Jack Ryan returns, swapping destitute deserts for dense jungles, and bringing with it a more action packed, and Ryan-centric season.
Season two of Jack Ryan immediately feels like it has put its big boy pants on. Where the first season on occasion felt like a B-list American show, season two is bigger, better and feels the benefit of a larger budget. John Kransinki further establishes himself as the action man, ridding himself of The Office’s shadow.
Jack Ryan is shoved into a world of international politics, off-the-book missions and revenge throughout seasons two’s storyline. The result is a more Hollywood season, with rooftop chases and one-eyed assassins, however I would be lying if I didn’t enjoy that. Almost entirely ridding itself of a romantic storyline, the episodes feel more streamlined, and full of content – sorry to those who liked Jack’s girlfriend Cathy, as she is absent without a word of reason.
Yet the best adjustment from season one is the focus on characters. While Suleiman was an interesting antagonist in the previous season, he and his family, I personally found took up too much time of the show. Seasons two’s villainous forces do have their own stories and due time, yet they are pulled back just enough that you don’t feel like they are stealing the limelight. Krasinski on the other hand is centre stage, bringing a likeability, playfulness, and relatability to an international super-spy. Backing Ryan up is Wendell Pierce’s Greer, who has one of the more interesting arcs of the show, and his relationship with Ryan has matured without the cliched bonding sessions. House of Card’s Mike Kelly is a welcome addition to the cast, and gels well to fit into the three-man team.
The biggest disservice of a character in the show is Noomi Rapace. Rapace plays a central role for the first half of the season, and I generally enjoyed her as an untrustworthy and unrelenting mystery figure. Yet after a point in the story, her character is dropped and save a throwaway phone-call scene, doesn’t feature in the last half. Granted her presence would have been forced, but her final scenes were like saying “see you later” to a mate, not realizing it will be the last time you ever see them. Hopefully it is a telling for future seasons – that is if she doesn’t go the way of poor Cathy next season.
The story in this season allows for more action scenes, and they typically range from O.K to slow. The jungle shootouts are always fun, and a rooftop chase will please me anytime, yet in a world of Missions Impossible films and long-shot actions scenes, it all felt half-arsed. Some were better than others, but the show needs the ferocity of the Bourne films or spectacle of Mission Impossible to sell it. With the high standard of television shows in the last ten years, it becomes noticeable when one takes it foot off the pedal.
Jack Ryan grows into itself in its second season. It has formed a stronger image for the show, and I hope it continues to grow into its third season. All the primary cast are excellent, and the streamlined storytelling of the antagonistic figures really benefits its pacing. It isn’t going to shock anyone, and it doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, but Jack Ryan is still entertaining and an easy eight episodes to watch.