Jack Ryan (Season Two, 8 Episodes, 2019), Episodes 1- 4, Amazon Prime
When actor Benito Martinez, a big TV character actor who seems to turn up as a guest star in all sorts of shows, but most memorable for me from his great role in The Shield (2002-2008), appears in the first episode of Jack Ryan’s second season, I confidently told Claire “here’s a dead man walking.” It’s such a trope in these kind of shows, its like a red flag is suddenly raised onscreen. When Jack (John Krasinski) meets up with an old service buddy and pays a visit to his family etc even though he’s never been mentioned before (or in this case, at all in season one), we just know that Martinez is just a function of the script to make things personal for Jack when things go south and his great long-time friend is killed. Yeah, this time its personal.
Which isn’t to detract from what is, like its first season before it, a really solid espionage thriller that is very well written, acted and produced- its a solid show and one of the clear stand-outs on Amazon Prime. It’s just one moment of predictability that… well, it doesn’t detract from the show exactly, but it does serve to remind one that this show is working well within established parameters; we’ve seen this kind of thing so often before, when a protagonist’s old friend is in trouble or murdered and its up to our hero to set things right. Its not so much a criticism of the show- its likely something that was written in whatever book this season is based upon (I’m assuming this is based on one of the Jack Ryan books by author Tom Clancy, but may well be wrong, as I know nothing about them outside of those used for the movies like Patriot Games or The Hunt for Red October). It just serves as a reminder that this drama is very much akin to what we’ve seen before, regards its beats and twists; this isn’t breaking new ground or usurping familiar methodology. Its very much a competent production but it isn’t going to do much to shock or amaze; comfortable viewing then, particularly for these current times. At least in a Jack Ryan show you can have faith in the integrity and honesty of our leaders (well, okay, to a point) and believe that there are guys out there doing the right thing and trying to protect the free world/general public. In the real world, girls at school are being warned not to approach single male police officers for help, political leaders are clearly corrupt or in hopeless thrall to popularity polls, and society’s norms are gradually falling apart. I think we need Jack Ryan -or maybe Jack Bauer even, lets bring back 24– more now than ever. Failing that, there’s always the comfort that Ethan Hunt’s coming back soon.
Just a pity that it seems James Bond has given up. You used to be able to count on Bond every year or so…