Fireside Chats: Discussing Jack Ryan, “Inshallah”

Allen: Ok everyone, welcome once again to the Lewton Bus Jack Ryan recap chat. As this chat is about the season finale, and thus, also partially about the season as a whole, I figured it would be nice to start out with a brief discussion, just a few sentences each, on the season and how it lead up to these episodes. Diane, do you want to start?

Diane: The whole season is really tightly contained. At first, I wanted there to be more episodes to give some things more breathing room. I would have liked to see more Matice, for example. But overall, the more I think about it, the more I think the 8 episode format worked best for this first season. Jack Ryan is, at its core, a mystery to be solved and I’m glad they were able to do that satisfyingly in just 8 episodes and without any fluff.

Ryan: The 8 episode format is quickly becoming both my favorite and least favorite thing for new shows. You’re absolutely right that the pacing and the way that the story unfolds and the characters are handled in this season so far has been economical, but dense. Think about how well the threads in this show that were picked up were then wrapped, like the priest’s death being the catalyst for the bombing, or Suleiman’s actions with the doctors without borders hostages. These things are all accomplished without endless padding and exposition, and allow character interactions and traits to drive them. Even if I still want more when my 8 eps are done.

Allen: You both make an excellent point about the pacing of the show. Most streaming shows have too many episodes and not enough plot, which results in at least one filler episode per season, but Jack Ryan is so relentlessly paced that you almost wish that there was an episode in here somewhere where everything just slows down for a bit so that everyone can catch their breath. The plot of this show, while intricate and well thought out, is almost shockingly lean, to the point that I don’t know if there is any narrative fat to it at all. This is a show designed to be binged in the way that each episode propels into the next.

So having talked briefly about the show as a whole. What was your reaction to episode 8? There’s a whole lot of meat to this one, with a handful of twists built in, and it all builds on the way that episode 7 kinda launches you into it with the Ebola reveal.

Diane: I like that this episode calls back to, and learns lessons, from previous episodes. The viewer and Jack both think about the priest’s murder as a set up for the biological attack. The show isn’t doing this because it’s just trying to be clever. It’s spent 7 episodes showing you just how smart Suleiman is, and how people are creatures of habit, whether they’re using personal numbers as passwords or saying the same phrases to their brother or using smaller incidents (in this case, the pizza place explosion) as a distraction for larger attacks. The radiological attack on the hospital is definitely an escalation, but one that is completely in character. Suleiman isn’t going from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds. He’s been steadily escalating his actions throughout the entire time and episode 8 is really the culmination of this. It’s really effective and wonderful writing.

Ryan: I talked about this a little in my review for The Boy (ep 7), but using the closest thing that this series has to a ‘filler’ or ‘place setting’ episode to both introduce the actual threat and to focus on character and theme accomplishes 2 things; It gives us an ep filled with wonderful character beats, but it also sets us up for a final episode that is so fraught and filled with stakes that we’re on the edge of our seat from frame one. Episode 8 also does the admirable job of wrapping the themes up instead of washing them away. Jack doesn’t know what is going to happen with Samir. All he knows is he did his best to give him a chance. And from what we now know of his past in Afghanistan, that was intensely personally important to him. Also, Matice getting the “Departed moment” is some of my favorite stuff in any tv show. More than anything, though, I love that episode 8 is still religiously focused on delivering characters that are consistent and that we are invested in. Jack’s bearing of his past to Cathy is one of the most emotional moments of television in years.

Allen: Jack and Cathy don’t get a ton of time together in this show but every scene with them is pretty much gold.

Diane: So, a big part of this episode is the parallel between Samir and Salim. Samir is Hanin’s son and Salim is the boy that Jack let onto the chopper, the one who eventually exploded a grenade and killed almost everyone on board. I think this is a really important theme for the show because it’s about second chances, and it’s not necessarily just about Samir getting a second chance but also Jack. He knows there’s no way to tell whether a small boy is going to become a terrorist. There’s just no way, and I’m glad the show preserves that kind of innocence about it, that we shouldn’t make assumptions of children like that. Like a certain president is doing.  This show has a strong moral backbone to it, and a clear sense of who Ryan is that he’d try to help Samir just as much as he tried to help Salim. He’s still willing to take chances on people.

Ryan: Exactly. Jack doesn’t know what Samir will grow up to be, and the well is at least a little poisoned already, but he is who he is, always.

Allen: Yeah it’s about trusting your instincts and understanding that best motivations don’t mean best outcomes, but that doesn’t mean we stop listening to our better angels.

