Jack Ryan S1Ep3

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.

The 5 Commandments of Episode 3

The action of this episode is split between Jack Ryan, Suleiman’s brother, Suleiman, Suleiman’s wife, and the drone pilot (who actually gets a lot of screen time).

The 5 commandments of this episode focus on finding Suleiman’s brother in order to stop a future big terrorist attack. All of them focus on the life/death of being able to stop this event and save innocent lives.

Inciting Incident

The first scene/ sequence is aftermath of the explosion due to the suicide bomber. A good life/death scene for an action genre. However, I think the actual inciting incident is in the second scene, when the drone pilot destroys a suspected terrorist on his motorcycle. This scene sets up the drone pilot to do something later in the episode and is not directly connected with the action the protagonist goes through in this episode.

The actual Inciting Incident for the episode following the Jack Ryan storyline is when they discover that when Suleiman was in jail he was only visited by his brother, which Ryan identifies as the man who escaped. Once again, this is important because this man could help them save lives.

Progressive Complication/ Turning Point

There are a number of progressive complications that lead to the Turning Point of this sequence:

  • Suleiman’s brother is wounded
  • Suleiman’s brother has friends that patch him up
  • Suleiman communicates with his brother through computer games
  • Suleiman’s brother’s friends give him a car
  • The team finds the Gps of Suleiman’s brother’s car

Ultimately, the Progressive Complication that leads to the Crisis Question is when Greer, Ryan and the French police find Suleiman in a car crossing the alps.


The Crisis Question then is do they arrest Suleiman’s brother and prevent further possible death at his hand, or do they follow him and try to capture Suleiman himself or a terrorist cell? This is a best bad choice scenario – Suleiman’s brother could escape and lead the terrorist cell if they don’t arrest him now, and he could kill more people in his attempt to escape France. Likewise, Ryan believes he has knowledge that could help them stop an even larger terrorist event which would kill a lot of people.


Ryan and Greer convince the French police to follow Suleiman’s brother.


We don’t know the full resolution now except that the French agree to follow with the hope that they don’t lose Suleiman’s brother in the alps and find information to stop another terrorist event.

This value shift is a +/-. In the beginning, the team has lost men to the suicide bomber and have no leads, then they get a few leads that finally allow them to actually find Suleiman’s brother and follow him, so there is hope they can stop the terrors event.

The Global 5 Commandments

Once again, I can’t definitively separate the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff, and I probably won’t be able to do it till the end of the season.

Conventions and Obligatory Scenes for the Action Genre

Obligatory Scenes

Inciting Attack by the Villain – we haven’t really seen one yet, but to make this work we should learn about it soon. There is the hypothetic terrorist attack they are trying to stop, but the writers should give the viewers a ‘taster’ attack, I think.

Hero Sidesteps responsibility to take action – This occurred in the first episode, when Ryan states weakly “I’m just an analyst”.

Forced to leave ordinary world, Hero lashes out – In the first episode, Ryan is bored and decides to speak to the low value target (who actually ends up being the high value target)

Discover and understand the McGuffin (the enemy’s object of desire) – Ryan knows that Suleiman wants to conduct a large terorist event against the Western World, but he doesn’t yet know why or what it is.

Hero’s initial strategy against villain fails – Ryan fails to roll up Suleiman’s brother to get more information on the attack at Paris at the safe house.

Hero’s All is Lost Moment, when he must change his approach in order to salvage some form of victory – this hasn’t occurred yet.

Hero at the Mercy of the Villain – Ryan was at the mercy of Suleiman in the first episode, but I expect this will happen again as both escaped in that scene, and it will probably happen near the end of the season.

Hero’s Sacrifice is Rewarded – this hasn’t happened yet.


Hero, Villain, Victim clearly defined – Hero – Jack Ryan; Villain – Suleiman; Victims – innocents of the terrorist attack

The hero’s object of desire – stop the villain and save the victims

The Power divide between the hero and villain is very large – Suleiman has secret contacts and operators everywhere and a secret network that he can secretly communicate with; also, very little is known about Suleiman and his motives. Ryan has to go through many levels of red tape to get things done.

Speech in praise of the villain – this was done in episode 1 and 2 when they discover who Suleiman is, what is rank in the terrorist organization is, and what he is trying to use the money for.

Love Story Sub-Genre

The love story between Ryan and the Doctor heats up.

Obligatory Scenes

Lovers Meet – 1st episode at the party before Ryan is whisked away by the helicopter.

First Kiss or Intimate Connection – This hasn’t happened yet, and there was very little to advance the love story in this episode.

Confessions of Love – not sure if this will happen in this season

Lovers break up – this might happen, Ryan is forced to lie about his job and this might damage the relationship

Proof of love – not sure this will happen in this season

Lovers reunite – Might happen if they actually do break up, they might reunite at the end of the season


Triangle – might not happen since this isn’t the global genre

Helpers and Harmers – We haven’t seen enough of this yet to explore this, though Katherine’s father seems like he might be a harmer.

Gender divide – the doctor is a strong woman character who might be the more aggressive of the two

External Need – Not much evident here yet.

Opposing forces – the doctor comes from a high status family, daughter of Ryans’ old boss who he pissed off, so this could definitely be a future opposing force. Ryan works for the CIA and can’t tell her about his job, also a potential opposing force.

Secrets – Ryan’s secret about his work

Rituals – none really so far

Moral Weight – Ryan is not comfortable with the lying

Once again, this isn’t the Global Genre, and this sub-genre plot might not meet all of the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes.


As I mentioned before, 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. Most of these action series don’t have the protagonist change, so it will probably end up being Action Genre, but I’ll keep tracking.

More Story Analysis

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!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: