The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Two Thumbs Up for ‘Jack Ryan’

Posted on | November 18, 2018 | Comments Off on Two Thumbs Up for ‘Jack Ryan’


While I was visiting my son at Fort Bragg a couple of weeks ago, I started watching the eight-episode first season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime. Generally speaking, I never read or watch fiction, and the only TV I watch is news, sports, documentaries or true-crime shows like A & E’s The First 48 or Forensic Files on HLN.

This disclaimer is necessary to explaining why I was mystified when I told people I was watching Jack Ryan and everyone reacted by saying, “Oh, the guy from The Office.” Yes, lead actor (and co-producer) John Krasinski is best-known for this popular NBC sitcom which I have never watched. On the rare occasions I’ve caught a few scenes of reruns of The Office while changing channels, I found it painfully unwatchable. The Office is wretched, and if you think it’s funny, you need to contemplate how your life went so dreadfully wrong, but I digress . . .

With no Office-influenced preconceptions of who John Krasinski is, I did have preconceptions of what a Tom Clancy thriller is about. Some 30 years ago, my older brother Kirby, a big Tom Clancy fan, convinced me to read a couple of Clancy’s novels including one, The Sum of All Fears, that was ruined in the movie version by political correctness (and the casting of Ben Affleck as Ryan). The plot of Clancy’s novel was a late Cold War-era drama about “a crisis concerning the Middle East peace process where Palestinian and former East German terrorists conspire to bring the United States and Soviet Union into nuclear war.” This was realistic, because in fact there was cooperation between Palestinian terrorists and Communists, but in the movie version, the bad guys are South African neo-Nazis. This shifting of the locus of evil — from left to right, as it were — was a 180-degree reversal of meaning, a work of Cultural Marxism that Herbert Marcus might praise. But again I digress . . .

Is there political correctness in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan? Yes, in that Ryan’s CIA mentor James Greer is portrayed as a convert to Islam. This makes no sense on any level, especially when you recall the Cold War context of the original Clancy novels. Would it have been OK for Greer to have been a Marxist ideologue? Of course not, and while fighting Islamic terrorism is a different thing than fighting the threat of Communist aggression, one might suppose it would occur to the producers of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan how wildly inappropriate this Greer-as-Muslim subplot is. Nevertheless, it is only a subplot, and while it obtrudes like a politically correct sore thumb whenever it’s referenced, these instances are mercifully rare, and are only a minor distraction from the general excellence of this action thriller. And wow, what a thriller!

From the first episode, which concludes with an exciting firefight at a U.S. outpost in Yemen, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan delivers the kind of action scenes you’d expect from a big-budget movie blockbuster. In that sense, this Amazon series follows the path paved by HBO’s Game of Thrones, delivering movie-style thrills to the home viewer, as the premium tent-pole that makes it worthwhile to buy the delivery service. And despite the occasional nod to political correctness, there is an element of realism in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan that makes it enjoyable. The firefight at the Yemen base, for example, will seem very familiar to anyone who recalls the 2012 terrorist attack at Benghazi that killed four Americans.

Likewise, there is a ripped-from-the-headlines quality to the subplot in which the wife of the terrorist leader escapes Syria with her daughters and makes her way to a refugee camp on the Turkish border. She wants to go to Europe, but this is not possible because of the recent terrorist attack in Paris that her husband masterminded. This subplot perfectly encapsulates the 2015 “refugee” crisis, when Europeans were expected to welcome with open arms millions of Muslim immigrants while Islamic terrorists were slaughtering the innocent in Paris, attacking Charlie Hebdo, and running over people in Nice. No amount of sympathy for genuine refugees, nor any politically correct pro-Muslim propaganda, could have prevented the backlash against unrestricted immigration that has since empowered the Right in Europe. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan endeavors to humanize the Muslim victims of this crisis, but it also dramatizes the actual danger posed by terrorists exploiting loopholes in the West’s immigration policies. For example, the terrorist villain Mousa Bin Suleiman makes it through U.S. Customs by going through Canada with forged documents and showing up with his preteen son who needs medical treatment for diabetes.

Didactic lessons about terrorism and immigration, of course, are not the selling-point of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. No, it’s about suspense and thrills and action! action! action! The producers do a good job of pacing the show, so that each of the eight episodes builds to an exciting climactic scene and, by the time you’ve binge-watched your way to the end (my wife and I watched the final four episodes Saturday night), a lot of details in the early episodes that may have seemed irrelevant are revealed as important foreshadowing. It is no mere coincidence, for example, that Jack Ryan’s love interest, Dr. Cathy Mueller, is an epidemiologist concerned with an ebola outbreak. But hey, no spoilers.

Probably most of my readers have already seen Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, but if you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and buy it through the Amazon links here, because as a participant in the Amazon Affiliate program, I get a tiny commission on everything you buy through these links — greedy capitalist blogger that I so am proud to be.



Comments are closed.