By Dave B.
In Jack Ryan (Amazon), the eponymous character (played ably by John Krasinski) finds himself embroiled in a battle of wits and will against a ruthless international terrorist. From the computer screen to the battlefield, Ryan uses his incomparable intellect, fighting prowess, and unwavering moral certitude to uncover the dastardly terrorist’s ultimate plot.
There are a lot of things about Jack Ryan that work extremely well. The supporting cast is wonderful. Wendell Pierce (as Ryan’s boss, James Greer), Ali Suliman (as the terrorist mastermind, Suleiman) and Dina Shihabi (as Suleiman’s wife) all deliver Emmy-caliber performances. Their characters have complex personalities and backstories, as well. The series’ action sequences excel; In fact, I’m actually impressed by how much they excel. I wasn't expecting this show to full of adrenaline-pumping tension, but it is. The tone of the episodes doesn’t disappoint either. Jack Ryan isn’t particularly unique, but it solidly checks most of the boxes in the international terrorist genre, while managing to be entertaining. However…
Damn, Jack Ryan is a boring character! I don’t fault Krasinski’s performance. He gives his all, but even the best actor can’t turn a half-dimensional character into a three-dimensional one. The primary problem is that Ryan is unfailing moral (by his definition of morality) and completely inflexible in his interpretation of right and wrong. I’m not saying that he needs to be written as an anti-hero (a character archetype that may be a bit overused, I admit), but there is a reason that anti-heroes have become a staple of modern entertainment: they’re complex and therefore interesting. They make compromises with their beliefs to achieve a higher good. They make mistakes. If they aren’t exactly like us, we can at least recognize ourselves in them. Ryan is unrecognizable as a human. He’s pretty much the generic Superman stereotype: unbeatable, and fundamentally dull. And Ryan’s unthinking adherence to his own moral code repeatedly leads to disasters and near-disasters. That would be alright if he was written to be a bumbling idiot, but he’s written as if he should be regarded as a near-perfect savior character.
It’s a shame that the Ryan character is such a snooze, because nearly everything else in Jack Ryan works. It’s relatively intelligent (not necessarily clever, however) and will definitely keep viewers’ attention throughout. I recommend it, especially for viewers who are just interested in pure entertainment. But if your desire is to see something in the international terrorist genre that you haven’t seen before, or something with a main character that is more compelling than a sack of wet paper, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.