Ryan: He’s going to look for the best in people, because he owes it to himself to believe. He can’t get caught in a downward spiral of bitterness because then he wouldn’t be Jack Ryan.

Allen: Even though being compassionate blew up on Jack once, he can’t just stop being that way. Sorry, blew up is probably a poor choice of words.

Ryan: This is an important change from the books where Jack had no culpability in the accident, and I think it’s really informative of a modern Ryan. He has a reason to be focused on redemption, which is more satisfying than a show about guilt alone.

Allen: It’s also Jack understanding that the best chance for Samir is to just be allowed to have the most normal and happy life he can now.

Diane: I have been thinking about culpability and complicity all summer in various ways. His guilt is not over how he should have known about Salim or how he should have been less trusting. His guilt is just maybe not spotting the grenade or not doing something to save them, even to save Salim. I like that. It puts his complicity in a different light. He’s always going to want to do the right thing.

Ryan: I want to talk about Suleiman being ready to abandon Samir when it looked like everyone in his crew was about to get caught. That’s the natural evolution of who this horrid man has become.

Diane: That was cold. He does not get a Father of the Year mug.

Ryan: His bitterness has consumed him.

Allen: Also, the cops should have totally noticed Samir longingly looking dead in the eyes of the guy 15 feet away.

Ryan: Well, Jack did.

Allen: Can we talk about the fact that Jack and Suleiman never get a big ideological showdown? Because that seems significant.

Diane: I love that.

Ryan: It’s everything.

Diane: The show is not about ideology at all. It’s one guy who wants to hurt people and one guy who wants to stop him.

Ryan: Because it’s not necessary for them to define themselves according to each other. They know who they are and what they are. Which is SO MUCH BETTER than “We’re not so different, you and I.”

Diane: Suleiman could have been named Tom Johnson and he could have been from Toledo.

Allen: Jack doesn’t chat it out with him, he draws his gun, and he takes his shot. Because as you said Diane, it’s not about what their ideologies are. It’s about helping versus hurting.

Ryan: Give me characters who are who they are. A show that trusts me to believe them when they tell me. And that’s what Jack Ryan is. When Jack says “I have your son,” he’s saying a lot of different things. He’s saying “You don’t. Because you chose this.”

Allen: “We’re not so different” is a load of horse crap and the crazy part is, that is one of the central themes of the show. Because this show is entirely about the fact that, while, yes background and opportunities shape us, we still make choices.

Diane: I love how loaded “I have your son” is… it’s so full of meaning. Suleiman stops and turns! He cares about his son, but he’s jarred loose from his objective, which he knows is less and less likely to happen because the signal is jammed, and he’s torn. But he’s lost his objective and his family.

Ryan: This is why 8 episodes is a gauntlet to be thrown down to creative teams. You have to 1. have a story worth telling, 2. have the chops to tell it economically and 3. have the confidence in your audience to meet you halfway.

Allen: Jack and the sex trafficker never would have traded places, because they are fundamentally different people.

Ryan: They are what their worlds made them, yes. but also what their choices made them

Allen: And no confluence of events forces you to subjugate others. You have to choose that.

Diane: I like that Suleiman never finds out that Jack killed his brother. I like that he never asks.

Ryan: In another show, that would have been the story. And all the poorer for it. Here, it’s an event. It happens, and it is over.

Diane: Yeah, it would have gotten personal and it would have narrowed the scope too much.

Allen: Who killed Ali doesn’t matter. What matters is that he is dead.

Ryan: Ultimately, Suleiman killed Ali. Ali killed Ali.

Allen: To Suleiman, the West as a whole is culpable. Jack is just a pawn. An analyst. A mere foot soldier in his grand war.

Ryan: Speaking of soldiers. One gets away and then the best one finds him. Matice gets his moment as the ultimate reckoning for Suleiman’s lieutenant.

Diane: I’m glad that Matice doesn’t have a real storyline or arc. Matice is a guy who floats in and out and leaves ruin for others to find. I like that every time we see him, we’re only with him for those moments. He leaves immediately after, and now we understand that it’s because he has other goals or objectives. He’s answering to some other shadowy part of the CIA.

Allen: So let’s talk about that lieutenant because he’s perhaps the greatest condemnation of both sides who try to pin terrorism as a religious act. He betrays the lie of that. Because, if it’s truly a religious war, the Muslim world punishing the evil Christian West, then they wouldn’t have attacked a location where other Muslims were congregating. It bothers him sure, to see them in the crossfire, but it doesn’t stop him. Because the ideology is always at the end of a day a front, a cover for these individuals to commit horrid acts.

