‘Member Jack Ryan? Episode Five

The kids reminded me that we are long overdue for the next installment of Jack Ryan and the Sarin Gas Ensemble Show sponsored by Monsanto, doing our part to keep internet mobs gainfully employed since [redacted].

In  this episode, our main character makes her way ever so slowly toward the relative safety and generous welfare payments that make the European Union such a miserable place to live as French Lady Cop so artfully explained in a previous episode.  Meanwhile, in the B Plot of the show, Jack Ryan lays out a trap for Suleiman.

Now that I’ve had some distance and gotten over most of the woke aspects, which are considerably reduced compared to most modern drek, I’m elevating my opinion to a soft recommendation.  For all my cynicism, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan manages to produce at least one moment of gripping television per episode that makes wading through the clumsy bits worthwhile.  It’s an uneven show, and many of the scenes are built upon flawed premises, but it when it shines, it’s as good as anything on TV.

In this episode the best moment occurs when Jack pretends to be the criminal mastermind’s dead brother.  The result is a tense scene pregnant with possibilities as two very smart men test each other.  It’s as suspenseful and well written as anything I’ve ever seen on TV, with high stakes, real drama, and character moments galore.

And then there’s a flashback scene that seems designed to excuse or explain the evil mastermind’s origin.  He doesn’t get the job he wanted, because raciss.  Then the mastermind and his brother are shown to be engaging in illegal activity, are braced by two cops who can sense trouble when they see it.  The premise of the first seems to be that if only the old white bankers had given the Arab applicant a job, a church full of mourners wouldn’t have been gassed.  Except that the banksters didn’t trust the applicant, and given his later actions – nerve gasses a crowded funeral – they were right.  The latter scene wants the viewer to sympathize with the two young lads out for a chat, but they were engaging in two different crimes, and as such the cops weren’t at all in the wrong.  The disconnect between what we’re shown and what we’re supposed to feel is palpable.

Despite that, the tension as the cops begin searching the kid brother for evidence of a crime when we know the kid as a gun on him makes the scene work.  If you can shut off your brain.  Which, given the puzzle solving nature of the show, runs at odds to the general appeal of the show.

Likewise, we get treated to a scene with Sadface Drone Pilot in a diner with his wingmate Vasquez.  (Brief aside:  How impressive is the actress that played Vasquez in Aliens that she is the yardstick by which every tough-as-nails ladysoldier gets measured?)  We’re probably supposed to think she is tough as nails, the wise Latina who slaps some sense into Sadface Drone Pilot.  She is written as the mentor figure, the clear headed thinker who gets the job done, but she comes off instead as a complete psychopath.  Again the writers set themselves up for failure by pairing her off with Sadface Drone Pilot.  They have gone to great lengths to show us that his heart makes him human, and to then turn around and expect us to appreciate the view of his diametrically opposite number buries the potential power of the scene under a profound layer of cognitive dissonance.  If you want viewers to feel something, you can’t give them whiplash.

And again, the scene where Sadface Drone Pilot makes amends is powerful.  The restrained acting of the two men who don’t share a language conveys so much heart and warmth, and the eternal wisdom of the old soldiers on opposite sides of the trenches who understand each other harkens back to the images of old French and German soldiers meeting up at a café near the border every year to reminisce and lament the vagaries of war that they should have been forced to fight.

There’s enough good stuff in here that it’s worth watching, but the lack of a clear vision really hampers the show in some frustrating ways.  Let’s call it a solid B-.

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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