TV Series Review: ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Season Two’

Promotional banner for Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan‘s second season. Image credit: Amazon

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Season Two (2019)

Based On: Characters created by Tom Clancy

Created for Television by: Carlton Cruise and Graham Roland

Starring: John Krasinski, Wendell Pierce, Noomi Rapace, Jordi Mollà, Cristina Umaña, Francisco Denis, John Hoogenakker, Michael Kelly, Susan Misner, Tom Wlaschiha

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

On October 31, 2019, Amazon Prime Video released the entire eight-episode Season Two of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, an espionage-political action thriller based on characters created by the late best-selling novelist and conservative commentator Tom Clancy. Created by Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Graham Roland (Fringe), Jack Ryan takes viewers across the globe as Clancy’s John Patrick Ryan (John Krasinski) up-and-coming CIA analyst uses his inquisitive mind and devotion to duty to defend the United States against all enemies – foreign and domestic.

Set roughly a year after the events of the series’ first season, Jack Ryan turns attention from the threat of Islamic radical terror movements to a clear and present danger closer to home: a looming conflict over mysterious arms shipments – mainly from the Russian Federation – to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, a South American nation endowed with huge oil reserves and vast mineral wealth that is groaning under the misrule of Socialist strongman Nicolas Reyes (Jordi Mollà).

The season opener – Cargo – begins as James Greer (Wendell Pierce), Jack’s former boss in the CIA’s Terror, Finance and Arms Division (T-FAD) and now Deputy Chief of Station in Moscow, tries to find out if the Russian government is behind the launch of an unregistered satellite from a remote launch site in the South China Sea. After a meeting with one of his Russian assets, Greer falls ill while attempting to shake off his two Russian counterintelligence “shadows” and is taken to a Moscow hospital by his erstwhile pursuers.

At CIA headquarters in Langley (VA), Ryan is slowly moving up the ranks in the Agency; after his role in preventing a terrorist attack by a charismatic and clever Islamic terrorist, the former Marine officer and retired stockbroker is now CIA’s liaison officer to the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Mitchell Chapin (Michael O’Neill). In this new role, Jack is also working alongside his friend, Venezuelan-American Senator Jaime “Jimmy” Moreno (Benito Martinez), who was Jack’s commanding officer in the First Marine Division in Afghanistan.

When Ryan and Moreno suggest that the Russians are covertly arming the Reyes regime and perhaps even building a missile base in the Venezuelan jungle, Chapin is skeptical. He resists Ryan’s suggestion that the U.S. needs to be proactive in its foreign policy toward that South American nation, which is currently suffering one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the decade.

Finally, Ryan convinces the Senator from Pennsylvania to allow him to go to Caracas with Senator Moreno and confront – as diplomatically as possible – President Reyes with evidence that Russian arms are being shipped to his country, as well as to inquire what kind of installation the Venezuelan government is building in a remote jungle region near the Orinoco River. Chapin is still skeptical, and he warns Ryan and Moreno that the last thing the U.S. needs is another “Bay of Pigs” in Venezuela.

Ryan and Senator Moreno fly down to Caracas, where after meeting with U.S. Ambassador Lisa Calabrese (Susan Misner) and CIA Station Chief Mike November (Michael Kelly), pay a not-too-pleasant visit to Miraflores Palace and have a tete-a-tete with the smooth-talking Reyes and his trusted aide General Miguel Ubarri (Francisco Denis), a friend from his childhood years in one of Caracas’ most impoverished barrios.

Ubarri is a man who believes in the system Reyes inherited from his Chavista predecessors in Miraflores, but he is concerned that his old friend has been changed by his six years as Venezuela’s revolutionary strongman. He tells his wife Cassandra (Marcela Vanegas) that the President has unnecessarily “pissed off the Americans” by his denials that something is going on in the Venezuelan jungles, and that “Nicolas has lost his way.”

Ubarri also admits that the government’s own polls show that Reyes’ opponent in the upcoming Presidential election, a history professor and social activist named Gloria Bonalde (Cristina Umaña) has a more-than-fair chance to win. He fears that President Reyes, frightened by the Americans’ scrutiny of the mysterious activities within Venezuela’s borders and Bonalde’s growing popularity among the restless electorate, may take reckless chances in order to maintain his hold on power.

Ubarri’s predictions, tragically, are proven correct when Reyes and his associates hire a professional assassin to deal with the meddlesome Americans. And in a sequence that is evocative of Clancy’s 1989 novel Clear and Present Danger, the hit man orchestrates a deadly ambush on the caravan that is driving Senator Moreno and Ryan back to the airport on their way to catch their flight back to Washington.

