I haven’t been the hugest Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan fan, and a lot of that has to do with its glacially slow pacing. However, when I got the chance to binge the series in one go, it was clear that each season built on the last. The character grow and change and so has the genre of the series. What was once a slow-paced espionage CIA series is now a fast-paced spy-action-thriller. Jack Ryan Season 3 is the best of the series yet, even with its on-the-nose Russian story.
In the third season, Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) is working as a CIA case officer in Rome with CIA Rome Station Chief Elizabeth Wright (Betty Gabriel), 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 shut down. Jack embarks on a mission to confirm the intelligence but instead winds up wrongly implicated in a larger conspiracy. Accused of treason, with a Red Notice out for his arrest, Jack is out in the cold and on the run. This immediately raises the stakes of the season and the pace of how it develops as well. The series crisscrosses Europe as Jack is hunted by former allies and new enemies alike, leaving him to race against the clock to stop the cascade of destabilizing conflicts from leading to WWIII.
The truth is that Jack Ryan Season 3 is good. Still, it’s also really unsettling to watch with the current war in Ukraine, where Russia is literally doing the hypothetical in the season’s fictional story. The production of the season began in mid-2021, well before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, hearing the political climate and plans described in the early episodes of the season are eerie, to say the least. While it doesn’t fit the traditional description of the uncanny valley, the context elicits the same feelings while watching the season. That said, unlike past seasons, Jack Ryan Season 3 ramps up the action instead of focusing entirely on geopolitical climate and pivoting into a pure spy action series versus one more concerned with espionage and the slow-moving developments in it all.
In fact, it’s the season’s action scenes and rousing score that make it stand apart from the first two and makes it the best so far. As mentioned above, each consecutive season has increased the pace thanks to where Jack is in his CIA career – and honestly, whether he’s out in the cold or working as an analyst behind the desk. The way that the series has been able to build relationships between characters, particularly Jack, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), and Mike November (Michael Kelly), over the course of the three seasons makes the journey worth it. Add in increased amounts of action (both hand-to-hand and shootouts), and you get to see teamwork and adrenaline-pumping situations.
Jack Ryan Season 3 having the most action of the series so far is made better by the on-location shooting. With sweeping landscapes that highlight the metropolitan and the rural, the choice to shoot in Prague, Greece, and the Czech Republic adds greatly in creating stakes and isolating characters. While moving the camera through city streets builds up intensity through speed, when Jack is alone in the wilderness, the isolation builds tension that delivers on the spy-thriller element of the series. Add in probably the best score in television, and you wind up with a recipe for success that I don’t think the series has reached before.
Jack Ryan Season 3 is a very different series than what we’ve seen before. Jack isn’t the only character getting development or depth, it finally feels like an action series, and more importantly, you can tell that the slowed pacing choices of the previous seasons have deliberately led to this moment. Ultimately, each character we see carries the decisions made in the past seasons with them, and it impacts the choices they make in Season 3. This allows for arcs to grow and ultimately for the audience to feel a connection growing deeper, something that’s particularly true for Greer, who has moved from the sidelines to the center of his own counter-intelligence narrative.
With all of that said, Jack Ryan Season 3 also continues its investigation of morality when working on the national level and how it’s all tied to what gives which nationality the most power and how each and every agent is pursuing their own justices of cogs in a machine. Jack’s sense of duty is pushed, like in previous seasons, to investigate what is wrong, what’s right, and ultimately why it’s all really gray. For this season, we that through Luka (James Cosmo), Russian intelligence, that shows the audience Jack’s own arc through an “enemy” that allows the story to go deeper because, well, it isn’t an American. The theme of the season is what makes a traitor, what makes a patriot, and the importance of stepping outside orders when they’re unjust. This is something that Jack is dealing with but that Luka can explore more without the storytelling sandbags of American exceptionalism.
This leads to my one real critique of Jack Ryan Season 3. The titular character is not the most interesting character in the series. Luka is far more complex and sends the season’s message and the back and forth between the Czech President Alena Kovac (Nina Hoss) and her father make for one of the best plot points of the season. Now, this isn’t because of Krasinski’s fault. For his part, he’s hitting action-star on the head this season, and while he has his own character conflicts and growth, it mirrors a far more interesting character. In fact, Krasinski has embraced the newfound physicality of his role and it’s great to watch. Jack isn’t a bad character, he is just the center of the series that keeps the more interesting ideas and narrative points moving.
I am happy to say that Jack Ryan Season 3 isn’t really more of the same. Sure it’s a Tom Clancy story kissed by American military exceptionalism, but it’s crossed from boring drama into an action series. If you don’t like Tom Clancy, this ride isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for espionage and explorations of morality in relation to “serving your country,” then this season is well worth the investment. In fact, now that I’ve made it this far, I recommend jumping into the series from the beginning and watching how the characters and the series’ trajectory have developed over time.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3 is streaming exclusively on Prime Video December 21, 2022.
Jack Ryan Season 3
I am happy to say that Jack Ryan Season 3 isn’t really more of the same. Sure it’s a Tom Clancy story kissed by American military exceptionalism, but it’s crossed from boring drama into an action series…In fact, now that I’ve made it this far, I recommend jumping into the series from the beginning and watching how the characters and the series’ trajectory have developed over time.