"Jack Ryan"
"Jack Ryan" contains all the substance that is oftentimes lacking in action series. (Image via Polygon)
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"Jack Ryan"

The series is far from just another mind-numbing action number.

If you use Amazon, you’d be hard-pressed to not have seen one of the many advertisements for Prime’s newest series, “Jack Ryan.” The eight-episode series, starring its namesake, is based around the lead character in many of Tom Clancy’s books — perhaps you’ve heard of “The Hunt for Red October”?

Ryan is a former Marine and CIA agent who, in the series, is introduced while working as an intelligence analyst. The production quality of “Jack Ryan” appears up to par with some of the multimillion-dollar action films that precede the series, and it’s clear that Amazon has made the title its streaming baby, since a second season can already be preordered online.

If you have yet to watch the series, well-executed action scenes and an impressive cast shouldn’t be all that you take from it. “Jack Ryan” also addresses several relevant social, global and political issues we face today.

1. Drone Warfare

One of the aspects of modern warfare portrayed in “Jack Ryan” is the use of drone warfare. Courtesy of modern technology, a soldier on U.S. soil can attack targets literally a world away in the Middle East.

The precision technology is both amazing and terrifying, raising moral questions that have never required in-depth discussion prior to the advancements society has today.

Surveillance and assassination methods can be executed with ease that the average American is not aware of or educated about, and the series addresses the benefits and downfalls of the silent war that goes on in the skies.

2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Without providing spoilers for those who have yet to watch the show, there are multiple situations in which “Jack Ryan” portrays characters who experience PTSD, including Ryan himself.

Particularly in the case of a soldier who operates a military drone, the series showcases the haunting guilt and torment that follows men and women who serve under direct orders to kill.

The guilt — carried by a man who has a higher body count than many U.S. Army Special Forces troops, yet kills with the touch of a button behind a desk on U.S. soil — is a distinct problem within the technological era of the present.

Situations in which the Marine is presented with illustrate how someone doesn’t need to be physically present or “get their hands dirty” to feel responsible for an action carried out through the use of a computer and the internet.

Understanding and creating support for these people is paramount, and their struggle is made even more real to viewers through the excellent acting and screenwriting associated with the series.

3. Cryptocurrency and Digital Payments

Another situation in “Jack Ryan” that questions the benefit and cost of technological advancement is the use of fintech, other electronic payments and even cryptocurrency.

In the series — spoiler warning — terrorists take advantage of electronic payment systems to traffic large sums of money (millions of dollars) with minimum risk of their crimes being traced back to them.

Thankfully, Ryan’s analytics skill leads to the discovery of these uses of electronic transfers and subscriber identification module card transfers. But the series begs a reanalysis of how hackers and terrorists are able to exploit the intangibility of the financial system.

4. The Lives and Stories Behind Terrorists (the Other Side)

Yet another fascinating aspect of “Jack Ryan” is the use of the series to shed light on the other, lesser-explored side of terrorism: the domestic sphere in which terrorists grow and live in.

Through the excellent acting of Dina Shihabi, who portrays the wife of a terrorist leader, this glimpse into the personal lives of those demonized by news and media brings humanity and realism to the world we live in, where the “monsters” we fear the most are more human than we are comfortable admitting.

5. The Difference Between Religion and Extremism

In the series, Ryan’s immediate superior at the CIA, James Greer, is both an African American and a practicing Muslim.

He can be seen praying over the deceased victims of shootings and carries a Misbaha, the prayer beads of Islam.

The portrayal of a high official in the CIA being Muslim, which has been highly stigmatized in U.S. military, government and law enforcement, requires the line to be drawn between Islam and Islamic extremism.

Even if you aren’t a fan of the action genre, “Jack Ryan” is worth your viewing time simply for its acknowledgment of real-world issues, and you should definitely consider adding it to your watchlist in the near future.

Writer Profile

Jamie Lovley

University of Maine
Journalism and Psychology

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