Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 26, 2020)
After a slew of feature films, Tom Clancy’s most famous character transitioned to the small screen via Season One of Jack Ryan. A year later, we come back with the inevitable Season Two.
This Blu-ray package includes all eight of Season Two’s episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the liner notes.
Cargo: “Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) searches for the truth behind Venezuela’s transactions with various world powers. About to get sidelined from his new post in Russia, James Greer (Wendell Pierce) joins Jack in Venezuela and the two find themselves in the midst of a Venezuelan leader’s re-election effort.”
I must admit I didn’t feel wild about Season One of Ryan. It didn’t offer a bad collection of shows, but it felt more stagnant and less involving than expected.
Obviously I’ll need to wait and see how Season Two develops, but “Cargo” starts it on a pretty positive note. Like an opening episode should, it sets up the expected year-long narrative arc and brings us into the situations in an engaging way. Hopefully this acts as a sign S2 will work better than S1.
Tertia Optio: “Jack is granted permission from Senator Chapin (Michael O’Neill) to stay in Venezuela. President Reyes (Jordi Mollà) denies involvement in the events that keep Jack in country. Jack and Harriet Baumann (Noomi Rapace) team up to follow a lead that could create dissension within the ranks.”
Though “Cargo” mostly worked well, it did end with one of the most trite, obvious deaths since Mendoza killed Skoey in McBain. Harriet also feels cliché as the slippery spy.
These less-than-creative elements aside, S2 continues to feel intriguing – though two episodes, at least. We may not get anything terribly fresh, but “Optio” maintains enough tension and drama to keep us with it.
Orinoco: “The US Special Activities team lands in Venezuela where Jack’s intel leads them to a militia-guarded compound. Deep in the jungle, Jack’s search for answers puts the whole team in danger. President Reyes’ opponent Gloria Bonalde (Cristina Umaña) proves to be a real contender in the upcoming election.”
Three shows into the season and “Orinoco” feels a little like a placeholder episode. It offers some action and advances a few plot elements, but it seems less meaningful than its predecessors.
Dressed to Kill: “Relieved of duty in Venezuela, Jack follows a new trail to London and seeks the help of MI5, only to discover the man he’s after is also after him. Back in Venezuela, Reyes makes Gloria an offer.”
In the Ryan movies, Jack became appealing because he seemed like a reluctant warrior. Though skilled in that domain, they portrayed him as a wonk who fought back only when necessary.
To some degree, the series continues that trend, but it leaves out Jack’s intelligence too much of the time. Not that the TV show makes Jack a dummy, but he doesn’t get as many opportunities to demonstrate his smarts as I’d like.
“Kill” compensates for that flaw – somewhat, at least. The episode doesn’t go crazy in this regard but at least it allows Jack some chances to shine as an analyst.
It also gets him out of Venezuela, which I hoped would distance us from S2’s telenovela-style melodrama about the election. Alas, that proves less true, as we still find ourselves stuck with that turgid theme. Still, Jack’s increasing intelligence and change of scenery gives S2 a shot in the arm.
Blue Gold: “Using Max’s (Tom Wlaschiha) daughter Annabelle (Áine Rose Daly) as bait, Jack and Harry convince Max to meet face to face. Stranded in the jungle, Marcus (Jovan Adepo) stumbles across a prisoner camp. Greer visits Gloria, hoping to draw a connection between Reyes and her missing husband.”
When I reviewed Season One, I felt displeased with how much time the series stayed away from it title character. That’s not been as big an issue for S2, but it does become a distraction in “Gold”, as the program devotes an awful lot of time to secondary roles/plot threads.
Still, it moves along various events in a competent manner. It tends to feel a little like filler, though a few important events arise.
Persona Non Grata: “Reyes accuses the US of tampering with the election. The US Embassy is evacuated. Jack, Greer and Mike November (Michael Kelly) must decide whether to follow orders or to go off the grid. Reyes’ men pursue Matice (John Hoogenakker) and the American soldiers in the jungle.”
On one hand, the action intensifies here, and that adds drama. On the other hand, the focus still feels spread too thin. Hopefully the final two episodes will tighten up the overall narrative and finish the season with a bang.
Dios Y Federacion: “The election in Venezuela is moved up. Stranded in a hostile country, Jack and Mike fight for their lives, while Greer is interrogated. The Ubarri family must decide to flee or face Reyes.”
With one episode to go, the action heats up – sort of. As S2 progresses, it feels like the story became less focused rather than tighter, and that spread becomes a bit of a weakness. This doesn’t turn into a terrible flaw, though, so I remain moderately intrigued to see how S2 wraps.
Strongman: “Jack heads to the Presidential Palace to retrieve Greer. When the polls are shut down, violent protests erupt outside the palace and Jack must make a decision that may determine his future.”
As I noted earlier, my biggest issue with S1 stemmed from the way the series seemed to treat Jack as a secondary role too much of the time. I hoped S2 would fix that, and it did to a degree, but not as much as I would like.
That remains true for “Strongman”, a show that finishes matters on a decent note. Does it offer some action and excitement? Sure. Does it bring any surprises? Not really.
None of this makes “Strongman” a bad episode, or S2 a bad season. However, I continue to find Jack Ryan to provide a moderately enjoyable series that lacks the depth and spark to become better than that.