Moreno and several U.S. protective service agents are killed, while Jack and Ambassador Calabrese are slightly injured by shrapnel and superficial burns as a result of the assassin’s deadly ambush. Now Ryan is more determined than ever to stop whatever Reyes and his regime are up to, and perhaps even avenge his friend and Marine comrade’s death as an added bonus.

Blu-ray package cover art. (C) 2020 Paramount Home Media Distribution and Amazon Studios

After tracking a suspicious shipment in the Venezuelan jungle, Jack Ryan heads to South America to investigate. As Jack threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home, leading Jack on a mission spanning the US, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos. – Plot synopsis, Amazon Prime Video

Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce), Jack Ryan (John Krasinski),and CIA Station Chief, Caracas, Mike November (Michael Kelly) confer. (Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios.
John Krasinski as CIA analyst John Patrick “Jack” Ryan. (Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios)
Jordi Mollà as Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Reyes.(Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios)
Cristina Umaña as Reyes’ challenger in the Presidential election, Gloria Bonalde.(Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios)
Wendell Pierce returns as James Greer to assist Jack Ryan in uncovering Reyes’ secrets in the Venezuelan jungle. ((Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios))
Noomi Rapace as the mysterious Harriet “Harry” Baumann. (Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios)

‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Season Two’ Episode List:

Note: All eight episodes were available for streaming in Amazon Prime Video on October 31, 2019

Cargo: Jack Ryan searches for the truth behind Venezuela’s transactions with various world powers. James Greer, about to get sidelined from his new post in Russia, joins Jack in Venezuela and the two find themselves in the midst of a Venezuelan leader’s re-election effort.

Tertia Optio: Jack is granted permission from Senator Chapin to stay in Venezuela. President Reyes denies involvement in the events that are keeping Jack in country. Meanwhile, Jack and Harry team up to follow a lead that could create dissension within the ranks.

Orinoco: The U.S. Special Activities team lands in Venezuela where Jack’s intel leads them to a militia guarded compound. Deep in the jungle, Jack’s search for answers puts the whole team in danger. President Reyes’ opponent, Gloria Bonalde, proves to be a real contender in the upcoming election.

Dressed to Kill: Relieved of duty in Venezuela, Jack follows a new trail to London and seeks the help of MI5, only to discover the man he’s after is also after him. Back in Venezuela, Reyes makes Gloria an offer.

Blue Gold: Using Max’s daughter as bait, Jack and Harry convince Max to meet face to face. Stranded in the jungle, Marcus stumbles across a prisoner camp. Greer visits Gloria hoping to draw a connection between Reyes and her missing husband.

Persona Non Grata: Reyes accuses the U.S. of tampering with the election. The U.S. Embassy is evacuated. Jack, Greer and Mike November must decide whether to follow orders or go off the grid. Reyes’ men pursue Matice and the American soldiers in the jungle.

Dios y Federación: The election in Venezuela is moved up. Stranded in a hostile country, Jack and Mike fight for their lives, while Greer is interrogated. The Ubarri family must decide to flee or face Reyes.

Strongman: Jack heads to the Presidential Palace to retrieve Greer. When the polls are shut down, violent protests erupt outside the palace, and Jack must make a decision that could determine his future.

Source for synopses: Internet Movie Database

My Take

Marcus “Uber” Bishop (Jovan Adepo) and CIA SAC leader Matice (John Hoogenakker) evaluate the situation in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. (Photo Credit: Paramount Television and Amazon Studios)

As I mentioned in my review of Season One of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the series is neither a continuation of the Mace Neufeld-produced film franchise (although Neufeld is one of the series’ executive producers) nor a TV adaptation of any of the late author’s novels.

Instead, Jack Ryan is a “soft reboot” based on characters created by Clancy in 14 Jack Ryan novels and is an “alternate history” of John Patrick Ryan and his career as a CIA analyst that takes some of the “established facts” from the main Ryanverse but tweaks them to fit the 21st Century rather than attempt to recreate Ryan’s career at the CIA, National Security Council, and – eventually – the White House as depicted in the novels written by Clancy and his literary successors.

As such, viewers of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan who are not familiar with either Clancy’s books or the five Paramount Pictures films released between 1990 and 2014 don’t need to worry about “catching up” with the existing Jack Ryan canon. They can just start watching the series – either by streaming it on Amazon Prime Video or on Blu-ray or DVD – and get to know John Krasinski’s incarnation of Clancy’s answer to Ian Fleming’s James Bond.

