Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
“Pilot” (Episode 101)
August 31, 2018
Amazon’s newest streaming series, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, is one of THE most hotly anticipated new titles of 2018. Amazon released the entire 8 episode season on August 31, 2018. Pop Culture Review will be releasing its recaps & reviews of the series over the next few weeks.
Based on the long run series of successful books, which have continued even after Tom Clancy’s death, the show stars John Krasinski (The Office) as the eponymous hero, Wendell Pierce (Suits, The Wire), as James Greer, and Abbie Cornish (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), as Cathy Mueller. Since Cathy isn’t yet Cathy Ryan, we know right away this is a Jack Ryan origin story, an arena never really explored in the books.
Fans of the novels will know that Jack Ryan, a mere CIA Analyst with no ambitions to being a super spy, came up during the last decade of the Cold War. For this series, Jack Ryan still begins as a CIA analyst, but he now exists in a contemporary world where terror threats from Islamic Fundamentalism is the McGuffin we’re all chasing.
I shouldn’t have to say it but Spoilers Ahead. Read on for our recap & review of the Pilot episode of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan … after the jump!
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. 1983. With the sweet tunes of Men Without Hat’s Safety Dance, we are thrown into the way back machine where a Lebanese family is beginning their day. Amazon helpfully tells me that we are in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War, which began in 1975 and lasted 15 years. As Ali and his brother, Mousa, do their chores, they watch fighter jets begin to bomb the valley and begin to run as the bombing run comes their way …
We dissolve to the present day, Washington, D.C., and Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) is kayaking on the Potomac … as everyone does in Washington, D.C. Anyway, we follow Jack on his way to the office … at the Central Intelligence Agency.
**I am going to take a minute here and protest the unnecessary Mets bashing that happens here. they didn’t do anything to you, Ryan. Shut your dirty mouth!**
With a helpful placard, we learn Jack, or Dr. Ryan as the long suffering Mets fan (and security guard), Harold, calls him, works in the CTC (Counter Terrorism Center) Terror Finance and Arms Division (Room 4E32). Jack is an analyst. He’s also late to a staff meeting of spy accounting nerds.
Up on the 7th Floor, Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce) waits to see CTC Director, Nathan Singer (Timothy Hutton). The “7th Floor” is the traditional executive floor for the CIA. We learn quickly that Jim Greer is just returning from a long absence and also, is recently divorced. Nate hands over a file for Jim’s new group, T-FAD (Terror Finance and Arms Division, which sounds familiar to you from the paragraph above), made up of a diverse group of government agencies and with people Greer doesn’t know. Greer clearly isn’t happy with the posting but Greer makes it clear it’s a second chance that not everyone on the 7th Floor thinks he deserved.
Downstairs in the nerd group, Greer walks into the meeting (at least Ryan wasn’t the latest) and introduces himself as the new group chief. With some helpful exposition, we learn that Greer had been Station Chief of Karachi, Pakistan. Jack knows Greer as the guy that almost ran him over on his way in to the office earlier (and cursed him out). Greer remembers him too because he’ll call him “Lance Armstrong” in a second. Let’s take a minute and meet everyone in the group, shall we:
- Tarek Kassar (Mena Massoud) – working on getting intelligence on Hawala Networks (an invisible banking system in Islamic nations) out of Islamabad.
- Noreen Yang (Eileen Li) – works Europe terrorism leads.
- Jack Ryan – works Yemen. Currently monitoring SWIFT payments and transfers in and around Aden (the capital of Yemen).
Greer wants more info and so Jack continues. Seems he’s actually flagged several recent transactions as suspicious. He says that one off transactions to individuals is anomalous and that the person behind the transactions could be a high value target. “Who is he,” Greer pushes Jack. Suleiman, Jack says. “It means, ‘Man of Peace.” Ryan continues that this name has just begun to pop on different chatter they’ve intercepted. Greer is a bit dismissive of just a name but Ryan doesn’t back down. He tells Greer that it’s not the name but “How they are saying it.” Jack contends that this Suleiman is attracting followers from Shia AND Sunnis (traditionally, these sects of Islam hate each other).
