John Krasinski’s Jack Ryan Is the Best Version of the Character


Tom Clancy’s literary hero Jack Ryan has been one of the most popular protagonists in modern espionage fiction. Before his tragic death in 2013, Clancy wrote over a dozen novels in the core series and the larger “Ryanverse” that he created. While heroes like John Clark and Domingo Chavez had their fans, none of Clancy’s other protagonists found the same enthusiasm from readers. Ryan is both an expert and an everyman; he’s a relatable hero whose skills come from training, not destiny. The best stories within the Ryanverse are those where Ryan sees the promise of his country, but refuses to ignore its faults. There’s a complexity to his patriotism that is unique.

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As with any popular literary hero, it was only a matter of time before Ryan made the transition to the big screen. The Ryanverse is one of the oddest movie franchises; four actors appeared across five films, and Michael B. Jordan even starred in the Without Remorse spinoff that failed to capture the same audience. Each actor interpreted the character in a slightly different way. The Hunt For Red October’s Alec Baldwin was a geeky analyst, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Dangers’ Harrison Ford was a grizzled veteran, The Sum of All FearsBen Affleck was a charming womanizer, and Jack: Ryan Shadow Recruit‘s Chris Pine was a youthful enthusiast.

Each of these interpretations has its qualities, but they all work specifically within the context of the individual stories that they’re telling. Since The Hunt For Red October is more of a claustrophobic thriller than anything, it made sense to make Ryan into an idiosyncratic intellectual; Ford’s history within action cinema made him perfect for the more exciting sequences in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Similarly, Affleck’s charisma worked within the confines of a goofier genre film, and Pine has the fervor needed for a modern reboot. However, none of these actors would have been able to sustain Ryan’s personality through multiple adventures. By drawing from each of his predecessors, John Krasinski gives the most well-rounded version of the character in the Prime Video series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

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Krasinski’s Jack Ryan Contains Shades of the Past

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan picks up with a younger Ryan who is transferred from his role as a CIA analyst to an active field operative. It was the perfect way to set up Ryan’s experience, but give him room to grow. Ryan clearly knows what he’s talking about, and it’s his knowledge that inspires his mentor James Greer (Wendell Pierce) to saddle him with additional responsibilities. However, Krasinski’s Ryan has never had to utilize his skills in the same way before, and he hasn’t been put in life-or-death situations where he’s forced to save innocent lives.

There was a naïveté to Pine’s Jack Ryan that Krasinski’s honors; both characters are explicitly post-9/11 heroes who struggle to determine what being a “patriot” means in a world of modern terrorism. Both versions are overwhelmed when they discover the latent forces affecting global politics. While Pine was specifically designed to be a more optimistic character who would appeal to younger viewers, Krasinski has a healthy dose of skepticism that never crosses into cynicism.

However, Krasinski’s Ryan also shows shades of Baldwin’s version with his inherent interest in geo-tracking and spreadsheets. Ryan may have to cover his CIA connections by claiming to be doing a “boring” job, but it’s this type of “boring” research that he finds so fascinating. There are also signs of Affleck’s romanticism through Ryan’s interactions with Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish); while he’s not quite a James Bond-esque womanizer, Ryan certainly has a healthy bit of confidence in himself that makes sense within the modern dating world. The series does a great job of empowering Cathy when her research into infectious diseases helps Ryan solve the Ebola crisis during the gripping conclusion of the first season.

Krasinski’s Ryan begins to show the same grizzled physicality of Ford when Ryan gains experience in Yemen and Venezuela. Ford’s version was a veteran operative who had years of experience, and Krasinski gets to show how he gains this type of knowledge. Ryan emerges from the massacre in Karachi as a different person; he’s both infuriated and devastated by the cruelty he’s witnessed and vows to make sure a similar tragedy never occurs under his watch. Krasinski is absolutely riveting in the action sequences; he shows the physicality that Ryan gains through the challenging scenarios, but never makes him feel like a superhero.

Krasinski’s Jack Ryan Is a True 21st-Century Character

Ryan is a unique character because he’s not really an “action hero;” he’s a problem-solver. While Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has no shortage of explosions and gunfights, the action sequences all have a specific purpose where Ryan is trying to use his knowledge to find a solution. Ryan’s gun battle with Mousa bin Suleiman (Ali Suliman) in the Season 1 finale is only after he tracks down the terrorist leader to prevent him from activating a chemical weapon; he doesn’t just leap first into danger for the thrill of it. Similarly, the riveting Season 2 climax sees Ryan on a desperate mission to save Greer amidst a political protest at the Presidential Palace.

While Patriot Games is more of a straightforward action movie, Clear and Present Danger was a political thriller that saw Ryan learning about a conspiracy that led all the way to the White House. In the film’s iconic ending scene, Ford’s Ryan lashes out at the President of the United States and decries him for betraying his vows to the country. We see some of that same righteous anger from Krasinski when Ryan’s attempt to barter a peaceful solution to Suleiman’s terrorist sect is blocked by the CIA officials. Krasinski also shows Ryan’s reflection on modern political topics, including sexual trafficking and xenophobia.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan returns this December for its third season, and has already been renewed for a fourth and final installment. The second season ended with Ryan and Greer reaching an understanding, with the implication that an even more dangerous mission was in their future. Within the first two seasons, Krasinski has been able to bring out a depth to Ryan that only a recurring series could exemplify. If the final two seasons are just as strong as their predecessors, Krasinski will be able to show Ryan’s complete character to its conclusion.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3 premieres December 21 on Prime Video, where Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available to stream.



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