Long-time Clancy fans might be exasperated by Paramount’s insistence on focusing on Ryan’s career as a CIA analyst; as noted above, the novels’ overall story arc follow the character as he rises from a newly-recruited analyst at the Agency to the unexpected President of the United States (an event portrayed in 1994’s Debt of Honor). In the Harrison Ford films, the actor’s age allowed Ryan to be promoted to Deputy Director (Intelligence) at Langley in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, but when the role was handed over to Ben Affleck in 2002 for The Sum of All Fears, Ryan regressed to his first days as a young analyst with an expertise on Russia.

This is also the case with the Amazon Studios/Paramount Television series; the character is not conceived – as far as I can discern – as a future President of the United States during his days as a career man in the CIA. Like James Bond, Jack Ryan is a Hollywood version of an intelligence agent, although while Bond is more of a “fantasy” spy in stories that are more fanciful than real, Ryan at least is depicted as a reluctant hero who uses his brain more than his gun in the service of his country.

Nevertheless, in Season Two (which was filmed in the U.S., Great Britain, Moscow, and Colombia), newcomers to the Ryanverse as well as Clancy grognards from the mid-1980s will have something exciting and interesting to watch in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Whether it’s the “torn from the headlines” focus on Venezuela’s troubles or the Clancy-like mix of international intrigue and military-espionage action involving America’s covert ops community, Season Two has something to offer the willing viewer.

As the son of Colombian immigrants and someone who lived in Colombia as a small child, I appreciated the producers’ choice to film the scenes set in Venezuela in my ancestral homeland. I’m not one to identify as a Colombian-American; if pressed, I’ll say that I’m an American of Colombian ancestry, and that I don’t claim dual citizenship, although I could if I wanted. However, I am proud of my roots (even though I find the divide between social classes in Colombia as appalling as I do the systemic racism in the U.S.), so I was pleased when I saw my old hometown of Bogota standing in for Caracas and the Colombian countryside “playing” the Orinoco rain forests of Venezuela.

Once again, I can’t stress how this series’ casting makes Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan a must-watch series. As in Season One, casting director April Webster chose a wonderful international cast from the U.S., Colombia, Venezuela (exile Francisco Denis), the UK, Germany, Spain,and Sweden.

John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place) once again takes on the role of John Patrick Ryan, channeling Harrison Ford’s performance in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Krasinski is a good choice to play Clancy’s stalwart hero because he can convey a mix of intelligence, moral rectitude, wit, warmth, and courage in the same way that Ford did in his two Jack Ryan films with director Phillip Noyce. Some people might have reservations because he is probably best known for his comedic role as The Office’s Jim Palmer, but trust me; John Krasinski is Jack Ryan.

As in the novels and features, Ryan depends on a large supporting cast of characters to play off against. In this season of Jack Ryan, the eponymous hero needs help from people on his Friends’ list, such as Wendell Pierce’s James Greer (Jack’s mentor at CIA), CIA Station Chief Mike November (Michael Kelly), and the mysterious Harriet “Harry” Baumann (Noomi Rapace).

Equally important is this season’s outstanding supporting character, the new-to-politics challenger to President Reyes, Gloria Bonalde, played excellently by Colombian actress Cristina Umaña (Narcos). Umaña plays the history professor-turned-activist with a quiet yet steely resolve that is more than a match for Reyes’ lust for power and glory

And as anyone who loves a good action-adventure story knows, a hero is only as good as his antagonist, and Spain’s Jordi Mollà is an excellent foil for Krasinski’s Ryan. As played by the internationally-renowned actor-writer-director-painter from Barcelona, Nicolas Reyes is a Machiavellian heir to the legacy of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. He is intelligent, outwardly charming, and has fought his way up from poverty to the highest office in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Mollà is riveting whenever he is onscreen, even when he is up to no good.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is an entertaining action-adventure show that is a feast for the eyes and the mind. It is not 100% realistic, and its storytelling approach is a blend of Clancy’s examination of the threats America faces at home and abroad mixed with the serial adventure tropes of 24.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Season Two can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video or, if you prefer home media, it just came out on DVD and Blu-ray.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

2 thoughts on “TV Series Review: ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Season Two’

    1. I haven’t watched the film 13 Hours: The Secret Heroes of Benghazi, a movie in which he plays a military man, but I agree. Krasinski can play more than just comedic roles. He’s also a well-regarded director (he helmed a few episodes of The Office, plus feature films such as A Quiet Place) and producer.


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