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'Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan' is Back and Venezuela is in the Radar
November 1, 2019  | By David Hinckley

The Jack Ryan series is about as reliable as political action thrillers get, and Season 2 of the Amazon Prime version delivers as expected.

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski (top) as Jack, was scheduled to return Friday on Amazon Prime, but was released a day early instead. And the geographic epicenter this time around is Venezuela.

Venezuela itself, in this show as in real life, is a disaster. President Nicolas Reyes (Jordi Molla) has driven it almost over the falls, which has raised the possibility he will be taking increasingly extreme measures, which has gotten the attention of the CIA.

Jack, of course, works for the CIA. He began as an analyst, a desk jockey, but he made the mistake of being smart and good enough that he's been promoted to a gig that sometimes puts him on the front lines.

This season's story flows from Jack and his teammates discovering that a secret shipment of something from Russia may be making its way to a remote military outpost in Venezuela.

As Venezuela is considerably closer to the U.S. mainland than Russia, the CIA wants to know what, if anything, this shipment includes.

Jack and his boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), start by making the correct obligatory diplomatic move, which is to ask Reyes. He waves them off, saying there is nothing to be concerned about and adding a few gratuitous insults to the U.S. and the CIA.

They don't believe the denials, so the rest of the series revolves around why not and what Jack, James, and the U.S. should believe instead.

Clancy knows how to spin these yarns and, equally important, knows how to give us just enough intelligence agency insider stuff so we feel like we're informed without giving us so much that our eyes glaze over, and we start to drown in initials.

Like Clancy's Ryan books, this story trots the globe, taking us from the South China Sea to central Europe to South America to Washington. It keeps up a good pace, and if the story sometimes threatens to leave the viewer behind, the wider arc quickly becomes and remains clear enough to follow.

Krasinski went into the series last year as, frankly, a wild card. It's not because he is best known for sitcoms, but more the fact he looks like a desk jockey. He doesn't look like any of the James Bonds, that is, the standard model for action heroes.

On the other hand, Clancy didn't write Ryan as Bond. He wrote him more as a bright, hard-working guy who sometimes needs help figuring out the other stuff as he goes along.

He's not a nerd, exactly, but he is a guy who doesn't look comfortable having to point a gun at someone, even when that someone is a bad guy who wants to kill him.

There's a lot of that gun-pointing kind of stuff in Jack Ryan since the producers take the "action" part seriously. That complements nicely the complex web Clancy spins with the story, pulling in characters and complications from all over the intelligence map.

As an added bonus, those looking for a scenario in which Venezuela's problems could become a United States problem need look no further.

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