What critics have to say about ‘Jack Ryan’ season 2

Read what the reviews (good and bad) say about season 2 of the spy series starring Newton native John Krasinski.

John Krasinski in "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan." –Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

It won’t dominate cultural conversation, and it probably won’t be nominated for any Emmys, but most indications are that Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” — which debuted on the streaming platform Oct. 31, a day earlier than expected — is a hit.

While Amazon doesn’t release viewership numbers for its Prime Video content, third-party data firms found audience interest to be quite strong, and the streaming giant ordered a second and third season before the first one even finished.

Part of that interest could be due to Krasinski, the Newton native who has moved beyond his star-making role as Jim Halpert on “The Office” and branched into feature films, most notably “A Quiet Place,” the thriller he co-wrote, directed, and co-starred in with Emily Blunt, his wife.

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So far, not many critics have weighed in on season two of “Jack Ryan,” with review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes cataloguing only handful of opinions about the show so far. Those who’ve written about season 2 have largely enjoyed it, with “Jack Ryan” earning a 90 percent freshness rating at the time of this article’s publication. That said, a single number can’t adequately capture the range of critical response, and many of the reviews coded as “fresh” or “rotten” by the critical aggregation site have a bit more nuance. To help you judge whether to binge-watch all eight episodes this weekend, here’s what critics are saying, both good and bad, about season 2 of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.”

The Good

John Powers, of NPR, loved season 2, noting that many critics tend to underestimate shows like “Jack Ryan” that tell an “old-fashioned story that still appeals to millions.”

“When I tell my friends that I’ve whooshed through both seasons, most of them are startled that I could enjoy anything so retro. Yet I do, in part because it’s so retro. Offering respite from today’s political stridency, ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ serves up something reassuringly nostalgic: a conservatism that isn’t just quietly confident, but unabashedly idealistic.”

 

Tim Surette, of TV Guide, found Season 2 to be a big improvement over season one, crediting producers for simplifying the show and letting it simply be “meat-and-potatoes spy thriller entertainment.”

“Gone from Season 1 is the villain stealing the show, a tangential moral story (remember the drone pilot?), and any unnecessary attempt at romance for Jack … These take ‘Jack Ryan’ away from aspiring to be prestige television, but they make Season 2 the more fully realized series it always should have been. It’s better to have a good OK show than a bad show that tries to be great.”

 

In his review for Decider, Josh Sorokach wrote that “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” was “better than ever” in season 2, adding that fans of the debut season “absolutely love” season 2.

“‘Jack Ryan’ Season 2 feels more polished than its debut outing, a bit more confident. Not only does Krasinski seem more at home as the stoic hero, but the writing staff produced an engaging, multi-faceted season of television that organically connects multiple storylines.”


The So-So

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Writing for Den of Geek, Andrew Husband found season two an improvement on the first season, noting that more advanced character development allowed viewers to see Ryan’s “softer, calmer side.” 

“The new season thankfully acknowledges these criticisms and, though it doesn’t solve them all, makes a solid attempt at portraying Ryan, his cohorts, and their settings in a more detailed and complex manner.”

 

In his B- review for the AV Club, Josh Modell said that the show’s structure and the innate knowledge that Jack Ryan would prevail in the end made plot development rather pointless. Nevertheless, he called praised the show’s action set pieces, and called “Jack Ryan” both “fun and forgettable, exciting and predictable.”

“There ought to be one of those compound German words to describe Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ — something like langeweilierrregung (“boring-exciting”) or vergessbarververgnugen (“forgettable fun”).”


The Ugly

Michael Haigis of Slant Magazine found season 2 of “Jack Ryan” derivative and lacking in almost every way, save the affability of Krasinski.

“Because the series has little unique to convey about the world Ryan inhabits, it’s composed solely of the brand of generic action and manipulative reliance on cliffhangers cribbed from other, more distinct espionage fiction. ‘Jack Ryan’ is the Bourne series without the well-honed, if pummeling, stylistic brio; it’s James Bond minus the elegance; ‘Mission: Impossible’ without the gonzo stunt work.”

 

Erik Henriksen of The Stranger wrote that he preferred Krasinski’s character arc in season one, solving puzzles and slowly adapting to the role of a CIA operative rather than the bland action-hero version of season 2.

“Jack Ryan’s second season, however, loses much of that appeal — Krasinski is still good, as is the great Wendell Pierce as Ryan’s cranky mentor, but the grounding influence of Dr. Cathy Mueller, adeptly played last season by Abbie Cornish, is sorely missed, and the plot falls back on boilerplate airport paperback stuff: Ryan has to fight Evil Assassin (Tom Wlaschiha), wrestle with Femme Fatale (Noomi Rapace), and exact revenge on Brutal South American Dictator (Jordi Mollà). It’s enjoyable but boiled-down; the usual dose of Clancy’s hoo-rah American exceptionalism goes down a lot less easy when it feels unearned.”