Squawk Box: Jack Ryan Season 3/The Recruit

It's been three years since Jack Ryan graced our streaming screens and although I've reviewed it once before, I raced through the third season and decided that after such a long hiatus I was going to review it again, just for kicks. (Happily, according to the show's wiki page, it's been renewed for a fourth and (unhappily) final season- though a spin-off starring Michael Pena as Ding Chavez is currently in development.)

John Krasinski doesn't miss a beat in the titular role and this time, Jack Ryan is on the trail of an old Soviet Cold War plot involving a series of escalating steps that culminate in a crisis that causes war between the United States and (back then, the Soviet Union, but now) Russia. Back then, the project was terminated and under the orders of Luka Gocharov (James Cosmo), all the project scientists are killed. But now, Sokol is back and although no one believes him, Jack is convinced that it's been reactivated and has to go rogue for a bit to prove it.

Greer (Wendell Piece) remains on the inside, helping him as best he can and working with the newly elected Czech President Alina Kovac (Nina Hoss) to get to the bottom of the plot a matter that becomes especially urgent when the Russian Defense Minister is assassinated at a joint public appearance with her. Greer is challenged by Elizbeth Wright (Betty Gabriel) the Rome station chief that has ambitions to move up in the job.  

Eventually, Jack learns the truth: there is a rogue faction within the Russian government that is looking to destabilize western Europe and bring back to the Soviet Union and it's led by Alexei Petrov (Alexj Manvelov), the new Minister of Defense who replaced the assassinated one. The members of the faction travel to a Czech hunting lodge, where they meet with another member of their group: Petr Kovac (Peter Guinness), the father of the President. Jack and Mike November (Michael Kelly) get on a train to Budapest where they encounter Luka and Konstantin (Anton Pampushnyy), the latter is ready to kill Jack before he gets shot by Luka who has no desire to see the rogue faction succeed. 

Naturally, (as one would expect in shows like these) everything comes together. Jack has to find the nuclear device and stop it. Greer and the company head to Moscow to prevent the rogue faction from initiating their plan. Ghosts of the past come to light for Luka and Petr and everything comes to a very nice climax in the season finale. (Which yes, I'm going to be vague about because... spoilers. Go see it for yourself!)

Overall: while I am happy to see this show again, I am now genuinely bummed we only get one more season of it- even if there's a spin-off for Ding Chavez as a consolation prize. Krasinski is excellent in this role and works really with Michael Kelly (Mike November) and Wendell Pierce (James Greer.)  I was curious when they brought this show back how they were going to translate very Cold War storylines and characters into the present day, but they've done an incredible job of it and even after a three-year hiatus, this show doesn't miss a step getting back into the thick of things. At eight episodes, it's not a big time commitment and the limited run time means that they don't diddle around with the plot developments either. This show moves quickly and while it's easy to roll your eyes at terms like 'pulse-pounding' and 'thrill ride' that's the territory they're aiming for and I would say with this one, they get there- even if these shows always somewhat undermine themselves because you know, in the end, the good guys are going to win. My Grade: Jack is back, **** out of ****

I decided to stay with the espionage theme this month and gave Netflix's new series The Recruit a whirl. Shiny new lawyer and CIA employee Owen Hendricks (Noah Centineo) gets handed what's called a 'grey mail' case where a former asset currently in jail is threatening to expose agency secrets. What was meant to be a simple assignment drops Hendricks into the middle of convoluted agency politics and competing international agendas as he races to find out the truth. 

At first, hindering him (and delightfully messing with the 'new guy') he's eventually helped by his co-workers-- Violet (Aarti Mann) and Lester (Colton Dunn) but gets more concrete advice and help from the chronically overstressed Janus (Kristian Bruun.) As he gets more involved with the case, his personal life suffers and he sort of checks out on his two real friends, Terence (Daniel Quincy Annoh) and Hannah (Fivel Stewart), his ex-girlfriend who still harbors some feelings for him and gets especially jealous when he starts dating another colleague of his, Amelia (Kaylah Zander.)

In the meantime, he's got to dodge the wrath of his boss, the CIA's General Counsel, Walter Nyland (Vondie Curtis-Hall) figure out how to get the former CIA asset, Max (Laura Haddock) what she wants without revealing any of the agency's secrets or getting himself killed and that proves to be a tall order indeed as he ends the season on a cliff hanger (it's already been renewed for a second season, so never fear) that proves to be quite alarming for a young lawyer in over his head and definitely exhausted by all the trouble he has found himself in.

(Again, obviously, there's more to it than my brief synopsis, and again-- go watch it for yourself! I'm not good at summarizing shows without spraying spoilers all over the place, so if this seems like I'm giving the show short shrift, rest assured I'm trying not to do that and want to lean on the side of brevity so as not to spoil the whole damn show for anyone reading this,)

Overall, I think a lot of this show is carried quite ably by Noah Centineo. He plays Owen with the right amount of arrogance/swagger and fish-out-of-water confusion you would want to see in a role like this (lawyer gets dropped into spy stuff), but he brings a ton of charm to the role that works really, really well for this show. I feel like they have the balance of it right in the early going- it tends to lean more towards the comedy side of the 'dramedy' scale and when it does, it's a lot of fun to watch, (The overstressed Janus might be one of my favorite characters.) When things tip more towards the drama side of the dramedy scale, I'm not sure this works as well. At eight episodes, it's a quick watch and relatively light and breezy. I'll check out the next season, but I'd say this recruit might need a bit more training. My Grade: *** out of ****


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