Prime Video’s Jack Ryan Stays True to Form in Thrilling Third Season

TV Reviews Jack Ryan
Prime Video’s Jack Ryan Stays True to Form in Thrilling Third Season

If it feels like it’s been a while since John Krasinksi went globe-trotting as everyone’s favorite analyst-turned-spy, that’s because it has been. Season 2 of Amazon’s hit action series Jack Ryan debuted all the way back in 2019, and fans of the classically styled “Dad TV” thriller have been patiently waiting for the next adventure.

We knew a third season was coming, it just took three years to actually get here (a fourth and final season, plus a spinoff, are also reportedly in the works). The show has been a staple of Prime Video’s action programming strategy, paving the way for more recent action projects like Chris Pratt’s The Terminal List, breakout hit Reacher, and the Micheal B. Jordan vehicle Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.

Based on the best-selling series of Tom Clancy novels, Amazon’s Jack Ryan has turned out to be the modern version with some staying power. Ben Affleck and Chris Pine played the namesake character in some early 2000s film flops (which of course came after the seminal 1990s run of Clancy adaptations of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger).

For Krasinski’s third outing as Ryan, he has a brand new conspiracy to unravel and a fresh global catastrophe to avert. This time, the focus is on a decades-old secret Soviet weapons program called the Sokol Project, which will find Jack running afoul of the U.S. government and facing a Red Notice himself as he teams up with a Russian operative to try to avert a brewing coup developing within the Russian government. Trapped in the middle is new Czech President Alena Kovac (Nina Hoss), who is trying to navigate the threat and protect her own country in the process.

Krasinski is joined by two returning fan favorites from previous seasons, with CIA Officer James Greer (Wendell Pierce) and retired CIA Officer Mike November (Michael Kelly) both reprising their roles in support of Jack’s rogue mission.

Though the action and twists are as compelling as ever, the formula is starting to show a bit in Jack Ryan’s third outing. That said, they’ve certainly honed that formula down to a molecular science, meaning if you want a smart political thriller, this one absolutely still fits the bill. But much like any premise built around world-ending stakes and a hero against all odds, it starts to strain credulity that at some point Jack Ryan hasn’t actually saved the world enough times we start to believe him when he says trouble is brewing. No? Okay, well Jack can just figure it out on his own, again.

The plot of Season 3 is easy enough to follow, at least as far as taut political thrillers are concerned, and includes plenty of clever twists and shifting alliances to keep you guessing all the way through to the end. We even get a little action at sea along the way, which is always a nice Clancy staple fans love to see. But Season 3 falls a bit short in the same way prior seasons have, which is that its core characters could stand to be a bit more interesting.

Krasinski’s Jack Ryan is square-jawed and out to always do what’s right, but the boy scout routine can run a bit thin after a while. Pierce’s Greer will always have Jack’s back, but we don’t get to see as much of their buddy cop vibe this time around, and this is a show that sometimes needs a bit of levity to break up the dour seriousness. Something like HBO’s award-winning Homeland works because you care about what happens to these characters, and their journeys, and that can carry a show years beyond its obvious expiration date (ahem, once again looking at you, Homeland). But a Jack Ryan tale is nothing if not beholden to its plot. It’s what propels the narrative forward, less than the actual character development. That’s a storytelling decision in itself, and it makes for some fun adventures and ready-made action set pieces along the way. But it’s a plot-driven story, not a character-driven one, and that approach persists in Season 3.

So has all this time made the nostalgia for Jack Ryan grow fonder in the years since his last adventure (which came before the pandemic, which is a wild factoid in itself)? Yes and no. There aren’t that many new, big budget political thrillers out there, and a Jack Ryan tale is a very certain kind of story. It might be as well worn as those old Clancy paperbacks, but it’s still compelling if you like the genre. But if you don’t? Jack Ryan’s latest is just more of the same.

If nothing else, the show is a testament to the fact that Krasinski is a bona fide action movie star, an impressive evolution from his days wooing the receptionist on The Office. Jack Ryan has been the perfect vehicle to showcase just that, but that ride might be starting to run out of gas as it nears the finish line.

The third season of Jack Ryan premieres Wednesday, December 21st on Prime Video.

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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