Plot: In the third season of the action-thriller series, Jack Ryan is working as a CIA case officer in Rome, when he is tipped off that the Sokol Project, a secret plan to restore the Soviet Empire, is being resurrected more than 50 years after it was thought to have been shut down. Jack embarks on a mission to confirm the intelligence, but things quickly go awry, and he is wrongly implicated in a larger conspiracy. Accused of treason, with a Red Notice out for his arrest, Jack is forced to run from his own government, if he has any hope of uncovering the rogue faction before it’s too late. Crisscrossing Europe as he is hunted by former allies and new enemies alike, Jack races against the clock to stop the cascade of destabilizing conflicts from leading to global catastrophe.
Reviews: The first season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was a welcome reboot of the fan-favorite feature films. Taking a cue from the Harrison Ford films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, John Krasinski effortlessly stepped into the role of Jack Ryan. While the first season dealt with the destabilization of the Middle East, the second season took a foray into Central American politics. Fans were not quite as enamored with the sophomore run as they were the first, but a COVID-imposed production delay allowed the team behind Jack Ryan to craft the third and upcoming fourth and final season with the fans in mind. The resulting third season is an adrenaline rush right out of the gate, inspired by another feature film featuring Jack Ryan: 1990’s The Hunt for Red October.
The season premiere does not waste any time. It immediately drops Jack into an operation where he learns about the resurrection of a Soviet-era project designed to restore the USSR. A rogue faction inside Russia has plans to destabilize the country, and Jack is framed when he gets too close to the intel. With Ryan on the run, we see John Krasinski as close to emulating Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible films as we ever will. At the same time, Jack must utilize his few loyal connections, including James Greer (Wendell Pierce), to help him navigate Europe while CIA agents hunt him down. This brings back Mike November (Michael Kelly) and introduces us to a fan-favorite Clancy character, Ding Chavez (Michael Pena). The eight-episode season, all of which were made available for this review, keeps the momentum churning and never slows down as the story continues to build the competing interests in the Sokol Project and leads to a showdown of nuclear proportions.
To complement the established cast of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, we get several new characters this season, including Betty Gabriel (Get Out) as Elizabeth Wright, a strong-willed CIA leader who goes toe to toe with James Greer in trying to bring Jack in. Nina Hoss, who recently delivered an acclaimed performance in tar, plays President Alena Kovac. Echoing the many female heads of state in Europe, Hoss plays Kovac as a strong-willed leader who must contend with the fate of her country with competing interests that plague her decisions, including her own father. There is also an excellent turn by James Cosmo. A renowned character actor, Cosmo will be instantly recognizable to fans from films such as Trainspotting, Braveheart, and more. Here, he plays a key figure who has a significant role to play in the season’s events. The less I say about him, the better.
What struck me most about this season, as compared to the first two, is the shift away from treating Jack as an analyst who happens to have the skills to be a talented field operative. Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin portrayed Ryan as a reluctant hero who was better suited for the boardroom but could still be surprised in the field. When Ben Affleck and Chris Pine took on the role, Ryan was presented as a secret agent in the vein of Jason Bourne or James Bond. Krasinski continues to imbue an everyman quality to his take on Jack Ryan. Still, he balances military training with intellect and cunning that makes him hard to catch when on the run. While the first season allowed Jack to smirk and deliver some humorous cracks, this season is deadly serious. It indeed allows room for fun through the season, but this is the definition of action-packed.
This season’s directing team consists of Jann Turner, Kevin Dowling, and David Petrarca. Turner, a veteran television director, helmed five of the eight episodes this season and lends an urgency to the episodes that are as cinematic as anything this series has done. The final episode serves as an hour of television as good as anything else this year and manages to hold its own The Hunt for Red October’s iconic climax. Season three showrunner Vaun Wilmott, a writer, and producer on Star Trek: Discovery, leads a writing staff that dramatically shifts the tone and style of this series compared to the previous two seasons. By putting John Krasinski on his own and without the resources the CIA afforded Jack in previous seasons, there is more intensity and urgency that makes this story and its twists feel fresh and kept me on the edge of my seat to the finale.
With the fourth season already announced as its last, I am saddened that we may never see John Krasinski’s version of Jack Ryan become President of the United States as he did in Tom Clancy’s novels. Still, this season ratchets up the action and intrigue to levels we have not seen from this franchise before. With realistic stakes and a fitting contemporary update to a classic Clancy story, this season represents the best this series has yet delivered. Spin-offs have the potential to continue Prime Video’s take on the Ryanverse, but I am already missing Krasinski and Pierce as the best Ryan and Greer pairing on screen. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan finally does the job of combining the political and the action elements in a way that makes for great television.
The third season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan premieres on December 21st on Prime Video.