Jack Ryan returns

As Amazon Video continues to try and chip away at the streaming service monopoly of Netflix, they have invested more funds into creating their own original series. The latest installment is a new take on Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan,” which was released on Aug. 31.

Jack Ryan is a fictional character created by Clancy featured in his series of “Ryanverse” novels, which were continued following Clancy’s 2013 death by several authors. There are currently 21 books in the series and five have been adapted into movies, beginning with “The Hunt for Red October” in 1990.

Following in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine, John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place) takes over the role for the character’s first foray into the small screen realm. During his many iterations, Jack has been a marine, worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and served as National Security Advisor, Vice President and President of the United States.

Classified as an action political thriller, the new series picks up with Jack following his marine service and during his tenure as a financial analyst for the CIA. His primary job is to track transactions by potential terrorist organizations for the Counterterrorism Center.

Since the first season is only eight episodes, which range from 42 to 64 minutes in length, it doesn’t take long for Jack to spot a suspicious transaction. He has been monitoring the activity of mysterious Yemeni terrorist leader named Suleiman, whose cell recently received $9 million, signifying they could be plotting a large attack.

The problem for Jack is that he must convince his superiors to act on the intel and he isn’t on great terms with his new boss, Jim Greer, who is played by Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Horrible Bosses). When Greer refuses to listen to Jack, he attempts to go over his head, which only serves to enrage Greer.

Predictably, Jack is correct, and the information is proven to be credible. While he is at an extravagant outdoor dinner party, the coast guard arrives via helicopter and escorts him to Yemen. There he joins Greer and his team, who are interrogating the man they believe to be responsible for the payment, as well as his body guard.

Jack, a lowly analyst, is immediately thrust into a high-pressure interrogation. Neither prisoner will divulge any information, so it’s up to him to utilize his supreme intellect to manipulate the body guard. However, just as he is gaining a rapport with the prisoner, the terrorist cell launches an attack on the compound and rescues the body guard. Jack narrowly escapes death and finds the man’s cell phone and discovers that he was actually Suleiman himself.

With Suleiman in the wind, it’s up to Jack and Greer to determine his next move. They know he will be expediting his terror plot after his escape, but they have no way of identifying the first target. The remaining episodes revolve around this race, but as is often the case in these scenarios, the heroes are constantly a step behind.

Although the series is entertainingly intense and dramatic, the premise as a whole is one we’ve seen playout on TV too often for it to truly stand out. Shows like “24” and “Homeland” have been wildly successful using this model, but eventually, watching U.S. government agents attempt to apprehend and foil terrorists grows tiresome.

One process that would have been useful for creators Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, and something “Jack Ryan” would benefit from moving forward, is enhancing the character development. It’s not that I didn’t find them to be believable, I just wasn’t invested in any of them. Granted, it’s difficult to fully flesh them out in only eight episodes. But considering the vast library of resources left to Cuse and Roland by Clancy, I expected more.

Admittedly, my love for “The Office” may be clouding my judgement with “Jack Ryan.” When I first saw the trailers several months ago, I remember thinking “How am I supposed to trust Jim Halpert to save the world?” By no means is this an indictment on Krasinski’s acting, I’ve just watched “The Office” so many times that he will always be Jim in my mind.

Overall, I did enjoy watching the show, but I will watch just about anything. If Amazon opts to fund a second season, I think they have a solid foundation to expand upon, and I will probably tune in. But it will likely never achieve mainstream popularity in the current era often referred to as the “Golden Age of Television.”