“Wow. A brand new Bin Laden on my first day.”
Greer collects some chuckles at Ryan’s expense, and asks how it is that only Jack Ryan has put this intel together. Jack continues (oblivious to the fact that Greer isn’t taking him seriously at all and maybe is painting him like a conspiracy theory loon) that he has been working on a custom computer code to bridge the different computer networks together to cobble all the information into one place.
“Next,” Greer cuts him off.
- Patrick Klinghoffer (Adam Bernett) – covers Syria.
We don’t see the rest of the meeting but instead, cut to the hallway where Ryan is asking his buds about why Greer was PNG’d (Persona Non Grata – what happens to diplomats (and spies) when countries officially (or non-officially) ban someone from their country) back to headquarters? Tarek shares a rumor that Greer dipped his bullets in pigs blood so the terrorists couldn’t get into Paradise when they were shot. That seems … extreme.
Al Mnajeer, Syria. Outside of an old stone fortress, Hanin Suleiman (Dina Shihabi) plays some soccer and is all smiles with her family … until some serious dudes in armed vehicles roll up. Ah, this is Colonel Al Radwan who has come a knocking and he is looking for Suleiman. He isn’t home and Al Radwan asks when he’ll be back. Hanin speaks up and tells him it’s none of his fucking business (I may be paraphrasing here). Al Radwan takes this woman speaking to him better than I would have though. He tells Hanin that her husband said this man they picked up should stay with them. The man in question turns out to be a white dude. Which is surprising.
Washington, D.C. JAck Ryan comes home for a night of lonely bachelor hood which means take out chinese food and Jeopardy. I know those nights, my friend. A Joe Mueller (Victor Slezak) calls him (from a fancy, private jet no less) and tells Jack he wants to talk about something with him. We learn they haven’t spoken in 5 years and Jack used to work for Joe. He tells Ryan to come to his house Sunday for his birthday party. You get the impression Jack doesn’t think he could say no, even if he wanted to.
Later that night, as a metronome ticks at his bedside, Jack lies awake and seems to be having a PTSD moment; we see flashbacks to his time in the military – he’s on a desert deployment. When Jack sits up, his back is covered in scars, including along the entire length of his spine.
Nothing like a little insomnia to help you get a jump on the day at the office. He starts doing some cross searching on wire transfers in March and making furious notes on post-its. As a man who also uses Post-Its with a vengeance, I am appreciating Ryan’s work habits. The office has come alive so we know some time has passed with him at his computer. Teresa (Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez), who game him a too big hello in their meeting yesterday brings him breakfast and coffee. Marry Her, Ryan!! But, he doesn’t marry her, he actually runs off with some of his print outs. He intercepts Greer, who is just arriving, and man, watching these two – one enthusiastically chomping at the bit over his financial records find and the other, going through the motions and completely unhappy to be where he is, is wonderful. These two have great screen chemistry.
Anyway, Ryan has tracked a series of wire transfers all coming from the same bank account, opened a week and a half ago in Aden, belonging to a Saudi import/export company. The company’s business license is less than a month old. It’s a shell company, he says. “Okay?!?,” replies Greer. Ryan completes his thought. Six SWIFT transactions have come through in the last 8 days, totaling over $9 million. Of all the accounts Jack has followed, only 2 have ever gone over a million and just barely at that. This is a big, new player …
Why go big, Greer asks, and risk getting their attention. Jack posits that maybe “he” doesn’t care about drawing attention because he’s ready to do something NOW. Greer notes the “he” and loses interest thinking this is part of Jack’s Suleiman obsession. Ryan promises Greer that Suleiman is real and wouldn’t the 7th Floor have loved the opportunity to catch a Bin Laden 20 years ago before he became … well, Bin Laden. Ryan says he’s just asking for them to freeze the account.
“You’re not there yet.”
Ryan is incredulous.
“9/11 cost half a million dollars. If he is real, what do you think he can do with twenty times that amount of money. We have to chase this down. Once the money’s gone, he’s gone. I promise you that.”
