January 6, 2023
The idea of The Office’s paper salesman and part-time prankster, Jim (John Krasinski), playing a CIA spy in an R-rated thriller initially sounded like a spoof. But Krasinski pulled off portraying Jack Ryan in its debut season with such aplomb that it made you wonder if he was an undercover operative in Scranton, Pennsylvania, all along.
Back for its third season, Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan jets its titular character off to Eastern Europe for a very timely mission. Set amid rising tensions between Russia and NATO, Ryan’s latest escapade is spurred by Soviet nostalgics. The coterie of hard-liners aims to restore the former USSR by baiting NATO into a full-scale war.
“Russia doesn’t build things anymore, only lies,” laments a senior Russian intelligence officer as he furtively tries feeding Ryan intel in the hope of preventing nuclear war from breaking out. Drawing from the present crises in Europe, Jack Ryan’s third season largely unfolds in the Czech Republic, where a newly elected president (Alena Kovac) doggedly tries to thwart Russia’s controlling influence.
Juggling the probable consequence of Russia cutting off her country’s access to natural gas, the Czech president pushes the Russian defense minister (Michael Gor) to cease the country’s military incursion into Ukraine, insisting that the Czech Republic will otherwise resort to placating Russia’s aggression by inviting NATO to plop a fleet of surface-to-air missiles within its borders.
It is this geopolitical sparring match between NATO, the United States, and Russia that acts as the backdrop for Jack Ryan’s covert escapades. When an attempt to track down an old Soviet atomic bomb goes awry, the CIA opts to avoid escalating global tensions. Rather than recognize the overseas military mission, the agency pulls the plug on Ryan’s operation, leaving him to fend for his own as a rogue asset.
Much like the eponymous hero in the Bourne franchise, at the behest of his own government’s bureaucrats, Ryan finds himself in the crosshairs of virtually everyone, from Russian hit men to local police forces and FBI agents. Solely reliant on his old boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), and former colleague Mike November (Michael Kelly), theanalystshoots his way through reams of belligerents, all to impede Russia’s colonialist ambitions.
Jack Ryan avoids any attempt to muddle the Soviet Union’s iniquities. The season’s first episode opens with a flashback to the USSR, wherein a Red Army brigade, under direct orders, mass-murders an entire laboratory of Soviet physicists; layoffs and severance was handled very differently under Soviet rule. The series asserts such an unapologetic pro-American and pro-NATO perspective that it may just be enough to drive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) into canceling his Amazon Prime subscription.
Though occasionally falling prey to comically lazy tropes — in one scene, the Czech prime minister unironically suggests offering an olive branch to the Russian defense minister by having a bottle of vodka sent to his hotel room — it ultimately prevails by offering unapologetic Cold War-era action entertainment that few other shows or films can boast.
Originally Published at The Washington Examiner