Jack Ryan Closeout Spectacular

Episodes seven and eight manage to continue Jack Ryan‘s uneven trend.  A final showdown in which the villain’s plan slowly unravels, and an ultimate confrontation resolved though the sort of cunning instincts we’ve seen from Jack Ryan cap things off in a satisfying manner, even as these last two episodes confirm the romance subplot as the weakest link in the series.

The future Mrs. Jack Ryan was clearly written to appeal to one segment of the audience – the rootless cosmopolitan cool wine aunts – and they even mess that up.  The show pulls a head fake by presenting Blonde Doc as a huge fan of the casual sex version of Russian Roulette, and one who is only interested in that sweet State Department Logistics D.  She just wants to keep it casual.

Abort, Jack! Abort!

Which makes her outrage at discovering Jack’s real job as a badass CIA operative who strangles terrorists with their own intestines ring hollow.  She has done nothing to earn that trust and even pushed him away, so she has no call to react so forcefully when his deception is revealed.  The poorly written aftermath of the discovery instantly casts a pall over the phenomenally acted moment of discovery.  Both John Krasinski and Abbie Cornish manage to convey a wealth of deep emotion, all barely concealed due to the setting in which their mutual discovery occurs, and do so in a way that adds a considerable tension to an otherwise mundane moment of exposition.  Forget the plague bomb, we want to know what happens between these two star crossed lusters…oh.  She throws a fit that he took her at her word.

Which, in retrospect, might actually be a valid reaction for a woman in that situation.  Under normal circumstances.  The problem is really that the show never takes a moment to acknowledge that Dr. Cathy doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.  Jack takes her tongue lashing like a good little thirsty boi.   Later, he crawls after her and begs for a second chance in a scene that makes him look so weak it might be his soy-twin taking advantage of the resemblance to go full-male-feminist-ally on Dr. Cathy.

On the other hand, the show sneers openly at the idea of using Tinder.  Both characters grimace and express a contempt for that site that is refreshingly in accordance with the sort of virtues teevee needs a lot more of these days.  Score one for chastity, even if it’s a bastardized version of that particular virtue and expressed by characters who fail to live up to it…nobodies perfect, but at least in this one instance, they recognize the classlessness of empty hookup culture.  It’s not much, but at least it’s something.

The show also takes a moment to do something you rarely see these days.  It paints prayer as a good thing, a healthy thing.  Of course, it has to be Muslim prayer to prove Greer is “one of the good ones” and not that icky backwards Christian prayer.  Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a respectful admission of decent Christian faith in a Hollywood produced teleplay that wasn’t twisting the faith to more woke ends.  We all know why, so I won’t belabor the point, suffice it to say that its the sort of uneven delivery we’ve come to expect from the show.

Another oddity – the main terrorist’s son ratted out the Mom we’ve been rooting for this whole time.  He’s a dope and a chump who nearly got his mom killed and his sisters raped, but he has some sads, so somehow we’re supposed to care what happens to him?  A redemptive arc needs more than a few years.  It needs action to convey the redeemed one’s true change of heart and prove that he is worth rooting for.  Suleiman Jr. gets none of those.  Given the abrupt end of that arc, it’s entirely possible that he serves as the Big Bad a few seasons down the line.  The biggest crime here is the clumsiness of the attempt to manipulate the viewer’s emotions.

When you turn to the person next to you and ask, “So we’re supposed to feel sad now?”  That’s a bad sign, and it happens with Sulieman Jr. a lot.

There’s a brief moment that conveys far more pathos and tugs at the heart strings with far more power.  Everyone in my living room let out an, “Awww!” of pity, and it’s almost an afterthought.  One of Jack’s fellow analysts provides a HUGE clue, the last piece of the puzzle that makes everything fit together at long last, and he grabs his coat as Jack and Greer dash to make an important meeting…and then turns to find himself without a date to the big dance.  His shoulders sag, and it’s a moment of genuine disappointment that we share.  It kind of makes Jack and Greer look like jerks, too.

It works so much better than most of the character moments in the show, it must have been an accident.

But hey, it’s a spy show and we get nefarious plots, sudden twists and wheels within wheels.  We get globe-trotting adventure and splodey times and gut wrenching fist fights and tense negotiations.  If only Jack Ryan could deliver all of that with a genuine romance and without the sly winking wokeness, this show would earn a solid A.  As it is, plagued with so many disappointing moments, it just barely clears the hurdle to reach B-.

I’ll give Season Two, if we get one, a two episode chance to right the ship.

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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