Greer dismisses Ryan and Jack leaves more than a little pissed off. The question here, is Greer being gun shy – at jumping so soon given his precarious position in the Agency OR does he just not think number crunching can’t be a sexy way to grab a big bad. Alone, Greer thinks for a minute and then picks up his phone …
Al Mnajeer, Syria. Hanin brings her mystery guest some tea. Her mystery guest is named Ansor Dudayev (Goran Kostic) in case you were wondering, not that we have been told that yet. He is working with some high end computers and maybe some bombs? Interesting to note that his Arabic isn’t good and Hanin’s English is excellent. She leaves and Ansor looks worried? Perturbed? A combination?
CTC Bullpen. Ryan is talking to Layla Navarro (Victoria Sanchez), last seen rolling her eyes at Ryan when he started telling Greer about Suleiman in the group meeting yesterday. He tells Layla that Greer is scared, that he must have fucked up big time to go from Chief of Station to running T-FAD and he’s scared of making another mistake. Layla isn’t on board with Jack’s theory to begin with and warns him in addition that Jack doesn’t have the authority to “write a Démarche.” Jack knows. It has to come from the Treasury Department and we get a camera look at Teresa, Ryan’s admirer. A plan is afoot and it doesn’t escape Layla’s notice. She walks away with a simple, warning of “Jack..”
*A Démarche is a formal communique from one government to another requesting they take some action – in this case, it would be to ask Aden to freeze the Saudi bank account.*
Jack makes his way over to Teresa’s desk as she is finishing an email about illegal funds in use by ISIS (ISIL?). Teresa is clearly worried about Greer’s reaction and Jack tells her that he totally gets it. He doesn’t want her to do anything she’s uncomfortable about. BUT, man, it makes Jack so mad when people always say Treasury gets a bad rap for not doing anything. AmIRight?!? It’s a straight up manipulation and totally douche baggy. But, also kind of awesome. It also, totally works and she sends the Démarche to the Yemeni Ministry.
“That was awesome.”
Jack is underwhelmed by the anti-climatic email but realizing she did it, he tells her, “good job,” and really, that’s all she was looking for.
Al Mnajeer, Syria. Hanin calls her kids to dinner and then almost faints when she see they were playing with making chalk outlines, like what you do for dead bodies. A different childhood in Syria, I guess. Though, I bet there are places in America where that’s a thing too. Anyway, she sees Ansor and some men loading up a large crate of “Olive Oil.” Sure Sure.
T-FAD. Greer gets a call from Pete Cortwright (Andreas Apergis), calling from the CIA Annex of the US Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. Pete is confused as to how he got Greer on the line but after realizing he was in the right place (the shame of being the T-FAD Group Chief is palpable), asks about the démarche request. Greer is confused for a hot second, he didn’t order any démarche, but looking out at Ryan in the bullpen puts it all together right quick.
After summoning Ryan into his office, he reads him the riot act big time. Ryan tries to put it on Treasury for a hot second but Greer isn’t buying it. Ryan tries to placate him that he’ll take the fall if it blows back but again, Greer isn’t having it. The eyes darting around in the bullpen as Ryan gets his ass handed to him is amazing. Anyway, Greer balks at the idea he is trying to save his career; look around, he says to Jack, “that ship has sailed.” Then, he moves on to chastising Ryan for doing this all of 4 years – complete with sarcastic clapping.
Greer isn’t done. He asks Ryan that even if Suleiman, or Casper the Friendly Ghost, really does exist, what’s he going to do when Yemen freezes the account? He’ll cut bait and Ryan gets nothing.
“How many people you know walk away from $9 million.”
Jack says that the money will mean everything to him, which Greer agrees with. Greer says they could have sat on the bank, tracked it, “and wrapped up the whole goddamn network.” Sure, Ryan says, or we could’ve been watching the front door of the bank while Suleiman pulled off the next 9/11 out the back.
“Get the fuck out of my office.”
Ryan quietly returns to his desk while Greer fumes inside his office.
