May 22, 2024

TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN (4K): The Ass-Kicking Analyst

2018-2023 / 1470 min (30 episodes)
Available at
Review by Pepper the Poopy😺

A lot has changed since I last visited the “Ryanverse.” 

I was first introduced to Jack Ryan when a beaten-up paperback of Tom Clancy’s book, The Hunt for Red October, made the rounds where I worked. Back then, he was a bookish CIA analyst accustomed to working at his desk, but put in dire situations where he felt he was in over his head. The character was depicted as such in the early movies, too, even after action icon Harrison Ford took over the role.

My interest in the books waned after Clancy’s dense prose grew too exhausting to enjoy. Still, I loved all the movies, and though it’s not a popular opinion, I even felt Ben Affleck nicely embodied the vulnerable qualities that made Jack Ryan interesting in the first place.

That Jack Ryan is mostly gone in Amazon’s eponymous series, which ran for four seasons (ending in 2023). Earnestly played by John Krasinsky, he’s still the smartest guy in the room, but now an ass-kicking man-of-action who kills a lot of bad guys and regularly defies his superiors. Other than an inkling of trepidation over going into the field during the first episode, he’s essentially fearless and almost invulnerable…

…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, what’s the point of rebooting a character the exact same way he’s been depicted before? So while the new version doesn’t quite walk-and-talk like the Jack Ryan from the Red October & Sum of All Fears days, he’s still an engaging protagonist. Also on-hand is a similarly re-imagined James Greer (Wendall Pierce) as Ryan’s supervisor, who’s younger, saltier (and amusingly snarkier) than the admiral played by James Earl Jones. 

Another meeting that could've been an email.
After that, it’s full speed ahead into uncharted territory with new stories (one per season), none of which are based on anything Clancy actually wrote. Still, the author is sort-of there in spirit, with each season dropping Ryan into complex narratives rife with conflict, violence, terrorism, disgruntled dictators, criminal underworlds, international intrigue and, of course, large-scale threats to American safety. 

The first season is probably the best one, quickly establishing that this ain’t your daddy’s Jack Ryan while pitting him against a terrorist plot to unleash a deadly virus. This is also where Ryan and Greer meet for the first time, which is an quasi-combative relationship at first. A couple of superfluous subplots notwithstanding, this season is consistently engaging, with unpredictable story turns and well-executed action sequences.  

Season Two is more convoluted, dealing with a South American dictator’s ruthless attempts to stay in power, but it does introduce the best new character to the Ryanverse, all-around go-to guy Mike November (Michael Kelly, who’s terrific). Ryan ends up being railroaded and becomes an international fugitive in Season Three, which has a batch of old-school Soviets attempting to trigger a war between Russia and the U.S. It also introduces Betty Gabriel as Elizabeth Wright, Jack's exasperated new boss.

Another gunfight that could've been an email.
Not everyone is who they seem in Season Four, where a powerful Mexican drug cartel teams with an Asian triad to cripple the U.S. Though it only runs six episodes (compared to the previous seasons’ eight), this one is certainly the most complex, with double-crosses, startling character reveals and the highest on-screen body count. More importantly, this is the season that most-stays on-point, with comparatively few asides. It also introduces the second best new character, Domingo Chavez (Michael Pena), an ex-SEAL with a chip on his shoulder after the former CIA director caused the death of his team.  

With a much greater emphasis on action than any of the films (or the books I read), Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is almost an entirely different beast. One could even argue the character’s name was copped strictly for brand name recognition. Still, it’s mostly a pretty exciting show, with intricate plots (you really have to pay attention), vivid action and good performances. 

Aside from now being able to enjoy the entire series without an increasingly not-worth-it Amazon Prime account, it’s now being released in 4K as a single collection. The episodes look and sound great, with an overall image displaying clarity and depth (at the very least, it sure as hell beats streaming), as well as a Dolby Atmos audio track that does the job just fine. 


DELETED SCENES - For selected episodes.

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