Suleiman is not the name of the show I’m reviewing, but unfortunately, it would have been more apt based on the six episodes of Jack Ryan available for press prior the new Amazon series dropping on Friday, August 31.
John Krasinski, still best known for his role on The Office yet fast becoming a movie star in his own right, plays the titular Jack Ryan with the requisite finesse.
But the story never quite catches fire for the former Marine turned CIA analyst getting his feet wet again on the ground as far more time is spent on the nuances and particulars of bad guy Mousa Bin Suleiman (Ali Suliman).
The first scene of the series features not what established the life of Ryan, but what drove Suleiman to become the hunted man Ryan finds -- think the next Osama Bin Laden.
Suleiman has a family and motivation from childhood forward for all of his actions. As he is of the Muslim faith, plenty of care is taken to ensure he isn’t a one-dimensional villain. There are countermeasures taken elsewhere in the series, too, to so that his religion isn’t painted in a dark light.
He's a great character, and there are times it feels as if I'm watching a spinoff of FX's Tyrant, and Barry had another messed up brother out there we never knew about and it just so happens that Jack Ryan is on his tail.
That should tell you how much time is spent grounding the Suleiman family.
At the same time, there is a character on the periphery, an American serviceman who operates drones and has a conscience he can’t control, who balances the good guys by reminding the audience America aren’t the good guys.
That message, though, wasn’t needed, as it takes so long for Ryan and his new boss to get into the swing of being heroic (and that’s who we’ve known Ryan to be through five feature films) that the countermeasures seem excessive.
Ryan, who was severely injured in his life as a marine, seems perfectly suited to his desk job as an analyst, other than the fact he’s ridiculously fit and could run rings around others if given the opportunity both physically and mentally.
When his new boss, James Greer, played by the ever-captivating Wendell Pierce, finds the talent hidden in Ryan, he escalates his desk job to fieldwork despite Ryan’s protests.
Not nearly enough time is spent bolstering the relationship between Ryan and Greer, but it’s when they finally find themselves spending more of it together that the show lights up. The action increases, the dialogue improves, and Krasinski gets to embody the Jack Ryan we intend for him to be as the show moves forward.
Suliman is more than capable as the cracked Suleiman whose love for his family and his religion, among other things, turns him into an angry and vengeful soul. He’s too capable, which is why so much focus on his character detracts from the limelight Krasinski should be enjoying as the star.
Suleiman’s wife on the series, Hanin (Dina Shihabi) easily overshadows the other female, Ryan’s love interest and a doctor who will become involved in the terror storyline without any provocation, Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish).
While romance isn't a necessary part of an action series, that love and its complications is understood more in terms of the villain than the hero is somewhat different series like this.
Most of these things on their own wouldn’t be worth a complaint, except for the fact the series is called Jack Ryan. It’s not Patriot Games (Harrison Ford) or The Hunt for Red October (Alec Baldwin) or The Sum of All Fears (Ben Affleck) or even Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Chris Pine). No, this one is plain and simple; Jack Ryan.
To that end, the series should at least give Krasinski a chance to showcase his talents, but he isn’t given a fair shake through most of the first half of the season.
Instead, he spends an inordinate amount of time in passenger seats of cars, telling people he is, indeed, a CIA analyst, or biting his tongue so as not to allow any personality slip out to make trouble with Greer.
The best case made for Ryan going forward is Greer sees a lot of himself in his protege, and if a reverse pep talk (get your head out of your arse) does any good at all, maybe it will loosen up the character a bit for the remaining two episodes.
Truthfully, at Jack Ryan Season 1 Episode 6, Greer is the action star we would expect Ryan to be, but Pierce is getting to play the part. Good on him!
All we can hope is that the damage isn’t done for the character and the series because Krasinski in the role should be more than merely serviceable.
Krasinski’s Ryan should be a combination of all the characters he’s played before Jack Ryan, and if we’re too root for him, he needs a lot more Jim Halpert to lighten up and match the charms of his boss, Greer.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.