Aden, Yemen. Matice (John Hoogenakker), clearly a CIA guy undercover, and some men watch from a van as the manager of the Bank of the Republic of Yemen leaves for a meeting. They follow his every move. Two men join the manager for a lunch meeting and Matice tells his men to get him audio. As a female on the team moves into position with a special pen to pick up audio, a sniper takes up an overwatch position from a nearby apartment (being with the Secret Police opens lots of doors, it seems). The audio is static-y and Matice in the van can’t make out what they’re saying. One of the two men sitting with the manager is very upset. Soon, the meeting breaks up and the men go their separate ways from the bank manager. In the van, Matice orders his team to pick up the two guys and let the manager go.
A quick snatch and grab later, and Matice and his team are rolling with two new guests.
T-FAD. Greer is reading over Ryan’s service record. For those that are interested, Jack was born on May 17, 1982, was a Marine for 6 years and was the only survivor of a helicopter crash that killed 12 of his teammates. He left the marines on February 11, 2008 (February 11 is your eagle-eyed recapper’s birhdate). At the time of his termination from the Corps, he was a rank of E05 which makes him an enlisted man, terminating at Sergeant. I am not including his SS # or address because that seems unnecessary.
Anyway, Pete calls Jim again, interrupting his research, and wants to follow up on their last conversation …
Joe Mueller’s Birthday Party. Jack arrives at Joe Mueller’s palatial lake front estate with a small present wrapped in traditional colorful birthday paper. He finds a party that is more akin to a wedding replete with gift table overflowing with large packages.
Why am I here, Jack cuts to the chase. Joe tells him that he is starting an aggressive new hedge fund with investors from South Korea. He wants Jack to give him the skinny on what the State Department is saying about North Korea.
“Am I gonna get fucked here?”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, says Jack. He isn’t that kind of State Department guy and geez Louise, he couldn’t divulge that kind of info in any case … Joe back tracks that he’s not looking for top secret info, just an idea of “which way the wind is blowing.” Jack tells Joe that he’d like to help but he just can’t.
The humor and smile go out of Joe’s eyes and he tells Jack that the problem is, one day Jack is going to realize he isn’t the self righteous boy scout he wants to believe he is and by then, the gravy train will have passed him by. “Enjoy the party,” and Joe is gone.
At the bar, Jack runs into a woman named Cathy (Abbie Cornish). She chides him on being called a “self righteous Boy Scout.” Jack realizes this is Cathy Mueller, Joe’s daughter and apologizes for calling her dad an asshole a minute ago.
Jack recalls that she was a doctor of some sort and she confirm she works at Washington Memorial, specializing in infectious diseases. He says that he works at the State Department, handling supply chain logistics for the Western hemisphere … which literally sounds like the most boring job ever. Their meet cute is interrupted as a Coast Guard helicopter comes screaming over head and lands on Joe’s lawn. The two pilots comes searching through the party, calling out for a Dr. Ryan. Jack sheepishly raises his hand and they tell him they have to go with the chopper. Also, hand over your keys, the one Coast Guarder has orders to drive his car back to his apartment.
As he is being led away, he tries to say goodbye to Cathy, maybe he can … we don’t find out what, because the Coast Guard pulls him away, He really needs to leave now. Way to make an impression … and an exit!
A quick trip and Jack is now being loaded on to a plane with Greer. Catching Jack up, Greer tells him that surveillance ordered by Greer picked up two men sniffing around the frozen bank account. Jack wants to know why Greer couldn’t have told him about thinking Jack was on to something instead of throwing him out of his office.
“Because I don’t know you. And I don’t answer to you.”
Anyway, Jack is going to the interrogation because he knows the financial end and Greer wants to make sure the right questions are being asked. Hold on, says, he can’t be going to Yemen?!?! “Why not,” asks Greer?
“I’m an analyst. I don’t interrogate people; I write reports.”
Greer says to “get on the fucking plane” and away they go. Off to Yemen!
Sarawat Mountains, Yemen. Black Site: “Cobalt”. Matice meets Greer and Ryan as they get off the chopper at Black Site: “Cobalt.” Matice says it’s cool that Ryan is a Doctor of Economics but … yeah, probably not that cool. Matice catches up, he’s surprised to hear Greer is back at Langley. And Jack? He wants to know if Jack has any stock tips or anything, he’s looking to expand his portfolio. Bwahahaha. Jack … Jack doesn’t know what to do with any of this.
