“Jack, we have done our jobs and done them well. This fight was passed down to us and will continue with or without us. But we will always be better than the institutions we serve, and that is what matters when it matters most. There are no heroes in our profession. But occasionally there are good men. Men who act on what is right, not simply doing what they are told to do. I have not always lived my life with honor. But perhaps I have done enough to die with it. I hope the same for you.”
Witness the birth of — actually make that rebirth of –one of the most popular action heroes in literature. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has been a character of many jobs and many faces over the years. Baldwin, Ford, Pine, and Affleck have all stepped into the role of the man who has been a soldier, an analyst, an operative, and a president. What might appear as a clear advantage for this Amazon Prime streaming television show can be just as much a liability. When you throw in the Tom Clancy novels, comic books, and fan fiction, there is a ton of Jack Ryan history that pretty much gives us a story arc from his humble beginnings to extraordinary exploits, and wearing the faces of a few good performers. It’s a tall order for the series and perhaps an even taller order for actor John Krasinski, who has created a nice little horror franchise with wife Emily Blunt on the side. I don’t really have the time or energy to watch streaming shows and films. There’s always a backlog here of discs that need to be watched and reviewed, and I’ve created a rather comfortable viewing experience with my home theatre I call The Reel World. Our motto: Here there be monsters. So a couple of years ago I had my first experience with this series when Paramount sent the first season on Blu-ray. It was far more of a captivating and compelling series than I expected. Then the second season reached the Blu-ray home platform format, and while I certainly detected a sophomore slump there, there’s still enough interesting drama to keep a fan engaged for another year. And what a year it has been. You can find out for yourself with Paramount’s release of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season Three on Blu-ray.
The season begins with a 1969 prologue that takes us to a secret weapons facility deep in the heart of the USSR. The project is being ended with prejudice. The acts of the officers and soldiers at that moment start them on different courses that reach out to the future in ways that will put our hero Jack Ryan on the run.
Ryan meets with a contact who tells him that there is a dangerous new weapon being developed in Russia. The intel leads him to a Russian ship and a scientist who wishes to defect. The problem is there is a team of Russian agents who aren’t going to let that happen, and the mission falls apart in Greece where the scientist is killed and Ryan has been framed for the murder of a police officer. The CIA gives him that infamous red notice, and Ryan finds himself running from Russian agents, the local cops, and even his own people. At the head of that manhunt is Elisabeth Wright (Gabriel). She eventually turns to Greer (Pierce), and with Ryan doing some globetrotting to prove his intel that there is indeed a new secret weapon, they eventually get her to believe that Ryan might be right. The guys in Washington are going to be a harder sell, so pretty much all of this action is a small team of agents going a little rogue to uncover the truth and protect the country. I know what you’re thinking. Exactly when does Tom Cruise come into the picture? No, Tom won’t be along for this ride, but there’s going to be plenty of action, as Ryan discovers the weapon that was restarted from 1969 is by a group of Russians who are equally rogue.
What develops here is a wonderful story of characters that is less about enemies and countries. We see two characters who were there in 1969 and how one of them is driven to pick up the pieces and start a war while the other tries to stop it by being a leak to Ryan while keeping his own head and power. It’s a story of assassination of Ministers of Defense and the idea of following orders. I like this rather more realistic look at the remnants of the Cold War, and it makes for compelling television and the best story of the three seasons. The show goes deep inside these relationships and morals and brings us out on the other side with more questions than answers for our real-world lives, and that intrigued the heck out of me.
“All due respect, this isn’t the first time I wasn’t in Russia.”
Ryan ends up deep in Russia to uncover the truth along with friend Mike November, played again by Michael Kelly. These two have wonderful chemistry, and I’m glad to see they always find a way to get these guys back together. Also the enemy itself isn’t Russia, but a rogue element that like Putin wants to get that old USSR band back together. I guess you could call it a mission from God. There’s a really nice callback to Hunt For Red October when Ryan is trying to convince a battleship captain not to start a war. There’s the drop from the helicopter and his attempt to explain the reasoning from the other guys. It was a nice touch.
The series continues to sport a solid production. Many shows like to say they are really a mini-film each episode, but that phrase is so often abused that it’s quite meaningless. But this show is shot very much like a feature film, and those production values remain high and more than a little engaging. The incredible environments bring alive these European locations without actually going there. They retain a high level of authenticity, and along with high-end cinematography, you could not ask for a series to be more immersive. I feel rather badly for all of you folks who might have only experienced this stuff on a 4-inch cell phone screen. You really need to see and hear these Blu-rays on a nice system.
Jack Ryan continues to be pretty much a man out of his depth who manages to figure out what others can’t see. His relationship with Greer and chemistry with The Wire veteran actor Wendel Pierce continues to be one of the best elements of the series. The two work incredibly well together, and I hope they don’t split these guys up for long periods at a time like they did in this season. It’s the emotional heart of the show, and it truly helps make the high-stakes situations that much more important, because we care about these guys.
is presented in its original streaming aspect ratio of 2.00:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec. It’s hard for me to imagine that people are watching this on their mobile devices. It certainly wasn’t filmed with that kind of presentation in mind. It would be easy to even live up to just broadcast standards, but this image presentation is much better than that. The detail here rivals anything I’ve seen on television. Production design here is up to box office film standards. Black levels are inky and deep with plenty of nice shadow definition. Some of the Greek, Italian, and other international establishment shots are like a beautiful travelogue. I don’t know what it looked like on your phone, but wait until you see it on a large screen.
The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track was another wonderful surprise. Some of you heard this through half-inch speakers. Are you in for a treat here. This goes above and beyond your typical television audio presentation. Surrounds are alive with chatter and immersive ear candy. The action scenes surround you in an inescapable wall of sound. Subs are like nothing television usually has to offer. I bet your phone didn’t shake a room like this presentation does. The dialog always comes through cleanly. But again, it’s the subs and surrounds that truly astound here.
Only some deleted scenes.
Everything about this series stands up to any of the production, acting, writing, or cinematography of the films. They don’t cut corners here, and I keep looking for the moment the series might actually surpass the films in at least some of these qualities. “We are way beyond that now.”