The release this past week of Amazon’s Original series, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan represent a rarity among Hollywood media. The titular character – Jack Ryan, that is, not Tom Clancy – starts as Jack Ryan typically does as an analyst whose deductive powers put him in the center of a globe-hopping adventure and force him to don the mantle of full fledged action hero. In the pilot of the series, the early office analytical drama soon gives way to in-field interrogations and a full-bore military adventure complete with Special Forces, secret bases, and daring rescue missions.
The first episode of the eight-episode series introduces us to Jack Ryan and his close circle of co-workers, friends, and boss. We also meet and learn a little something about the chief antagonist of the plot, with some clues about his nefarious plan to mete out a little geopolitical justice to…well, we aren’t told that just yet. The writers have a healthy respect for the audience, setting up small mysteries to ponder as the action unfolds, and patiently waiting for the right moment for a brief burst of obligatory exposition. The few instances of, “As you know,” serve to help the viewer understand the finer points of international finance used to track down the villains, even as they help demonstrate Ryan’s intellectual prowess.
The characters feel real, and the plot moves along at a breakneck clip, with no obvious filler subplots to pad out the season – a sin to which many modern streaming series fall. The pilot also avoids the heavy-handed sledgehammer of scoring Woke Points, even as it provides the viewer with some understanding of the motivations of the architect of destruction that Jack Ryan pursues, and his hyper-competent right hand man. Although hints of America blaming abound, they are soft touches shown from the villain’s point of view. Unlike so many military adventures of the 21st century, the Yanks are clearly the good guys here, and the villains are clearly up to no good – at least in the pilot. We’ll see if Amazon can continue to provide the red meat for the American soul that they’ve shown in the first episode, or if the few warning flags spotlighted early are harbingers of more of the usual globalist nonsense.
Which would be a profound disappointment, not just because it would betray the trust built up by the pilot episode, but because it points to a production process staffed by villains or idiots. They would literally be leaving money on the table by veering away from the kind of military adventure that once dominated entertainment, and which could once again particularly given the dearth of such. The last such film, 13 Hours, limped to a mere $70 million box office against a $50 million budget despite the limitations of being directed by Michael Bay and the constant negative press given by the Fake News syndicates. Prior to that, you have to go back four years, to the blockbuster American Sniper which faced the same hostile press and yet managed to rake in over half a billion dollars.
It’s hard to know where military adventure ranks in the grand scheme of things, given that modern day action normally gets lumped into either “General Fiction” or “Suspense/Thrillers”. We can get an glimpse of its relative popularity if we look at the sales breakdown for popular sci-fi and fantasy genres:
Isn’t that interesting? A genre rife with possibilities for action, suspense, drama, espionage, and world-wide adventure, one that clearly has a wide and under-served audience, has been left fallow for decades.
The reason for this abandonment is left as an exercise for the readership.
Whatever the reason, the military adventure drought has been relieved by the brief rains provided by the pilot for Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Here’s hoping that the rains continue for the rest of the season, and beyond, because there are a lot of starving consumers out there, and a lot of money to be made by the next brave producers willing to give it to them.
Note: The spoiler-free warning in the title of this review does not pertain to the comment section. If, like me, you savor your entertainment over time rather than binge watch shows like a fat kid devours his stocking before 7AM on Christmas morning, you may want to give the comments a pass. You’ll also want to brace yourselves for a litany of commenters pointing out the usual issues this episode contains like the soul true villain shown consisting of the rich white fat-cat looking for insider trading tips from Jack Ryan or the soft lighting and sympathetic portrayal of the woman who married the mad bomber of the piece. This show is not perfect, but it’s pretty good, and its closer than anything we’ve seen in a while.