Welcome to the season finale of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, “Star on The Wall.” So much to get through, so let’s go:
While Jack’s (John Krasinski) running for the Russian border, Luka Gocharov’s (James Cosmo) boarding the warship, The Fearless, to confront Capt. Antonov (Derek De Lint). And in the Kremlin’s empty War Room, Alexei Petrov (Alexej Manvelov) takes a stroll around to the President’s seat, envisioning himself sitting there soon. Unbeknownst to him though, Greer (Wendell Pierce), Pres. Alena Kovac (Nina Hoss) and Mike November (Michael Kelly) have just entered the Kremlin’s tunnel system.
Jack’s Navy SEAL buds pick him up in a helo and he calls Wright (Betty Gabriel), who says she’s officially out of the game. Jack tells her she’d better find a way back in because he has to get on board the USS Roosevelt.
Back at – or rather, under – the Kremlin, Minister Popov’s ex-bodyguard leads Greer and the gang through the tunnels. They stop to synchronize their watches and then the bodyguard gives Mike and Greer a map and takes off. Greer heads one way, while Mike and Pres. Kovac go another.
President Surikov (Mikhail Safronov) finds out about The Fearless and confronts Petrov, telling him the order was to prepare the ship, not sail. Petrov says that the time for half-measures is over, but Surikov reminds Petrov that he’s the one who gives the orders, and Petrov better call the ship back, like yesterday.
Meanwhile, Capt. Antonov sends Luka to the brig under the watchful eye of the ship’s young XO, Kagansky (Charlie Field). Luka asks him if his dad bought him his commission, and Kagansky says he earned it. Capt. Antonov shows up, telling Kagansky not to speak with Luka, just like you’re not supposed to speak to the possessed during an exorcism.
Antonov and Luka talk about Matoksa, Antonov saying how he has never forgotten even though Luka clearly has. Antonov says he’s a patriot but Luka disagrees, and warns him that if the coup doesn’t work, he can never be redeemed. Antonov says Luka will have to answer for his crimes, and he agrees – “but not today.”
Petrov gathers all the President’s men at a secret meeting in the War Room and gives a speech about how his grandfather held Stalingrad against the Nazis. He says his grandfather represented “what the motherland is, should be,” but is no longer. He says Pres. Surikov was once a great man, but now only wants stalemate and détente, which, he says, “is not victory.” Petrov says they must take their power back, and he puts up a vote to overthrow Surikov, which pretty much everyone agrees to.
Out in the Baltic Sea, Capt. Bennett (Marc Menchaca) of the Roosevelt sees the SEALs helo inbound. The helo pilot requests permission to land and let Jack out, but Bennett refuses and tells them to get lost. One of the SEALs asks Jack how badly he needs to get on board. Jack says, “Life or death,” and just like that, the SEAL undoes Jack’s seatbelt and shoves him out the door. Then, the SEALs take off, knowing Bennett’s legally bound to fish Jack out.
Once onboard, a furious Capt. Bennett lambastes Jack, saying the intelligence community has no respect for his position, “at the helm of 2 billion taxpayer dollars and 300 American lives.” Jack asks why he would jump out of the helo if not to save American lives. He tells Bennett that the fight he’s about to get into with The Fearless isn’t even about Russia, it’s about a coup.
Bennett says no matter what Jack believes is going on, he’s got rules of engagement to follow. And Jack says that that’s exactly what Petrov wants, just as one of the officers shows up to tell him they’ve picked up The Fearless approaching. Jack warns him that The Fearless’ captain is part of the coup and that he had workups on both the Roosevelt and Bennett, including a psych evaluation. But Bennett doesn’t find that so unusual, as he has the same workups on all the Russian ships and captains operating in the Baltic.
Onboard The Fearless, they’ve picked up the Roosevelt on the radar, and instead of changing course, Antonov orders them to stay their course. On the Roosevelt, Jack tells Bennett he’s got a man onboard The Fearless but can’t contact him. Bennett maintains he still has his orders to respond to any aggression.
