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 8 from the Jack Ryan television series, so make sure you watch it before reading on.
The Inciting Incident actually occurs at the end of the last episode.
The inciting incident for this episode is when Ryan realizes that Suleiman’s plan was to expose the President of the United States to Ebola through the rescued hostages.
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 again in this episode, Ryan seems to be reacting to Suleiman’s plan. 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.
The most significant Progressive Complication that could be considered a Turning Point leading to a Crisis Question is when ambulances are seen heading away from the bombing.
How could they have done better? This is the climactic moment in the series, and it’s definitely filled with more action, but not much conflict. Ryan doesn’t have to make a choice between saving his girlfriend and saving the president, for instance. No really best bad choices. Ryan pretty much reacts to Suleiman
The weak Crisis Question in this episode is do Ryan and Greer turn around and go to the hospital on the hunch that Ryan is right and the actual attack is against the president at the hospital, or do they continue to the bombed pizzeria to see if they can gain more evidence and information.
Ryan and Greer go to the hospital.
They search the hospital, kill all of Suleiman’s associates, get control of Suleiman’s son, and Ryan kills Suleiman.
This value shift is a -/+. In the beginning, Ryan believes that the president might have ebola and Suleiman’s plan is complete, but then he uses his gift to determine that the pizzeria bomb is a decoy and that the real target is the president, Vice President, and congressmen at the hospital so they go and good wins.
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 uses his gift to determine that the pizzeria is just a decoy and the real target is the president staying at the hospital.
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. There isn’t a real Hero at the Mercy of the Villain scene, except for a couple times when Suleiman might have the drop on Ryan during the subway chase.
Hero’s Sacrifice is Rewarded – Ryan is rewarded with a promotion.
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.
The ending payoff is after the hostages are rescued and the president is exposed to the Ebola virus, but not infected, the CIA discover that there is a threat of radioactive poisoning. After a pizzeria bomb in Georgetown, Ryan uses his gifts as an analyst to figure out the Pizzeria bomb is only a decoy and the real target is the president at the hospital. After a long chase, Suleiman and all his associates are killed, Hanin’s son is returned to her, and Ryan is promoted.
From a personal standpoint, the Ending Payoff is a little disappointing (maybe some lazy writing). There is a lot of action, but as I have mentioned, there is very few best bad choices for the characters and they are following a very linear action route.
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!