Ryan: Yeah, and he slinks away into the night. Still not slyly enough for Matice to not find him, though hehe.

Allen: It’s the same reason that in Patriot Games, the IRA can order a hit on an Irish Catholic man like Jack. The religion or nationality doesn’t matter in the end. Just as long as you have an excuse to hurt.

Ryan: If he were a believer, he would have made it happen regardless if he was in jeopardy. But he isn’t and he doesn’t. Then death comes for him anyway.

Diane: Right, it’s not about cultural identity or affinity. People who just want to hurt others will do what it takes to make that happen. Most of the violence in the Middle East is actually against other people in the Middle East.

Allen: It’s why I always hesitate when people try to assign blame to institutions or organizations at large, because it takes away culpability from the individuals truly to blame.

Ryan: Ultimately, Suleiman is the same. He’s a vain and cruel man who wants to inflict his pain on the world. He’s so small in the last few scenes

Diane: Literally and figuratively, because he’s off in a distance when Jack shoots him.

Allen: That is an insane shot.

Ryan: That entire sequence in the underground is so intense. When Jack follows them down into the tunnels, fending off trains and bullets, it is a nailbiter.

Diane: It’s a nice callback to France.

Allen: Pistols are not the most accurate weapons in the world and Jack nails the dude from like 30 yards.

Ryan: And it’s really, really well orchestrated. 

Diane: I really like the tunnel chase because first, tunnel chases are always fun, but also because it’s such a low key way of doing it. He’s not chasing Suleiman across bridges and in cars and in choppers. He’s just on foot, and it underscores the desperation Suleiman feels at this point. He has no resources, just his own two feet.

Ryan: He’s the prey, and the Wolf is on his heels. Jack is the pursuer. He’s the proactive one. He’s in control, even if it doesn’t feel like it. He’s fully become the predator Sandrine said he was. And both Suleiman and Ali face the same fate, hunted down by him.

Allen: I’m gonna need to see Jack’s Marine pistol qualification scores is what I’m saying here, because if dude doesn’t have a medal for that, then I call BS on that shot. It wouldn’t be a Clancy convo if we didn’t get super nitpicky about weapons.

Diane: To be fair, Suleiman was dead ahead and running in a straight line.

Ryan: I think talking about Jack coming back to Langley and having his realization about how he fits in now that he’s been through all of this is a good spot.

Diane: Yeah, we’ve talked about it previously, and that wasn’t even this episode! What’s established in episodes 6 and 7 pay off in episode 8 when Greer tells him the Muslim verse that a true believer desires for his brother what he desires for himself.

Allen: Ok so, major query here: do we think Greer is asking Jack to come work in Moscow, or asking the new T-FAD Director to visit him. Because on rewatch, I’m leaning toward the latter.

Diane: I think it’s the latter.

Ryan: I think it’s clear that they are going to work together, no matter what Jack ends up doing in the meantime.

Allen: You don’t deploy your Russia guy on a South American mission [in season 2]. That’s not realistic to how the CIA prioritizes and allocates resources.

Ryan: I think it’s more that Greer and Jack are affirming their bonds. They will now always back each other up and choose to work together in whatever ways they can. They’re now actual friends

Diane: Well, you don’t send a guy working in Karachi to Moscow, either. Jack and Greer are partners and friends now. That’s more important.

Ryan: The arc of the show is Greer and Jack beginning to trust eachother as coworkers, and build a friendship out of it. It’s great, great stuff. They’re bros forever now

Allen: So bringing things in for a landing, What do you look forward to in season 2?

Diane: More Matice, please.

Ryan: 3 things: Matice, Matice, and Matice. Oh and also Jack and Cathy, because they are wonderful

Diane: Do they have Fanta in South America? They must.

Allen: I’m kinda most looking forward to a continuation of the insightful political commentary. Setting it in South America with a crumbling regime as a major plot point lends itself to a pretty incisive discussion of our meddling in the region.

Diane: I think season 2 will be interesting… they did such a good job with season 1 that I’m not entirely sure what they could do better. I’m mostly looking forward to seeing how they hit the same highs and take the same amount of consideration for weaving a good story, and staying true to Jack Ryan as a character.

Ryan: Also, if the photography of this season is any indication, the vistas down South are what I’m looking forward to.

Allen: Well, that wraps up a fantastic first season of Jack Ryan, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are breathlessly awaiting season two.