Back under the Kremlin, Greer finds his way to a door where he’s met by a bunch of security guys. Greer says he’ll only speak to Petrov about Crossbow. Meanwhile, Mike and Pres. Kovac get to a spot where one of Pres. Surikov’s assistants is waiting to greet them.
And back in the brig on The Fearless, Luka works his talky magic on XO Kagansky again, recognizing his accent as Siberian and affectionately calling his ancestors “those crazy Cossacks.” Kagansky says he doesn’t really know his family history, and Luka says it’s the same with him and that’s how it is in Russia. “We stand on what other men made and then we forget.” Kagansky finally turns around to face him saying, “I think everywhere is like that.” Luka says that Kagansky knows what Capt. Antonov is doing is wrong, and that Kagansky must decide what to do about it.
In a charming holding cell, Greer meets Petrov, who asks why he should listen to anything Greer has to say. Greer tells him that “Crossbow will fail,” and that Surikov will survive. But he has an offer: he’s been authorized to give Petrov safe haven if he’ll just leave and come with him to the embassy. Petrov keeps his game face on, saying he’ll have Greer locked away forever and that “Patriots cannot be bought.”
Pres. Surikov enters the office where Mike and Pres. Kovac await him, saying that Natalya Popov (Selma Alispahic) told him to hear them out. Pres. Kovac tells Surikov that her father and Petrov were responsible for Popov’s murder. She’s got the recording to prove it and says it should come in pretty handy right now. She asks only that he normalizes relations with the Czech Republic, moves Russian troops back and de-escalates the situation with the US. Mike jumps in and says Petrov’s working against them both, that it’s a full-on coup.
Surprisingly, Pres. Surikov responds with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “We must meet our duty and convince the world that we are just friends and brave enemies.” As Pres. Kovac hands over the recording, Pres. Surikov tells them they’re “putting away old rivalries” and that Pres. Kovac’s served her people well.
Back on the Roosevelt, Jack pleads with Bennett for more time. Not only because he’s got a man onboard The Fearless, but also because Greer’s working from inside the Kremlin and even though Greer’s a man the Capt. Bennett knows, he’s still not going for it.
Pres. Surikov gathers all his men in the War Room – the same guys who just voted him out – and plays the recording for them. Needless to say, they all have tons of egg on their faces. And when Petrov leaves Greer to go see Pres. Surikov, he finds himself surrounded by security guys. Petrov goes for a gun and gets shot, which everybody in the War Room hears. The security guys show up and take up position around the room, while Pres. Surikov says that they’re going to sort out the traitors from the loyal.
Back at the White House Situation Room, Wright’s also fighting for more time, but they find out that The Fearless has prepared two missiles. The White House patches into the Roosevelt and the Secretary of Defense Galen (Patrick McCullough) tells Bennett that “attack is probable.”
And onboard The Fearless as they go to battle stations, Luka pleads with Kagansky to think about why he’s the one stuck on guard duty. Because he’s the only one who can – and would – question Capt. Antonov. Luka says they cannot “absolve themselves by simply saying ‘I have my orders.’”
As Capt. Antonov orders the missiles armed, Kagansky suddenly shows up with Luka, saying they can’t engage without authorization from Strategic Command. Capt. Antonov says they do have the authorization, but Luka says he’s lying and that Pres. Surikov would never allow it. But Capt. Antonov keeps going anyway, ordering the weapons officer to arm the missiles or be arrested.
The Roosevelt sees what’s going on and Capt. Bennett gets authorization from President Bachler (David Bedella) to fire if fired upon. Then, The Fearless launches, and the Roosevelt fires as well, intercepting The Fearless’ missile. But that’s exactly what Capt. Antonov wants, knowing the Roosevelt won’t have enough time to stop the second missile.
