Jack Ryan season two review: Jack is back - bigger, bloodier and more emotional than ever

John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce reunite for a second season of explosive, white knuckle action in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

Jack Ryan season two starts with a large curveball for viewers.

The end of the first season teased a shift to Russia as Jack Greer (Wendell Pierce) earned a post on the Moscow desk and he offered Ryan (John Krasinski) a spot on his team.

After eliminating a threat from the Middle East and averting a domestic terror attack from the extremist group led by Sulieiman, a shift of tone to the spying and intrigues of a story based in Russia was an intriguing proposition. Could Tom Clancy's Cold War thrills of the 1980s be transported to 2019?

But - spoiler alert - in episode one of season two, we discover that Jack never took Greer up on that offer of a sojourn to the chills and conspiracies of Moscow. Instead, it’s a highly volatile Venezuela where the pair cross paths again...

John Krasinski in Jack Ryan season 2 on Amazon Prime Video

Catch up on Jack Ryan season one now on Amazon Prime Video.

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Greer is tracking a Russian ship that has been firing missiles in the South China sea. Meanwhile, Ryan is slowly becoming embroiled in a tense relationship with the US and Venezuela, which is becoming heated due to a suspected shipment of weapons and an upcoming election for Venezuela's President Reyes.

Going into any more detail about how the story unfolds would spoil a plot, which zigzags from South America to England, back to South America and then onto home soil for a jaw-dropping final sequence and a lingering closing shot of the White House. Could Jack Ryan season 3 be set closer to home?

Aside from location, the biggest shift in Jack Ryan season 2 is the dynamics between the leading men. Last season, Ryan was starting a relationship with Dr Cathy Mueller (Abbie Cornish) and his romantic entanglements tied into the terrorism plot and provided some emotional clout to the nail-biting tension.

John Krasinski as Jack Ryan in Jack Ryan season 2 on Amazon Prime Video

Jack is now a single man in season two. What happened with Cathy isn’t mentioned – leaving a return for the character very possible. In the place of romance comes bromance, in many different forms. Jack and Greer, Jack and his former commanding officer and sitting senator Moreno (Benito Martinez) and Jack and CIA veteran Mike November (Michael Kelly) all have distinct personal relationships, which shape the emotional direction of season two.

Greer is suffering from serious health problems. Ryan is struggling to keep his personal emotions in check after an explosive event in episode one. And Mike November’s marital woes – twice divorced from the same woman, who he clearly still loves – have worn down the CIA lifer.

Michael Kelly as Mike November in Amazon Prime Video

The depiction of these men as both emotionally and physically vulnerable brings a very modern take on the CIA superhero, which suits Krasinski’s more human take on a Hollywood action hero.

Most of the best scenes in Jack Ryan season two aren't the kitchen sink showdowns and explosive shoot-outs, they’re the quieter moments where a brief look, a silence and an unanswered question say far more than a rattle of gun-fire ever could.

Pierce, Krasinksi and Kelly are three of the finest actors you could wish for in any TV show in 2019. And the trio are talented enough to pull of subtly when exploring modern masculinity within the structures of a good old-fashioned action adventure.

But Jack Ryan season two isn’t all about macho men showing off their vulnerability. Noomi Rapace joining the cast as the mysterious 'Harry' – is she a lover, an enemy or an ally? – is a welcome one.

Noomi Rapace as Harry in Jack Ryan season two

Nobody does ass-kicking like Rapace and she brings a sense of realism to fight sequences, even in the most OTT, globetrotting set-pieces. She also brings an icy demeanour to 'Harry', which makes her impossible to read right to the very end.

And the toughest, strongest and most heroic character in season 3? That award would have to go to Gloria Bonalde (Cristina Umana). She doesn’t fire a gun, throw a punch or jump off any towering buildings, but in leading a political uprising against a corrupt leader, refusing to back down despite immense pressure on her family, she displays as much bravery as anyone.

The biggest challenge facing Jack Ryan after season one was whether the series could keep up the pace. Perfectly built for a binge-watch, season one was relentless and barely paused for breath.

Season two ups the ante, making the first outing look like the gentle warm-up exercise before this wild sprint. John Hoogenakker (Matice) leads a covert team in an outrageous jungle mission. John Krasinski showcases his fitness in a rooftop chase across the London skyline. And Noomi Rapace is involved in a nerve-wracking cat-and-mouse storyline.

Jack Ryan season two keeps a dozen plates spinning that will have you gasping and clicking the 'next episode' button no matter how late in the evening you're watching.

Jack Ryan season 2 on Amazon Prime Video

Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan season two is streaming on Friday, November 1st on Amazon Prime Video.

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