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 7 from the Jack Ryan television series, so make sure you watch it before reading on.
The first scene/ sequence begins with US intelligence forces analyzing the Suleiman’s location based on Hanin’s information.
The inciting incident for this episode when Dr. Kathy Mueller (Ryan’s girlfriend) briefs the military and CIA that the ebola infected body that Suleiman stole with his brother 6 months earlier could be weaponized. At this point, Ryan and the CIA think they know what the next terrorist event is, just not where or when.
There are a number of progressive complications that lead to the Turning Point of this sequence:
There is a lot of actions being forced on the protagonist and he doesn’t make many decisions. There is a lot of action and mystery as to what is going to happen next, but really Ryan and the US forces aren’t making very many decisions, there’s not much conflict, just linear action basically reacting to Suleiman’s plan.
Here is why I say that, they initially plan to bomb the compound. Then, they discover hostages, now they really can’t bomb the compound, even if the president didn’t order it so. They rescue the hostages, no decision there. Not really a whole lot of crisis, best bad scenarios. It makes for good TV with the assaults and action and mystery.
The most significant Progressive Complication that could be considered a Turning Point leading to a Crisis Question is when the Government agencies initially decide to bomb the compound.
How could they have done better? I’m not sure. They could have built up the decision to bomb or not to bomb (before the hostages were discovered) since there were women and children on the compound too. That in combination with the intelligence they might gather could make a better (moral) best bad situation.
The Crisis Question is whether Ryan decides to speak up in order to insist on a ground attack in order to gain more intelligence on future attacks (and rescue Hanin’s son) or stay quiet and let them bomb the compound ending Suleiman’s life and hopefully stopping the terrorist attack.
Ryan decides to speak up and insist on a ground assault.
The CIA decides to bomb, but when they inform the president that there are hostages and one is his friend, they are ordered to conduct a ground assault.
This value shift is a +/++. In the beginning, Ryan and the CIA have the location of Suleiman and are making plans for his capture or destruction. The reason this ends in a double plus is that Ryan wins a moral victory by having the president order a ground assault and also rescue Hanin’s son.
The episode continues, but the last scene, when Ryan realizes that the hostages have ebola and have exposed the president, is really the inciting incident for the next scene which I will discuss next week.
Inciting Attack by the Villain – this could probably be the Chemical/biological attack on the Church. This is a little late in the series, but it is the most significant attack of the series so far. The other attacks were the rescue and the suicide bomber, but they were not an attack because they were conducted in response to the actions of the protagonist.
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 – 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) – Suleiman actually threatens a larger attack than Paris, though Ryan still doesn’t know when or where. The US forces think it’s an ebola attack of some sort, and by the end of the episode they think it’s an ebola attack against the president.
Hero’s initial strategy against villain fails – Ryan fails to roll up Suleiman’s brother to get more information on the attack, first in Paris at the safe house, and second in episode 4 when he is forced to kill the brother.
Hero’s All is Lost Moment, when he must change his approach in order to salvage some form of victory – Right now the hero is reacting to Suleiman’s actions. He hasn’t used his gift as an analyst to figure out what the actually attack is, though he thinks it is the exposure of the ebola to the president.
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.
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, since he is a lowly analyst, 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.
There a couple love story scenes here to add to the Obligatory scenes – lovers break up and lovers get back together.
Lovers Meet – 1st episode at the party before Ryan is whisked away by the helicopter.
First Kiss or Intimate Connection – Episode 4 when Ryan is invited to sleep over after their first date
Confessions of Love – not sure if this will happen in this season
Lovers break up – As I mentioned before, because Ryan has to lie about being in the CIA, Kathy is angry when she finds out at her briefing and basically breaks up with him.
Proof of love – Since this is not a love story, this is a weak proof of love, but Ryan calls her in order to explain, asking for one more chance because he cares.
Lovers reunite – At the end of the episode, Ryan and Kathy reunite and all is forgiven.
Triangle – might not happen since this isn’t the global genre, but the viewer did feel a connection with the French women detective before she was killed
Helpers and Harmers – the French woman detective encouraged Ryan and the doctor’s woman friend in the hospital encouraged her
Gender divide – the doctor is a strong woman character who might be the more aggressive of the two
External Need – Ryan and the doctor need stress relief from their stressful jobs
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.
I think we have reached the end of the Middle Build now. From the moment after the attack on the church in Paris, Ryan is bent on trying to discover the when/ where/ how of the next big terrorist attack. By the end of this episode, the viewers can assume that the attack is an ebola attack on the president.
The Ending Payoff will be how Ryan thwarts this attack and finally catches or kills Suleiman.
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!