Jack warns Capt. Bennett one more time that if they fire, they’ll be doing exactly what Capt. Antonov wants but Bennett’s had it with Jack and tells him to stand aside. At the White House, Wright echoes Jack’s words, saying that Pres. Surikov isn’t authorizing their actions.
Onboard The Fearless, Kagansky pulls his weapon on Capt. Antonov, telling him to abort and that he swore an oath to protect the motherland. Antonov warns that the penalty for mutiny is death, but Kagansky counters that it’s the same for treason. Luka tells Capt. Antonov that they’re right back where they were in Matoksa, “preparing to do an act of great evil in the name of righteousness.”
And onboard The Roosevelt, Jack pleads again for Bennett to stop. Capt. Bennett asks if Jack’s willing to risk the lives of everyone onboard, and Jack says that he is, “To protect this country – because that’s what I signed up to do.”
Kagansky finally has Capt. Antonov arrested, and Luka radios out to the Roosevelt letting them know. Jack asks him if they’re at war, and Luka says it’s up to them. Pres. Bachler patches in then, asking Bennett if he feels The Fearless is still a threat. And Bennett finally says no. Onboard The Fearless, Kagansky orders The Fearless to turn around and go home.
Pres. Surikov arrives to free Greer and says that in order to maintain the fragile peace between Russia and the US that Greer was never there. Greer just says it’s not the first time he was never there. Mike and Pres. Kovac show up then, and before she gets in her car, Mike hands Pres. Kovac his business card saying to call if she ever needs him. She takes it but says hopefully she’ll never need to. Greer’s like, “Did you just pitch her for business?” Un-f**kin’-believable.”
And as the scene’s breaking up in the Situation Room, Pres. Bachler tells Wright he made a mistake trusting former Director Miller and names her the new CIA Director. Then, a week later in Moscow, a nervous security guy shows up at Luka’s apartment to pick him up and Luka just says he won’t make things difficult. He goes willingly, seemingly, to his death.
We hear Luka’s voice as Jack gets dressed to head to the office, as Pres. Kovac sits on the dock where she used to sit with her dad, as Mike drinks his coffee and reads the paper in Santorini, and as Jack and Greer meet with Wright to receive the Intelligence Star, one of the highest honors the US government can bestow.
Luka says that the fight was passed down to them and will continue with or without them. But what they need to remember is that they “will always be better than the institutions we serve. And that is what matters when it matters most. There are no heroes in our profession, but occasionally, there are good men. Men who act on what is right, not simply doing what they’re told.”
And as Luka says he hopes he’s done enough to die with honor even though he didn’t always live with honor, Jack and Greer walk by the memorial to all CIA officers who died in the line of duty – the stars on the wall.
So apparently this episode was an homage to The Hunt for Red October. And while they did mirror the same basic setup of the showdown, that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. The season finale should have been an edge-of-your-seat, tension-filled episode where even though you know that Jack will save the day, you’re still in enough suspense to think that maybe he won’t. But that tension just wasn’t there. There was only this rote fulfillment of the series requirements.
Even though the film version of The Sum of All Fears wasn’t exactly a massive success, the creatives behind Jack Ryan would’ve done well to take some pointers from their showdown, which was really more in line with what they were trying to do and did have that tension, that essential urgency.
And unfortunately, that lack of tension pretty much goes for the whole season in general. Even though it was more of a big-budget spectacle, story-wise and especially character-wise for Jack, it just didn’t come together, and that’s really disappointing.
This is not to say that there was nothing to enjoy about the season. The new characters of James Cosmo’s Luka, Nina Hoss’ Alena and Betty Gabriel’s Wright were great additions, and the interplay between Jack and Luka, and among our heroes, Jack, Greer and Mike November was well done. I can only hope that for the next season – especially considering that it’s the last one – that the creatives concentrate their focus on Jack’s character development, and really dig deep there because at the end of the day, it’s Jack we’re there to see.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is currently streaming on Prime Video.