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Josh Reviews Jack Ryan Season Two

In the second season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, Jack finds himself in the middle of turmoil in Venezuela.  After his friend Senator Moreno is murdered while part of a delegation in Venezuela, Jack tirelessly tries to weed through the complicated local politics to find the people responsible for Moreno’s death… a trail that Jack soon comes to believe will lead straight to Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Reyes.

I loved the first season of Jack Ryan.  While this second season was also enjoyable to watch, it didn’t work for me nearly as well as the first season.

Tom Clancy wrote so many Jack Ryan novels, and even the ones that were adapted for the screen had a lot of liberties taken with them.  This means that there is a wealth of as-yet unseen-on-screen material for the Jack Ryan show-runners to pull from.  So I was surprised that this season borrowed so heavily from Clear and Present Danger, most notably the van attack in episode one that starts this whole story in motion, as well as the story-line of a group of U.S. black-ops soldiers operating in the jungle behind enemy lines who are eventually betrayed by their supervisor in the U.S. government.  That van attack in particular is probably the most memorable element of the Clear and Present Danger film.  So why re-do it for the show?  It gave this season a feeling of been-there, done-that familiarity to me right off the bat.

I also didn’t love the angry this-time-it’s-personal attitude that Jack had throughout this season.  (This was visually embodied by his scruffy beard, just in case we needed this spelled out for us.)  I didn’t feel the show really earned the grief and anger that they told us Jack was carrying (we don’t really know Jack’s Senator friend who gets killed in the first episode, so his death doesn’t have the weight the writers wanted it to have), and I found it a little boring as a narrative short-cut to pathos.  This angry-and-detached Jack wasn’t as interesting to me as the smart-and-passionate Jack from season one.

As it was in season one, the show continues to be carried by the terrific work of John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce as Jack Ryan and James Greer.  I love these two and their versions of these characters.  I was glad that this second season gave them a number of great moments together and allowed their often-abrasive relationship to deepen.  Mr. Krasinski’s every-man quality continues to serve his interpretation of the character well.  Jack does all sorts of super-human stuff, but Mr. Kransinski is able to keep even the wildest twists grounded and believable (well, mostly), and his inherent likability keeps us rooting for … [continued]

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Josh’s Favorite Episodes of TV of 2018 — Part One!

Ok, here we go!  I’m a bit later that usual launching my annual Best of the Year lists (I’ve been working on some illustration projects that have been taking up all of my free time — click on my updated portfolio page for a few teases, with more news hopefully coming in the next few months), but I’m here now and ready to go!

This annual list began as a Top Ten list and last year ballooned to a Top Twenty-Five!  This year it’s a Top 19.  What can I say, that’s a weird number, but there were 19 shows/episodes that I wanted to highlight!

I always begin these lists with a list of the shows I HADN’T watched but wanted to, and this year that list of shows I missed is longer than ever.  I mean, insanely long.  I keep a running list of shows that interest me and that I wanted to watch, and while I watch a lot of TV, I nevertheless wasn’t able to get to: Atlanta, Barry, Homecoming, Killing Eve, A Very English Scandal, Bodyguard, Bojack Horseman, The End of the F***ing World, Counterpart, American Vandal, Maniac, Patriot, Altered Carbon, The Expanse, and The Romanoffs.  Then there were the returning shows whose latest seasons I still haven’t found time to watch: Black Mirror season four (I watched the first few episodes but never finished), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season two, Legion season two, Westworld season two, Iron Fist season two, and Daredevil season three.  Aargh that is a lot of fantastic TV that I wasn’t able to see in 2018!!  I’m hoping to catch up with some of those shows in 2019… even though there are lots of new 2019 shows already out and/or coming soon (True Detective season three, the final episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, etc.)!!  Sigh.  The joys and pain of “Peak TV”.

But, OK, enough moaning, there WAS so much great TV that I DID see in 2018 and am so excited to celebrate.  Here we go:

19. The Simpsons: “My Way or the Highway to Heaven” (season thirty, episode three, aired on 10/14/18) — Wow!  For very first time since I started writing these lists a decade ago, The Simpsons makes an appearance!  I started watching The Simpsons a few episodes into season one, and I watched it religiously through around season 15, but then I drifted away.  I started watching again after The Simpsons Movie (which I loved) and watched for about half that season, but it didn’t hold my interest.  I’ve dipped back in occasionally over the past decade, but it wasn’t until this past year that I watched several episodes in a row that made me … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Netflix’s Jack Ryan: Season One

I loved The Hunt for Red October when I first saw it when it was released back in 1990, and to this day it remains one of my very favorite movies.  None of the follow-up Jack Ryan films was able to match it.  I like the two Harrison Ford films (Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger), though I dream of an alternate universe in which Alec Baldwin returned as Ryan rather than being replaced by Ford.  I don’t think The Sum of All Fears is as bad as most people do, but there’s no question that attempt to reboot the Jack Ryan film franchise didn’t work.  It was, however, far superior to 2014’s abysmal Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, about which the less said, the better.  Now comes Amazon’s eight-episode Jack Ryan series.  So what did I think?

I quite liked it!  This first season of Jack Ryan is strong, exciting television.  The show is superbly made, with a great cast and an epic scope.  This first season was exciting and tense, with great action and compelling cliffhangers that hooked me in and resulted in my blazing through the entire season in short time.   Show-runners Carlton Cuse (who ran Lost with Damon Lindelof) and Graham Roland have done strong work here.

Just like The Sum of All Fears and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, this new Jack Ryan show again reboots the story to zero and retells us Ryan’s origin.  While I find this repeated rebooting to be tiresome, I can understand why a new Jack Ryan TV show would feel the need to do this, and thankfully, they’ve found some interesting new spins on the tale of the young analyst Ryan getting swept up in action and espionage in the field, so the show doesn’t feel like a rehash of stuff we’ve seen before.

While I still long for a great Ryan movie that can rival Red October, after watching these eight episodes, it’s clear that a TV mini-series is the perfect format for telling a Tom Clancy-style story.  (This series isn’t directly adapted from any of Mr. Clancy’s novels, but the type of global terror-threat story it depicts feels very much in the style of Mr. Clancy’s work.)  The eight-episode season gives the show plenty of time to tell a far-reaching, complicated story taking place in many different countries, and allows us to follow many different characters, good guys and bad guys.  The show is able to tell a complex story that has the room to breathe, as opposed to having to squash everything into a two-hour film.  The result is the first truly successful new filmed Jack Ryan story in quite a long while.

I’d at first … [continued]