Inside the holding cells, Greer advises Jack leave his “merit badges at the door.” Code for, don’t be a bleeding heart here. Inside the interrogation room, Matice turns down the blaring Toby Keith (he’s more of a George Strait man anyway) and introduces them to the big cheese of the two captives, Omar Rahbini (Helmi Dridi). A Saudi. The other man is a bodyguard (Ali Suliman). Matice catches Greer up, saying they found Omar with a phone and a number to call in his briefcase. The number was to an answering service. Jack speaks up and asks for the cell phone Omar was carrying.
Jack dials a number and Omar’s phone starts to ring. The same phone number as the wire transfers he was tracking. The looks on the baddies faces tells them they are on to something and they move Omar “to the big room.”
The Big Room. Hours have passed and Omar is playing dumb. When he responds to the Arabic interrogator, it’s just to say that he doesn’t know anything. Ryan leaves to get some air.
Outside the compound, a couple of trucks roll up delivering freshly dead bodies from a drone strike. The head of the group tells a solider that they can cross them off their list and says something about a deal.
Inside, Ryan brings the bodyguard some food and tries to speak to him. After some initial hesitation about maybe the food being poisoned, the bodyguard starts to eat with a fury.
Outside, the soldiers finish paying off the locals for the body. He tells another soldier to load them in the cooler until the Doc can ID the bodies.
Inside, Jack asks Soufan (the bodyguard) about his name, that’s Lebanese, no? They make some small talk about what an analyst does (works behind a desk) and what Soufan does (he’s a bodyguard). Jack notes the scars on Soufan’s hands and learn they were from when he was a boy. In Lebanon, Jack asks?
Elsewhere in the compound, soldiers bring in the dead. Once alone, one of the bodies rises up and begins ransacking the body cavities of the actually dead men for pieces of an automatic rifle that he assembles on the spot.
Back in the interrogation room, Ryan asks Soufan what he knows about Rahbini and more specifically, if he’s ever heard the name “Suleiman.” It’s a common name, Soufan demurs, “you’ll have to be more specific.”
Outside the compound, night had fallen. One of the pick up trucks from earlier returns and after a brief pause, makes a charge for the Black Site’s front gate. The sentries stop the truck before it comes through the gate, but then it explodes, shaking the entire base. An insurgent for a rocket grenade into the sentry tower and now all hell breaks loose. In the Rahbini interrogation room, the soldiers get their guns and Rahbini begins to weep.
Outside, there is a full on attack of the camp happening.
Inside, Greer orders Ryan back inside Soufan’s room while everyone else goes out to kill bad guys. Ryan doesn’t argue.
As the fighting picks up outside, the zombie warrior waits for his moment. That moment comes when another RPG takes out another guard tower. The Americans are getting their ass kicked here. Soon, the base loses power.
The Zombie Warrior breaches the interior of the compound, by the interrogation cells. He kills one solider and then takes another hostage to show him where “he” is. The Zombie Warrior speaks very good English. The Solider takes the Zombie Warrior to Rahbini’s cell. The Zombie Warrior looks at him for a second and then puts two bullets into, chest and head.
“No. The other one.”
As the fighting continues outside, Ryan hears footsteps approaching his cell. He hides behind the door as it opens. Of course, Soufan warns the Zombie Warrior of the white dude hiding behind the door. Zombie Warrior shoots the solider as Ryan closes the door and disarms the Zombie Warrior of the machine gun. Hand to hand fighting ensues, with a little knife play thrown in. Ryan’s side gets slashed and the balance of the fight goes back and forth a bit. It’s excellent close quarters combat.
Topside, now that the RPGs have stopped raining down, the Americans are getting back in the fight and slowly repelling the insurgents.
Downstairs, Soufan and the Zombie Warrior have Ryan pinned but he’s able to roll out. As the Zombie Warrior picks up the machine gun, Ryan grabs a grenade from the dead soldier’s belt and we have a standoff.
Ryan proves he’s not bluffing by showing them the pin he’s pulled from the grenade. Soufan tells the Zombie Warrior to not shoot and free him instead.
