Jack Ryan’s Series Finale Ends the Golden Age of Dad TV With One Last Adventure

And tees up a potential spinoff

TV Features Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan’s Series Finale Ends the Golden Age of Dad TV With One Last Adventure

If you had told us a decade or so ago, back when John Krasinksi was best known to the world as the lovable prankster Jim Halpert, that he would eventually come to embody and define the genre of action thriller “Dad TV,” it would have been hard to believe.

Yet here we are, at the end of the road for Krasinkski’s defining run as Tom Clancy’s legendary Jack Ryan character. His tenure headlining the hit Prime Video original series wraps after four seasons and one last mission. Kraskinski stepped into the shoes of a unique type of action hero with the project, a role previously defined by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck on the big screen (plus Chris Pine, in a less-beloved turn).

Through four seasons of political intrigue, smart problem-solving, and plenty of action, the Jack Ryan series leaves behind a legacy as one of the best shows in the “Dad TV” subgenre of the modern era, threading the needle of keeping OG fans of the character from Clancy’s novels and those early 1990’s movies happy, while creating something compelling enough to bring general action and thriller fans to the show in droves. It proved a bona fide hit for Amazon, combining an A-list franchise with a lead who would become a true star by the time the show wrapped (helped in large part by his acclaimed directorial debut, A Quiet Place).

Season 4 sends its heroes off into the sunset, and it’s taking the “Dad TV” crown with it. By comparison, shows like Chris Pratt’s The Terminal List tried to build on the same concept, but proved to be a muddled mess; Prime Video’s Reacher is great, but at just one season in, this series has a level of consistency still left to prove. Amazon even tried a spinoff already, with the 2021 Micheal B. Jordan-led Tom Clancy film Without Remorse. The reception was mixed, as the film fell into fairly generic action territory, following the story of Clancy character John Clark (though Jordan is still reportedly set to reprise the role for a Rainbow Six film).

But Jack Ryan? It’s pure “Dad TV” nirvana. It captured the political thriller vibe that made the original books and films so compelling, and masterfully pulled that concept into the modern day, all while building a fleshed-out world for Jack to inhabit and live in. We care so much about saving this world because it’s one we actually like. Wendell Pierce’s performance as Ryan’s friend and ally James Greer is the bromance of the ages; Michael Kelly’s Mike November (an amalgam of other Clancy players turned into an original character for the TV series) is the wise-cracking guy we would absolutely want to call when our back is against the wall; and Ryan’s love interest Dr. Cathy Mueller (played by Abbie Cornish) is a smart, capable woman in her own right, which makes it easy to root for their happy ending.

This fourth and final season also expanded the ensemble, with the addition of Michael Pena as Domingo Chavez, a character with a long and storied history of his own within the literary Tom Clancy universe. Pena is one of those actors who can turn from comedy to drama on a dime, playing everything from comic relief in the Ant-Man movies, to more serious roles like his roles on End of Watch and Narcos. There’s already been word that Amazon is developing a spinoff series built around Pena’s character, and after seeing all of Jack Ryan Season 4, it’s easy to see why.

As fans of the books know, Domingo Chavez has been on plenty of literary adventures the creative team could draw from for a new series, and Pena quickly became a fan favorite, joining the team throughout Season 4. You could argue that using this final season of Jack Ryan as a backdoor pilot of sorts to test the waters for a Chavez spinoff was a risky move, but the stakes of knowing that there is a project potentially in development never really weighed on his role in Jack Ryan’s sendoff. Chavez had a place in this story and fit it well, adding to the chemistry and making clear he belongs in this world—and is a different hero than Ryan, not afraid to lean into his darker edge when needed to get the job done.

If this really is the end of Krasinksi’s Jack Ryan, it’s a fitting one. After spending most of his adventures as the outside man trying to convince his bosses of a looming threat, Season 4 flips the paradigm and finds Ryan finally in a position of power within the C.I.A. But, it wouldn’t be a Jack Ryan adventure if he didn’t have to go rogue in the end, with this adventure finding him once again assembling his rag-tag team to unspool a secret CI.A. operation, and take on a drug lord who threatens global security. Not surprisingly, Jack saves the day in the end.

Jack and Cathy get their happy ending of sorts, and the team we know and love end up in relatively good places moving forward. But even with this chapter clearly closing, the world still feels as open-ended as ever. Chavez is still out there, looking to clean up a few more messes, and now that he has become pals with Mike November, there’s every chance he could call him off the bench to help out in his potential spinoff. As for Jack himself? It might be a bit awkward to have him pop up and not be at the heart of the story, but there’s no reason Krasinksi couldn’t reprise the gig in a Chavez spinoff to help out if things get really bad.

But even though the world might live on, the close of Jack Ryan is the bookend of one of the best political thriller runs in modern TV. Fans should be proud to see it go out on top, and on its own terms. Thankfully, dads (and dads at heart) will still have these four seasons to revisit whenever they need a little cozy, thrilling intrigue. 

Trent Moore is a recovering print journalist, and freelance editor and writer with bylines at lots of places. He likes to find the sweet spot where pop culture crosses over with everything else. Follow him at @trentlmoore on Twitter.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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