I grew up on Jack Ryan. I can vaguely remember going to see The Hunt For Red October in theaters in 1990 (I would have been about 12 years old), but I very much remember my father telling me about author Tom Clancy.
Almost 30 years later, and both the world of Jack Ryan and the world in which the rest of us live has certainly changed. The generation of the Cold War veteran has given way to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Soviet Union is no more, replaced by direct conflict with religious extremists in the Middle East, and proxy wars there (and elsewhere). Tom Clancy, too, has been gone for some time, having handed over the Jack Ryan empire long before his death.
Even Jack Ryan in the interim seems to have been split into the likes of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer on one extreme, and Carrie Mathison on the other.
Book after book, though, I had the young(ish) version of Alec Baldwin in my mind. Forget Ford. Forget Affleck. Forget Pine. It was Baldwin — barely recognizable in his current form — who simultaneously brought the intelligence and inexperience to Jack Ryan. Everyone since (OK, I'll entertain arguments for Ford) has been playing Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan.
Now we have Amazon and John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce in Amazon's Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. A new series for a drastically new time. The one-time kid from The Office, and the flawed badass from The Wire. (Among other things, for both of them.)
The 1980s are gone — get over it
My hopes weren't high for another reboot of a character who's already been rebooted to death. My hopes weren't high for yet another "get the terrorists!" series.
Next time, Jack, just write a goddamn memo.
And to be clear, the tropes about. Pierce's James Greer is no longer a seasoned Navy admiral, but someone who screwed up enough to be sent from the field back home to lead up a bunch of financial tech nerds — one of whom forgot it was his job to keep the wheels of bureaucracy spinning and froze a suspected terrorist's bank account which then led to a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter scooping him up from his former boss' birthday party and interrupting his flirting with the woman the rest of us know is one day supposed to be his wife so that he could jet off to Yemen to analyze a suspect.
Yeah. It's a bit much for the first episode, both in OG backstory hints as well as in what one can realistically expect an analyst who's already on the new boss' shit list to be expected to do.
On the other hand, maybe an analyst finding finding himself in an interrogation room in a small base in Yemen as it comes under attack by ... well, you'll just have to watch it to find out ... Maybe that's not really any different than dangling from a helicopter as it's trying to lower you onto a submarine in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. (Note that that was a change from the book version, though.)
Where the new Jack Ryan has managed to stand out is much in the same vein as Showtime's Homeland in that terrorists actually can be people, too. Most "bad guys" don't tend to think of themselves as the "bad guys," and there's certainly a strong family aspect that shows through. I don't pretend to be anywhere near well-versed on religion in general, and Islam in particular, but there's another twist that plays into this, and it's played well.
That's not to say that what needs to be done won't be done, on both sides. Or multiple sides, really, as we see in Black 22.
Jack Ryan has been updated for 2018, for sure. It doesn't have the dead-serious playfulness of the Cold War. There are real consequences, and real explosions. (And a lot of explosions, though I do think I saw the cut screen of the first one in Black 22, and that stood out more than it should have.) And some serious gore.
Put it this way — Jack Bauer would have approved.
Darth Vader, Bunk and Greer
Get through the first few episodes and you still don't quite have a feeling for Jim Greer. Wendell Pierce is a force of nature and I could listen to him yell at Office Jim (erm, Jack) all day long. But there's still not the same stature — probably by design — of James Earl Jones' Greer. (And how could there be, really.)
This is a man who screwed up. Big. And probably knows it. And he's not quite trying to win the game on one swing, but he's not afraid at taking a cut at the ball, either. It's certainly not quite Bunk. (Or even Antoine Batiste from Treme, who had plenty of issues, too.) No, it's Pierce doing what Pierce does, with the soul of someone only from New Orleans could bring.
Mistakes or no, somehow — despite whatever happened not too long ago in his career and being sent packing, buried in Washington — Greer still has the pull to hop the crew on a private jet to Paris or wherever, at a moment's notice. These guys aren't messing around.
And when Pierce's Greer tells you to get on the damn plane, you get on the damn plane.
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