There’s a game my wife and I play where we pit various fictional characters against 24’s Jack Bauer. It usually goes like this: James Bond… (then in a low, ominous voice)… or Jack Bauer! Then we discuss just how such a fight would go down. When another famous Jack, Amazon Streaming’s Jack Ryan, got the treatment, we both immediately agreed Bauer kicks Ryan’s ass handily.
The topic came up midway through our binge of Jack Ryan Season Two today when we grew a little bored with the action. Though the show’s sophomore effort is definitely more polished than season one, it also borrows liberally from other similar series like Homeland and, yes, 24. That’s not to say the show isn’t enjoyable. It certainly is! Just don’t expect anything ground-breaking. You’ve seen this before.
In this go-round Ryan travels to Venezuela to investigate illegal arms sales and political corruption. The stereotypical crooked Latin American president is in a re-election battle with a populist candidate who’s husband mysteriously disappeared after opposing the policies of the current government. As our hero slowly unravels the criminal activity, he discovers the conspiracy reaches halfway across the world and involves a technology that can detect mineral deposits deep within the earth. One such deposit is gold, something Venezuela happens to have an abundant supply of. Black ops and Shootouts ensue, of course, understated by the emotional revelation that Ryan’s partner James Greer has a potentially fatal heart condition. Unfortunately, they don’t share nearly the same amount of screen time as they did in season one. This wounds the dynamic the two shared, effectively muting the one genre trope that actually worked to the series’ advantage in season one.
Instead, we’re served up a bevy of new characters, none of which enjoy the development others had in season one. At times I was a little confused at who certain characters were.
Though John Krasinski is, again, solid in the leading role, his character is a bit one dimensional. Missing are the flashbacks to Jack’s past that helped explain his motivations, an element that’s sorely needed to flesh out season two’s more complicated story-line. Also missing is even a passing reference to the complicated romantic relationship Ryan had with Abbie Cornish’s Cathy Mueller in season one.
Jack Ryan Season Two’s movie-like action shows how streaming services are upping their game, but the familiar story-line and weak character development may be indicative of a writing staff already bored with the source material. Still, it’s an easy binge, especially for fans of Tom Clancy’s novels and of the genre in general.
So… Jack Ryan… or Jack Bauer!?