“I thought you were an analyst.”
“I thought you were a bodyguard.”
“It’s you. Suleiman.”
Soufan Suleiman doesn’t respond but he and Ryan make meaningful eye contact. Ryan watches as the duo make their escape. Breathing a sigh of relief, but also still shaking from the fear and adrenaline, he puts the pin back into the grenade.
Topside,the Americans complete the repulsion of the insurgent forces. Well, not really. Suleiman and his partner escape over a wall. Somehow getting the sign that their cargo is in the clear, the bad guys bug out, picking up the escaping couple a bit of ways away. This is what really ends the fighting. In the truck bed, Suleiman and the Zombie Warrior touch foreheads.
We flashback to the opening scene. Picking up after the bombing, Ali’s brother, finds Ali pinned under a heavy wooden beam. Throwing it off of him, we see Ali’s knees are badly burned. The brothers embrace. Clearly this is young Suleiman and the Zombie Warrior would be Young Ali.
In the present, Greer surveys the destruction. Ryan walks past him, his sliced side still bleeding, and stares after Suleiman escaping into the distance. Ryan looks pissed.
On the show in general. Some preliminaries. I am a HUGE Tom Clancy fan. If I was put on a desert island and only allowed one book series to read, it would be Tom Clancy’s collected works. His Jack Ryan series birthed in me a love of reading spy thrillers and military fiction which persists to this day. The detail and scope that went into his novels made them 1000+ page tomes of intricate world building I could get lost in for days. And did.
When I heard last year that this series was coming, it was by far the thing I was most excited about. And when I got to see this Pilot episode out at San Diego Comic Con this Summer, I knew it had been worth the wait.
Using Clancy’s novels as source material for background information, and with Carlton Cuse on board as show creator and showrunner and Krasinski cast in the title role, I had no doubt that this was a can’t miss production. Throw in Amazon’s reputation for putting real money into its projects and I knew we had something special here. This Pilot episode bears out all of my faith.
With intricate details, explosive action pieces, and humor that feels natural and never canned or forced, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is a Summer Movie Blockbuster come to the small screen. The plotting is detailed but not overwhelming so. You need to pay attention to what’s going on but it’s not “LOST-level” such that you need to take hand written notes to keep up. Cuse, and his partner in crime Graham Roland (Almost Human, Fringe), are at the top of their craft with this series and it’s not surprise that it was renewed for Season 2 months before ever premiering.
Amazon has had some success with it’s very high quality offerings (from Bosch, to The Man In The High Castle, to even The Tick) but it will be Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan that puts Amazon into the heavy weights category with your Netflix and HBO contenders for superior quality shows.
On the Pilot, in particular. This episode was heavy with exposition and introduction, fairly standard Pilot episode stuff. We meet Jack, Greer and Cathy, the trio that will be the core of the show, I suspect. But we also meet the larger world of the CIA/T-FAD group as well as the core bad guys we’ll be battling.
On our trio, it looks like Jack has some interesting PTSD issues related to a military backstory we only got a hint of tonight. I’m interested to see if we explore that in more depth or if it’s just a footnote in who he is. Cathy, we only met briefly but it’ll be interested to see her courtship dance with Jack … especially given the state of Jack’s relationship with her father, Joe Mueller. And Greer. He’s the most fascinating to me, especially given the departure of his character from the book. In the novels, Jim Greer is a hard nosed Admiral, a career Navy man who takes to Jack after he proves himself in The Hunt for Red October. Here, Greer is a disgraced CIA man; one sent crawling back to Langley in a step-down job under circumstances not yet made fully clear to us. As whatever happened, happened while he was Chief of Station in Pakistan, I definitely feel that we’ll be learning more about his story as the series goes on.
My guess is that the season will unfold with us watching Greer and Jack and the rest of the T-FAD team work together to unravel the Suleiman mystery — what is he planning to do with his $9 million of US cash?!? With the high level of storytelling on display here, I’m expecting a decently intricate plot of twists and turns to tell this terrorist story; one I think we’ll see isn’t as black and white as many trope heavy military shows would play it out.
Until next time, stay frost my friends.