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Admittedly, I’m not someone who has seen every film based on the Jack Ryan novelizations, nor have I read any of the novels, which is really saying something when speaking of the about of media I do consume. Upon my viewing of the first trailer for this new series released by Amazon Studios, I felt the desire to hop on board. While many fans may love or hate this series for following or straying quite far away from its source material, I was able to watch with a fresh pair of eyes, so take my review with a grain of salt if that will make you judge my viewing experience. This will purely be my analysis of this first season of Jack Ryan, in which I won’t be comparing to any of the previous materials. That being said, I had a great time watching this first season and I think many viewers may get the same experience that I did, depending on how you let source material affect you.
Starting his career as an analyst for the CIA, Jack Ryan (due to his sparse knowledge) is thrust into the battlefield and becomes the CIA’s most sought-after asset in uncovering horrible truths of terrorism that could directly affect the life of the president and many more. With the exposure of Suleiman, played fiendishly by Ali Suliman, many layers are added to this show that almost feels unnerving at times. While I never used to think John Krasinski would take the roles he has been taking lately, I truly bought him as the title character here and the interrogation that he shares with Suliman towards the beginning of this season was heart-pounding. This specific moment is what sets everything in motion, but not quite everything is sunshine and rainbows throughout these first eight episodes.
Quite honestly, although it’s very well-done, I found this season to focus a little too heavily on the Suleiman family. A big portion of the show is the plot to ensure his family is safe, and while Dina Shihabi gives a fantastic performance as the wife of the aforementioned terrorist, I felt that the show was trying a little too hard to make you feel for these characters. Yes, one of the biggest plot points of the show is to make sure they get out unscathed, which should always be the top priority in a story like this (as well as the rest of the threatened population), but I didn’t feel that enough time was given to the character of Jack Ryan himself. He sort of bookends (for lack of a better term) the first season. He is very prominent throughout the first and final episodes, but there are nearly entire episodes given to the family of the terrorist. This was slightly off-putting to me, as we’re rooting for someone with less screen time than the villain.
Thankfully, I thought the rest of the show was terrifically put together. Although a lot of time is given to the terrorist's family, it does make for a much more emotional story by this season’s conclusion. The action is great when it comes into play and John Krasinski’s loose bromance with his boss throughout the course of the entire season (played by Wendell Pierce) was easily my favourite aspect. I can’t wait to see where these two characters progress in future seasons. With a mere eight episodes, this show never feels like it drags on very much. Everyone and everything is given their due and I was ready to keep watching as soon as an episode concluded.
In the end, the first season of Jack Ryan, by a crew of multiple writers and directors, is extremely well-constructed from start to finish. Every character is thought out, and just when you think Jack isn’t getting any screen time, he’s either given an awesome action sequence, a nice character progression within his love life or uncovering secrets that will give much-needed answers in future episodes. Although I do have to state my bias towards not enjoying how unbalanced it was in terms of how much screen time is given to the villain’s storyline, I still found myself riveted from beginning to end. I can gladly give this first season of Amazon Studio’s Jack Ryan a recommendation to fans of the genre, but possibly leave your hopes at the door if you’re a die-hard fan of the novels and are wishing it to stay in a certain line.
Rating for Season One: 4/5