TV Review: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3

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When it comes to the spy franchise, at some point its hero would have to go rogue. James Bond has done it a few times (most memorably in Licence To Kill), Mission Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt has as well, and Jason Bourne who suffers from dissociative amnesia is pretty much always on the run. Well, it’s Jack Ryan’s turn in Season 3, which pits him against his own employer the CIA and evil Russians planning to recreate the Soviet Union involving nuclear weapons.

I know some people might still find it jarring to see Jim from The Office as Jack Ryan but before season 1 was released in 2018, I’d already seen John Krasinski in an action-packed Michael-Bay movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi where he got extremely jacked (pun intended) as a former Navy SEAL. Though Ryan is a CIA analyst who’s supposed to have a desk job, the amount of minutes he’s actually seen working behind a desk is minuscule. In this version, the filmmakers dial up the action as Jack is left out on his own to stop a global threat, with the help of two of his loyal allies, James Greer (Wendell Pierce) and Mike November (Michael Kelly). 

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Having Russians as the enemy is nothing new in espionage thrillers, but the fact that there’s ongoing war going since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year go makes this series especially eerie. Starting in a nuclear plant in Matoska, USSR in 1969, the series weaves back and forth between what happened that year and present day when a Soviet-era weapon initiative called ‘Sokol’ is resurrected. By who and what purpose? Well, Ryan’s intel is hazy but he’s certain it wasn’t bogus. He’s able to convince Greer who postpones his retirement to join him on his mission. 

Krasinski is even more comfortable as Jack Ryan and he’s instantly likable. He’s quite convincing as an action star with a good-natured, winsome charm – not a lothario like Bond, not as intensely action-obsessed as Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, nor is he as cold as Bourne. I love his rapport with Pierce, Ryan + Greer is easily my fave TV spy duo now which reminds me a bit of Bond + Felix. Kelly’s got a lot of screen time here even though his character’s now a wealthy private contractor, but he’s willing to risk it all to help Jack out. 

I LOVE the new four new players of this season, starting with Luka Goncharov (James Cosmo), Petr Kovac (Peter Guinness), Czech president Alena Kovac (Nina Hoss) and Jack’s CIA boss Elizabeth (Betty Gabriel). Having such seasoned thespians certainly adds gravitas to the series. Gabriel uttered one of the most memorable lines “I’ve never really liked heroes. They tend to think more of their actions than they do the repercussions.” with such convictions, I was like bravo!

James Cosmo is one of my all-time fave character actors and he’s imposing and mysterious, his quiet demeanor can be quite chilling. I’m a huge fan of Nina Hoss as well who I’m rooting for in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in TÁR. Some of the best moments are between Hoss and Guinness in a tragic father-daughter relationship. Her devastation when she learned her own dad has been using her for his own political gain is harrowing to watch. I’ve never seen Betty Gabriel before but she’s great here as a conflicted character who’s got to make some tough, career-altering decisions.

The production value is top-notch, it was fun living vicariously through the characters globe-trotting various European locations – Greece, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, etc. Amazon shelled out big bucks for the series, reportedly costing $8-10 mil per episode in the first season alone. As a fan of spy thrillers, I thoroughly enjoyed this season. The writers are constantly throwing red herrings at you and key characters’ shifting allegiance keeps me guessing which side they’re actually on. The frequent flashbacks in some episodes are surprisingly easy to follow once I figure out which young actors play which characters in present day. 

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Sometimes I do have to turn on the caption in order to catch what’s being said given the heavy accent. Now, I know some people are bothered by Russians/Czech/Greek people speaking English, but I kind of let it slide. Yes I think it’d feel more authentic to have characters speaking whatever language their character is supposed to be from, but it isn’t always possible casting-wise.

Now, I do have a few bones to pick with this season though. I wish the writers would refrain from making Jack too much of an action hero in what’s supposed to be a grounded spy series. Yes I know he’s a former Marine so he’s got skills to survive a shootout, but seeing him outmaneuver even the most well-trained special ops just pushes past incredulity. Some of the geographies are questionable – SPOILER ALERT – Can you actually cross the Black Sea all the way from Russia to Greece in a dinghy in what looks like a couple of hours??  There are also some continuity issues as I’m left wondering whatever happened to the one living scientist who survived the Sokol attack that Luka paid a visit to? I was hoping they’d revisit that scene as closure but they never did. It’s a shame given Tom Clancy’s novels are known for their military accuracy and precision due to his obsessive research.

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The Czech tunnel-rescue scene in ep. 3 is fun to watch but some of the details about how it went down leave me scratching my head. But I think the one thing that always makes me giggle is how Jack, while chasing a stealth weapon, never seems to bother to be stealthy. He doesn’t wear a helmet during a military strike on enemy territory and he refuses to wear a hat or even a hoodie while being pursued on foreign soil! 

Overall though, the series is pretty gripping and entertaining. At one point, a key Russian ally says “This is much less boring than the opera.” – I concur! Director Jann Turner who directed 5 out of the 8 episodes this season is no stranger to directing fast-paced military series (The Last Ship, SEAL Team, SWAT, etc) and her direction is dynamic and brisk. It’s quite immersive that at the end of every episode I wish it were longer! 

Apparently season 4 is already in the works which would be the final season. I’m looking forward to that and hope they will end it on a high note!

3.5/5 Reels


Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series are streaming on Amazon Prime


Have you seen Jack Ryan Season 3? If so, what do you think?

3 thoughts on “TV Review: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3

  1. As I mentioned earlier, this is my second favorite of Jack Ryan adaptation behind The Hunt for Red October. Krasinski will always be Jim to me, he’s passable as Jack Ryan. Alec Baldwin is the true Jack Ryan to me, follow by Harrison Ford.

    I’m always annoyed with having people from other countries that don’t speak native English, speaks English to one another in TV shows and movies. They should’ve done what the earlier Jack Ryan films did, have the characters starts speaking their native tongue to one another, then do a camera trick and switch to English. That way, we the audience know that they’re still speaking their native language to one another.

    1. I really need to see The Hunt for Red October again. I like Krasinski but I wish he’d do more analyzing than being all action hero all the time.

      Yeah I think that technique you mention make sense as they won’t require the actors to learn the language, just a couple of sentences. I suppose at least here they do try to make all the actors from different nationalities speak with the accent of the nationalities they’re supposed to be portraying.

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