Before I get going, I need to be honest. First, I’m probably not the most qualified to truly dig into whether or not Amazon’s Jack Ryan strays too far from the original Tom Clancy novels (it’s been years since I read them), or if there will ever be an actor that is as convincing in this role as Harrison Ford was in the 1990’s (I mean, let’s be realistic here). Second, I admit that I first tuned in to see if John Krasinski could successfully transform into anyone other than Jim from The Office. Third, I haven’t watched a series of any kind in years with the exception of the BBC’s Sherlock. So basically, I’m an average person who sat down with a computer and headphones this weekend to see which way this series would fall. But by the second episode, I simply couldn’t have cared less about accuracy or acting or even my lack of standards as I was too busy reeling from the internal battle resulting from a narrative that (in my opinion) flipped the script on typical “us vs them,” war games.
The story starts off with a fairly predictable plot: super smart analyst Jack Ryan (John Krasinksi) identifies a disturbing financial trail, leading to a man he has only identified as Suleiman (played by Ali Suliman), confidently predicting he could be the next Osama bin Laden. He lands the ear of his new boss James Greer (Wendell Pierce), and such begins the relationship that leads them on a manhunt of global import. Krasinski is actually quite charming as he goes about finding his footing as a numbers guy-turned-field agent, and Pierce delivers his bitter yet powerful dialogue with a fair amount of conviction, but the first episode wasn’t really anything spectacular.
But beneath the surface – under the violence and language and questionable nudity – there is a script that is making me reflect just how conflicted I am when it comes to justice…and what exactly that means.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say shows or movies centered on conflict or war have a pretty well-defined line in the sand between us and them…between the good guys and the bad guys. Sure, a couple of those bad guys may have had a sad start and you have moments of sympathy, but the moments are just as fleeting as their seemingly-deserved defeat by the end of it. So what is different about this show? Why was I pacing across the living room floor at midnight with a husband suggesting I “drink some tea,” to calm down? Because I think the line that was always so clear has been erased. And that’s because there shouldn’t be a line.
Because all life is valuable.
I mean no lie, in one scene I was begging the “bad guy” not to do it – to show mercy and put the gun down and not follow the path of death. And not 20 minutes later, I was yelling at the “good guy” to push the button – to take out the slimy, evil jerk who was on the other end of the scope and deserved to be “removed” from the picture. And the hypocrisy of my own words hit me like a ton of bricks.
Evil or not, innocent or not, human life is human life. I have no right to pick and choose who lives and who dies. There is no value system on the “us vs them,” because at our core, we are the same.
“But Heather, that person is evil. If they live, they can kill more people and do more damage.”
I get that. Believe me, I get that. But I’m not sure I think it’s good enough for me anymore. I don’t think I am ever justified in weighing a person’s worth to the point I decide whether they live or die. As someone who claims belief in Jesus Christ, every action I take should be because I long to see everyone as Christ sees them…in such a way that my brother or sister is valued and honored and beloved as they are made in the image of their Creator.
Ultimately, how can I claim that Jesus died for my sins before I was even born but then point at the enemy and say “but He didn’t for you?”
I admit that I don’t have it all figured out and am still working through the implications of this shift, but I’m sharing it because it’s what we do at ScreenFish – we share. We use film and TV and books to explore what it means to live in community with one another and how our faith is influenced by what we watch and how what we watch encourages us to live out our faith. And right now, Jack Ryan is showing me how I need to look at another person and not see their otherness, and not look for my own reflection…but to see someone that Christ has already died for, worthy of life.