The Dove Take:
The show provides a well-written script with timely commentary on world affairs, and the acting is top-notch. But the language, sex, and violence keep the show from being approved by Dove.
A reboot of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe, the Amazon version follows John Krasinski’s Ryan from analyst to operative for the CIA. In the first season, he tackles a Middle Eastern threat and in the second, he uncovers a Venezuelan plot that has worldwide implications. The show has already been greenlit for a third season.
The U.S.’s Jack Ryan has had many faces (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine), like England’s James Bond. A smarter, more analytical approach to espionage, the spy series looked at the different threats to America’s interests in the world through the eyes of a stockbroker-turned history professor – turned CIA analyst – turned U.S. President. But in Amazon’s original series, Krasinski’s Ryan gets his hands dirty in a more intimate way, quickly.
The show is sometimes slow and detail oriented, just like the thousands of pages that Clancy himself used to write before ghostwriters assumed his role. But the show tends to veer away toward the territory of another American (fictional) spy, Jason Bourne, mixing in plenty of the hand-to-hand combat that Robert Ludlum’s character is known for, juicing up Ryan’s physical interaction with the evils of the world.
While the stories certainly have a very pro-American spin, there are periodically times that the show lets a worldwide community view shine through. In the first season, while trying to free a Muslim woman from her abusive terrorist husband, Ryan encounters a gunrunner in the Middle East who wryly tells him that if he had been born in America, maybe his life would have turned out more like Ryan’s. In the second season, Ryan finds that while he’s on the track of the murderer of a U.S. senator, he will end up embroiled in a struggle for independence (and real democracy) in Venezuela, sometimes escalating things by his own fault. While it is a definitively pro-American series, it doesn’t turn aside from showing that American interests, not benevolent charity, drive worldwide espionage. And even with its American spin, it’s not afraid to show us that all Muslims aren’t terrorists, or that all patriots of other countries are bad people, either.
The drama has a better-than-average resume, given its showrunners and actors, delivering entertainment that will appeal to fans of the previously mentioned series. But its regular profanity, periodic extreme violence, and gratuitous sex will keep fans of the PG-13 versions of Ryan, Bond, and Bourne from enjoying what is a cleverly crafted show. Discerning fans will navigate the content, both dramatically and politically, to enjoy the exciting journey of Krasinski’s Ryan. It’s just a reminder that the world of politics and espionage is never black and white, but always shades of gray.