Stunning action, top notch production values, and genuinely surprising twists are not enough to save “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” from its sluggish pace, paper-thin character development and messy plotting.
The series, created by Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, follows Jack Ryan (John Krasinski), a CIA analyst, and his superior James Greer (Wendell Pierce). Ryan makes a discovery that takes him from a boring office job to chasing terrorists around the world. Tension builds as the man Ryan is searching for, Suleiman (Ali Suliman), gets closer to achieving his mission.
“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” is not a terrible show — in fact, at times it can be quite enjoyable. The series features fantastic action sequences, as showcased in the last twenty minutes of the pilot. The action often ushers in plot twists that keep the story moving in unanticipated and interesting directions.
Unfortunately, the series’ action-packed sequences become its Achilles’ heel. When there is no action, the pace tends to be sluggish. Not only does the story lack character development, but it also relies heavily on old tropes, causing what could be a thoughtful action series to fall short.
While Pierce performs well as James Greer, the writing does not measure up to his efforts. Although the show introduces a fascinating element by writing Greer as an African-American Muslim in the CIA, it fails to develop his character further and delve into his internal complexities.
It is this lack of depth to all of the characters that causes the series to be so lackluster. What could be insightful character distinctions instead feel like boxes on a checklist. In the few instances when the show does delve into characters, including a surprising reveal about Jack Ryan himself, it feels like a sloppy 11th-hour addition thrown into the last episode to try and fix the problems of the first seven episodes.
In addition to almost every character lacking development, nearly every aspect in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” is something audiences have seen before. The series contains twists that capture interest but is ultimately constructed from cliché concepts. Like the bland characters, the derivative tropes contribute to making the pace feel unbearably slow in the first half of the series.
Despite the many downfalls this show has, three performances stand out: Krasinski, Pierce and Dina Shihabi, who portrays Hanin, the wife of Suleiman.
Shihabi is a scene-stealer who adds more to what could have been a painfully derivative and uninspired character. Unfortunately, not every performance shines, especially that of Abbie Cornish, who portrays Cathy Mueller, Jack Ryan’s love interest. In addition to Cornish’s unconvincing American accent, her performance adds a new definition to one-dimensional.
Ultimately, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” disappoints because it has great ambitions and ideas but fails to fully execute. In an age with so many fantastic spy thrillers such as “The Americans,” “Homeland” and “Killing Eve,” the series fails to match the heights of its competitors.
“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”