Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Episode Two

Hollywood can’t be trusted.

The second installment of Amazon Prime’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan moves the action from the political football field of CIA’s Langley HQ to the middle-eastern suburbs of France.  It also shows us for the first time that Team Suleiman is capable of working great evil.  They kebab a priest in a dark alley, go full Weinstein on an underage girl, and think nothing of cramming a suicide vest on a different scared young girl.  Episode one played its cards close to its chest, and we still don’t know exactly what the bad guys are up to, but we have confirmation that they are dastardly fellows indeed.

We do get to see the obligatory good Muslim Imam who very understandingly tries to entice Jack’s boss Greer back into the Mohammedan fold.  On the one hand, it heightens the drama as the well-informed viewer gains a deeper appreciation for the subtle siren song of taqqiya, and it adds a nice layer of risk for Greer as it opens the door for the local mosque to do what they do to those who leave the faith.  Or else it’s just a nice old holy man meant to show those flyover dolts what real Islam looks like.  It’s the kind of pandering subplot that Hollywood meant to show “both sides” and keep the negative press at bay.  Unfortunately it only serves to suck the viewer out of the story, as it invites an entirely different sort of fourth-wall breaking mystery solving as the viewer spends more focus on trying to mind read the producers than engage with the plot on screen.

Jack suffers from the fight in the climax of the previous episode, still bleeding and bruised, he manages to advance the romantic subplot by stalking his love interest’s social media feed – hey, he’s an analyst and the producers need an excuse to show that she’s a super smart doctor type that don’t need no man, that’s some efficient visual storytelling right there.  The awkwardness of this scene arises from said love interest telling Jack and the audience that he is, “too good for his own good”.  That’s some cringe inducing, on-point exposition.  The one shot of Ryan refusing to fire into a crowd to stop a random mook says more in a heartbeat than that whole scene.  Said scene also fumbles the ball when Ryan’s love interest proves to be classless and disloyal.  But she’s smart, so it makes sense that Jack has to pursue a dinner date or coffee with her like a lovesick junior high kid, and that she finds such supplication…endearing?

Maybe my frequent lament that Hollywood doesn’t do romance well needs to stop.  Every time they try, it reminds me of my versions of Han-Leia romance as a kid.  Bang the two action figures together and then, POP!, they are together.  Come to think of it, I made action figures fight that way, too.  Come to think of THAT, there are an awful lot of similarities between writing romance and writing combat – the dance, the move-countermove, the feint and riposte.  Huh.  There’s a whole blog post in that idea.

Maybe next time, because this review comes across as far more negative than I intended.  As a modern thriller Amazon Prime’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, feels like a lot of fun  It feels smart.  It’s got everything you need to keep your mind busy and transport you to another world.  International settings.  Exotic locales.  Beautiful femme fatales sleeping with vicious maniacs.  Splodey bits, gun bits, hot red-headed SWAT cops, masculine and hypercompetent (except with the ladies because Current Year) men…gah!

Maybe this show isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all, but damnit, I really want to like it.

Le sigh.  More after episode three, estoopeed Ami-deecahn.


About Jon Mollison

Jon Mollison was weaned at the literary knee of Tolkein, Howard, Moore, and Burroughs. He spent decades wandering in the wilderness of modern genre fiction, wondering when the magic and wonder went out of the world of dragons and space ships. In his darkest hour, he encountered a wise man who handed him the open secrets to crafting works that emulate the stories of the great authors who built the genre. They are easily summarized in but two words: Regress Harder. Now one of the twelve champions of the Pulp Revolution, his self-published works represent a more direct lineage to the tales of action, mystery, romance, virtue, and pure unalloyed adventure than the bland imitations churned out by New York City publishing houses in recent decades.
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