Mentoring Authors One Scene at a Time – Thriller/Military/Non-Fiction/SF/Fantasy
This post analyzes the Amazon Prime television series Jack Ryan using the 5 Commandments of Storytelling and the Editor’s 6 Core Questions from the book The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.
This post will spoil everything about episode 5 from the Jack Ryan television series, so make sure you watch it before reading on.
I don’t know about you, but the story is definitely working for me so far. Who is Suleiman? Why does he want to attack America? Let’s dig into the story elements and see how the writers are hooking the viewers.
The first scene/ sequence is from the beginning of the episode to when Ryan and Greer land in Paris.
The start of this episode shows two men killing a priest in Paris, I’m not sure where that will lead us yet, it’s a good inciting incident for an action story (death/life), but I don’t see the connection yet, it may be a setup for later.
I think the real inciting incident is the meeting that Jack Ryan attends with all of his bosses, where he tries to convince them that Suleiman is not ISIS, but something else, “a whole new Bin-Ladin level threat”. This all has life/death aspect to it given that Bin-Ladin gave us 9/11. I’d call this a Revelation Inciting Incident, though I could see a case made for Causal. It’s basically Ryan’s opinion or analysis of the situation, and he got that opinion through his hard work. I think a case could be made for either.
There are obviously multiple storylines going on, but the 5 commandments need to follow the protagonist, which is Jack Ryan (I mean, the series is named after him).
There are a number of progressive complications that lead to the Turning Point of this sequence:
But ultimately, the Progressive Complication that leads to the Crisis Question is when Greer and Ryan present the information on Suleiman’s Cell Phone to their director and he asks Ryan who should go to Paris to assist the European task force in raiding the apartment connected to Suleiman’s cell.
The Crisis Question then is obviously does Ryan think that he and Greer should go and risk their lives again or not. This is a best bad choice because if they go they will be risking their lives and angering Greer’s boss, and if they don’t go they might miss some important piece of information to stop Suleiman’s next big terrorist plot because Ryan knows the enemy best.
Ryan decides that he and Greer should go, and their director agrees.
The Resolution is that Greer and Ryan go to Paris to support the raid, leaving Greer’s boss fuming and probably plotting some revenge of some sort.
This value shift is a -/+. In the beginning, Ryan is hurt and they have no further intelligence to track Suleiman, and at the end of this scene, they have cracked the code on the cell phone and are allowed to go to Paris to gather more intelligence.
The second scene/ sequence goes from landing at Paris airport to after the raid.
The Inciting Incident is Causal when Ryan is given a weapon to conduct the raid on the Paris apartment. This is life/death value moment again, he is about to risk his life, again. This is the guts of an action story.
The Progressive complications for this scene are:
The Progressive Complication/ Turning Point is then when Jack Ryan feels the blood and sees the brother escaping.
The Crisis Question for Ryan is does he go a little rogue and follow the brother, or does he continue in relative safety and get the wounded French Policeman to safety.
Ryan chooses to follow the brother into the street.
Ryan loses the brother in the street and is almost able to take a shot but doesn’t, either because he didn’t have a clear shot or because he didn’t have the nerve to take a life. This is also when the suicide vest goes off in the apartment overhead.
The value shift goest from -/–; he was in danger going on the raid, but Greer was looking out for him and told him to stay back out of danger, however he chose to chase the brother, putting himself in more danger and after the bomb goes off there is no telling what else is in store for him exposed in the street.
I can’t definitively find any more of the Global 15 scenes of the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff yet, but we should finish off the Beginning Hook by the third and no later than the fourth episode since it is usually only 25% of the story.
Obviously, there is a Love Story Sub-Genre cropping up between Ryan and the Doctor.
Lovers Meet – at the party before he is whisked away by the helicopter.
This isn’t the Global Genre, and this sub-genre plot might not meet all of the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes, but I’ll keep my eye on it and list what comes up.
I’m still torn between Thriller and Action Genre with this series, I think in the end it will depend on two things: if the conflict between Ryan and Suleiman becomes personal, and if there is an internal Genre and Ryan changes through the series. I’ll track this and probably make a decision at the end of the season.
If you want to see more applications of the Story Grid methodology, below are links to my analysis of various novels and television shows in blog posts and podcasts:
Story Grid Showrunners Podcast – Parul, Melanie, and I analyze hit TV series using the Story Grid methodology.
My blog posts analyzing other Television series – my person take using the Story grid 5 Commandments to look at my favorite TV series – Jack Ryan, Batgirl, For All Mankind, Hanna, and more.
Novel analysis – I analyze some of my favorite books using the Story Grid 5 Commandments and 6 core questions – First Blood, Old Man’s War, Waylander, and more to come!