Review: Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (no spoilers)

I am old enough to remember when watching a TV show meant you tuned in on the same day, at the same time as everyone else. The Dukes of Hazzard were on Fridays at 8pm. The Dukes were followed by the Hulk at 9pm and Dallas at 10pm. If you wanted to see every episode of a show you either tuned in that night or forever held your peace. Obviously that is no longer necessary. You can pretty much watch any show you like whenever it is you get around to it via DVRs, (those are still a thing, right?) torrents, or streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. Quickly becoming my favorite source for streaming show is Amazon Prime Video. They offer  a wide variety of free options for Prime members and what isn't free is usually available for standard rental fees. Amazon, like the other streaming services, has a large variety of original programming and on Friday released the first eight hour-long episodes of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan.

Like the Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck movies that preceded it, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan is based on Tom Clancy's series of spy/action novels. The show has a very Homeland vibe but with a bit of welcomed humor and pleasant humanity thrown into the mix. It is a very serious show but not depressing or heavy as Homeland is at times. The cast is a group of mostly accomplished and talented character actors. John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place) plays Jack Ryan and combines the righteous Ford and boyish Affleck to great effect. Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Selma) is James Greer and manages to play the gruff boss cop role without ever seeming like a cliche. Abbie Cornish (Three Billboards, Geostorm) is Cathy Mueller and effectively shows how you can both love someone and think being with them could be a huge mistake. Ali Suliman (Kingdom) plays a charismatic villain also named Suliman with such grace that I found myself rooting for him at times (and was somewhat horrified by it)! The cast is rounded out with solid to fantastic performances by Dini Shihabi, Haaz Sleiman, Nadia Affolter, and Cristina Umana.

The series begins near the start of Jack Ryan's CIA career on the very day he meets Jim Greer. This is not the warm and cuddly relationship from the Ford movies. Jack Ryan has only just met Cathy Mueller (destined to become Cathy Ryan) and at the start of the series is truly just a boring financial analyst for the CIA. We see Jack struggle to make the right decisions even when the easier choice is readily available. We see how those decisions torture him and damage his relationships. Suliman's story is told in parallel to Ryan's. We learn his story, his motivations, how hard he tried to overcome a difficult history only to fall onto a difficult and dark path. We actually see how Suliman's choices affect his family and what they are forced to do and endure as a result. But possibly my favorite thing about this series is that it tells a largely complete story. While we may be left with questions we can watch these eight episodes and walk away feeling greatly satisfied. This is well worth watching.