Jack Ryan

3 out of 5

Created by: Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland

Like its title character, Jack Ryan the show is dependable, consistent, and gets the job done.  It also does some unnecessary subplot dances, allows in some tired TV tropes, and does a fair amount of thumb-twiddling to get to eight episodes, but creators Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland keep all of that stuff in enough of a check to keep that runtime feeling just about right: at the minute you start checking the clock, a discovery is made, and CIA analyst Ryan (a well-chosen Jon Krasinski) is back on the trail of a potential terrorist threat.

With the ISIS references, Yemeni setting for our terrorists, and the Tom Clancy brand, you might be expecting ye olde nationalist trumpets to be blaring every three seconds; this is also something well monitored, as the script attempts to give a fair shake to both sides of the matter, building up our antagonist Suleiman (Ali Suliman) as human, and having us spend a fair amount of time with his family.  Suleiman’s wife, in particular, as portrayed by Dina Shihabi, adds excellent nuance to her role and significantly deepens that side of the character puzzle.  Ryan, for that matter, is continually second-guessing the America-first mentality, and though the show somewhat botches some minor notes exploring that frame of mind, that it pauses to include such things without some pat moral in response is engaging.

But elsewise, nothing much will surprise you here.  The twists are somewhat TV telegraphed, as is the buddy-cop relationship of Ryan and his boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce, always perfect as the sneering and smart badass); the action is doled out with enough “legit” science and paperwork chatter to keep us feeling smart but popcorn-fed; Ramin Djawadi’s score is appreciably subtle (for the genre) but keeps us trucking along, and I do think the show very successfully slowly amped up the threat so that the stakes make sense all the way through.