TV Show ReviewsJosh Reviews Jack Ryan Season Four

Josh Reviews Jack Ryan Season Four

I love the Jack Ryan character and I continue to believe (despite mounting evidence to the contrary), that there are great stories to tell with this character.  The Hunt for Red October is one of my all-time favorite movies, and while no subsequent sequel ever came close, I have a lot of warmth in my heart for Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and I also think the Ben Affleck-led attempted reboot, The Sum of All Fears, has a lot of merit.  I’d have loved to have seen that film series continue with Mr. Affleck.  The less said of the dreadful Chris Pine reboot, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the better.  (It’s dreadful.)  I really enjoyed the first season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan TV show, starring John Krasinski.  I think Mr. Krasinski was great casting for Ryan, as was Wendell Pierce as Greer.  I liked the idea that a prestige TV series would give the labyrinthine espionage plots more space to play out than a movie.  The show looked great, and had exciting action.  All seemed well!  And yet, I did not care for the second season, nor the third.  The show got way too dour, and too confusing.  I didn’t care about any of the characters and found the stories needlessly overcomplicated.

Sadly, season four does not correct any of these problems.

The first episode of this season was one of the most incomprehensible hours of television I have watched in recent memory.  The show jumps all over the place, dropping us into multiple different locations, in different countries, with new characters we’d never met before.  I couldn’t follow any of it.  Even the stuff with familiar characters like Jack, Greer, and acting CIA director Elizabeth Wright (played by Betty Gabriel, introduced last season) was confusing, as the show never bothered to remind the audience where we’d left these characters.  (I couldn’t remember; there was little memorable in season three and it slipped out of my mind soon after I’d watched it.)  This didn’t get any better as the season unfolded.  I can’t recall ever watching a show where I had so little basic understanding of what the heck was going on.

I continue to dislike the show’s dour, ultra-serious tone.  It’s not fun.  They added the amazing Michael Peña to the cast this season, and it’s as if they drained this charismatic actor of every ounce of his jovial personality.  He scowls his way through the season, and I found it to be a big drag.  (Not to mention a total waste of the great Mr. Peña’s talents.)

Ever since the second season, I feel like Mr. Krasinski and the makers of this show have totally misunderstood the character of Jack Ryan.  I don’t like this grim, never-clean-shaven dude who goes around shooting people left and right.  I want Jack to kick ass, but the degree to which this Jack is depicted as a super-soldier, able to kill people without missing a beat (nor seem to care), and able to absorb a superhuman amount of torture, feels all wrong to me.  (And seriously dude: you don’t even shave when appearing before a congressional committee??  I had to laugh.)

Note to the makers of this show: Jack Ryan is not Jack Bauer!!

Seriously, since the second season the vibe of this show has been very much like that of 24.  I loved 24!  (At least for the first 3-4 seasons.)  But that tone is all wrong for this franchise, in my opinion.

The only bright spot in the entire season for me was the wonderfully tense sequence in the finale in which Jack & co. hunt for a car carrying a bomb at the U.S.-Mexico border.  I loved the very cool look at the behind-the-scenes tech monitoring security at the border (I don’t know if any of that is real, but it was damn cool on the show!), and I really enjoyed the taut, suspenseful sequence.  (Because I couldn’t follow this season, I didn’t really understand what type of bomb was in the car, who had sent it, or where it was going… but still, the sequence itself was cool!)  Sadly the finale also contained the dumbest sequence of the season, a ludicrously over-the-top sequence in which Jack confronts a senator with a key piece of evidence in the middle of a public hearing, and then storms out.  Sigh.

Other thoughts:

  • I was happy they brought back Abbie Cornish as Dr. Cathy Mueller.  I don’t know why she vanished after the first season.  It was great to have her back in the mix.
  • I’ve always enjoyed Michael Kelly’s work as Mike November.  I’ve always expected him to die each season, so I’m happy he made it to the end!  I wish the show ever bothered to give him some depth and character.
  • I love Michael Peña, but it feels like that character really wanted to be the classic Tom Clancy character John Clark, doesn’t it??  (Clark was played by Michael B. Jordan in the 2021 movie Without Remorse.)
  • I liked Louis Ozawa’s performance as Chao Fah.  He was very charismatic and interesting on-screen.  But the show didn’t properly set up his situation and motivation for me; I was convinced he was a villain until halfway through the season.  (Was that intentional??  I don’t know!!  I don’t think it was.)
  • And in terms of the actual villains… I wish I understood the motivation of any of them.  Several seemingly good characters are revealed as evil over the course of the story, and I didn’t understand at all why they were evil, what they wanted, or what they were doing.

It looks like this fourth season is the end of the show.  I’m bummed to look back and realize that I really only liked the first season.  (Are we ever going to get a John Krasinski/Michael B. Jordan Jack Ryan/John Clark crossover??  It’s a big missed opportunity if not.)  There’s a moment at the very end of the finale when Ryan turns around and looks at his comrades and says something about a team photo.  I’d have loved a show that actually depicted those characters working together; that gave them cool missions (whose stories I could actually follow); and that developed their characters to give them some depth and personality.  That would have been a cool TV show.

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