an ‘83 American bombing – but we also spend time inside the terror leader’s personal and professional affairs.

Suleiman is a man who has been at war for the majority of his existence, while his dutiful wife Hanin (Dina Shihabi) not only stood by his side, but also raised their three children since age sixteen.

Now, Hanin sees her husband transforming from warrior to fanatic, all while wrestling with her place as a Muslim woman; expected to be a constant source of strength and to tend to Suleiman’s every need, regardless of whether she wants to or not.

It’s a terrific bit of character building, made all the more human by Suliman and Shihabi’s tremendous performances. 

We even get to see not only the horrors of what terrorist attacks create, but also the lives of the refugees who are suffering from all these conflicts. We get to see both sides of the horror that terror and the war on terror has brought into the world.

Another refreshing element in Season 1 it is that we get to see that not all Muslims are “bad”. This interesting element is represented by Jack Ryan’s (John Krasinski) boss, James Greer, (the wonderful Wendell Pierce) and his attitude to Islam being a Muslim in an environment as the CIA.

One of the best things that is taking place in this new Jack Ryan is the use of easy access to subtitles. We get to see the people speaking in their own language, which makes it so much more believable and real. No more do we need to suffer the outrageous Russian accent of Sean Connery as Marko Ramius but get to see them speaking in their own mother tongue.

The only reason I didn’t give it full stars mark, is that although the writers have managed to sidestep the main problems with revamping such an idol, the main character has not changed and it is still hard to believe that in this day and age we would still have such “perfect” people working with the CIA.

Also, there were two subplots which I couldn’t see the purpose for them or whether they added to the story. One was the whole love interest of Jack, Cathy (Abbie Cornish) and the other is the whole drone pilot story.

I could understand why to bring it when trying to raise question on the morality of using drones (and the stand the writers take upon it is very clear), but the resolution if it was a bit bogus for me.

As I said, I came in watching this series with a wish NOT to like it and I find myself liking it so much I’m willing to ditch my fondness to Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan.

So, stay tuned to Season 2 review.

Verdict 4/5 Stars in my book

 

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