As this series comes to an end, was Jack Ryan worth the the watch? Jessica Thomas reviews
This episode marks the end of the first season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and I’m still not entirely sure what I make of it. It is definitely flawed, both in terms of how believable it is and in its sensitivity to minorities. There is a particularly transphobic joke in one episode.
The amount of unbelievable things that happen in this episode is higher than any other. First, there is the fact that so many important people from the US government quarantined in the same hospital; this just wouldn’t happen when the environment is so uncontrollable. Then, during the chase on the metro, Jack seems to touch the third rail, meaning that, in real life, he would be zapped to a crisp. There are various other small points in this episode that just made me go ‘what?’. These things aren’t a huge deal, but they do feel sloppy in a show that is obviously trying to be realistic.
One thing that the show is obviously really trying to do is be sensitive, or at least three dimensional, in its representation of minorities. While the bad guys are all Muslim, not all of them are middle eastern. Not all Muslims shown are bad guys, and the morally questionable nature of Western military operations is acknowledged. I think they do a reasonable job, but it still isn’t perfect. There is still an aspect of white saviour syndrome, but I think that is just an inherent aspect of Jack Ryan’s character.
I would also be really interested to see it continue to be critical of various Western cultures as it was with France’s treatment of Muslim refugees and with US drone programs. This gives the world of the show more depth, as it recognises that no country or culture is perfect or free from prejudice.
What this episode does manage, is to finally make Jack Ryan an interesting character. Before, Jack’s past and motivations where left a mystery; this made him dull because it meant he was just a generic buff white good guy, who are a dime a dozen in American media. The flashback to his helicopter crash, and the fact that he told Cathy about it, not only filled in the gaps but also showed that he is trusting and truly wants to help people, sometimes to his own detriment. For the first time in the series I actually cared what happened to Jack because of Jack, rather than because him dying would be bad for the other characters.
Now that Suleiman is dead, I am assuming that Hanin and her children are not going to be in the series any longer. I am going to miss them. Hanin’s strength and the arduous journey that she was forced to go through in order to bring herself and her children to safety, was the part of the series that I was most invested in. If she leaves then a lot of the show’s heart leaves with her. However, with her husband is dead and her ability to provide help to the CIA has been exhausted, so why would she stick around? I wouldn’t particularly want to hang around with the guy who killed the father of my children, even if he was the orchestrator of multiple mass murders.
Overall, I wasn’t overly impressed with Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, but I wasn’t unimpressed by it either. So I am in a weird opinion limbo, where I am probably going to watch the next season, which is probably going to be set in Russia, to see what it’s like and how it deals with the issues surrounding its subjects. It is unusual for me to still be reserving judgement this far into a series, but I’m honestly not exactly sure where I stand. I guess only time will tell if this show reaches its full potential, or if it crashes and burns.
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