In the third season of “Jack Ryan,” the titular agent finds himself in the middle of a Russian conspiracy called the Sokol Project. The aim of this operation is to return the Soviet Union to its former glory and make it the most fearsome nation in the whole world. Ryan obviously doesn’t want that to happen, but he has a hard time convincing everyone that this is a very real threat because he has nothing tangible that backs his theory. With James Greer and Elizabeth Wright’s blessing, he wades into murky waters, literally and figuratively, and finds himself rescuing a Russian insider named Yuri instead of nuclear material pointing towards this sinister plot. Things proceed to go sideways when the police kill Ryan’s extraction team, as well as the insider, and send him on the run. And the Russian Defense Minister, Dmitry Popov, gets assassinated right in front of Czech President Alena Kovac, thereby sending global politics into a downward spiral. So, let’s talk a little about the two most important things before getting to the ending: the roots of the Sokol Project and how Jack Ryan figures out the Russians’ endgame.
Who Is Running The Sokol Project?
So, in 1969, a young Luka was ordered by his superiors to shut down the Sokol Project, which involved killing all the engineers and scientists working on the Russian mission. One out of the many soldiers who were ordered to carry out this duty was Sgt. Lebedev who was hesitant about doing this. It seemed that it was a moral and ethical issue because nobody wants to kill so many people in one fell swoop. But, later on, it became clear that the reason for his reluctance was that he believed that the Sokol Project was the one thing that would make Russia great again. After the completion of the task, Luka and Lebedev got into a bit of a disagreement because the latter thought they had killed the country’s most valuable heroes, while the former considered them to be traitors.
In present-day Russia, we see Alexei Petrov suggesting President Surikov to act on NATO’s decision to move missiles into the Czech Republic. However, Luka advises against it because he thinks that Kovac has merely leaked this information to see how Russia reacts to it. Before going to the dreadful meeting with Popov, we learn that Kovac’s father is Petr, who is a former Red Army soldier and advisor to Kovac. When Popov drops dead, Alexei insinuates that the Americans are behind the assassination. Surikov doesn’t believe that that’s enough to act against the USA. That’s why Alexei blames everything from the rise in oil prices to the failed attempt to capture Yuri as an attempt to destabilize the nation. Luka partially supports this theory but points out that Alexei is wrong in assuming that the USA is behind Dmitry’s assassination and Yuri’s death. He even hints that someone else is behind all this.
Well, we get a pretty clear indication that it’s an inside job because Kovac’s bodyguard, Radek Breza, kills one of the two assassins who conducted Popov’s assassination and then frames an unsuspecting dude for it, who is then killed by Breza before he could prove his innocence to the police. In case it’s not evident from the shooting, Breza even calls up Alexei to let him know that the proverbial loop has been closed. A montage of the young Luka going door to door to hand over the deceased engineers’ last belongings to their family members is juxtaposed with that of Alexei’s swearing-in as Russia’s Minister of Defense. It’s to show that while Luka put an end to the Sokol Project in the past, and now he has to witness its resurgence in the present. The only difference here is that in the present day, he doesn’t have the power to stop it by killing a bunch of dudes and covering it up with the most preposterous excuses.
Alexei lets Kovac know that he’s moving troops into Ukraine and will soon extend them to the Czech Republic to appear aggressive. This leads Kovac to believe that it’s an inside job to put Alexei in power and green light all these decisions. And Alexei pretty much admits to Luka that he is the one who got Popov assassinated, and then he orders him to search for Jack Ryan as he’s getting dangerously close to unearthing the Sokol Project’s plan. By the way, we also see that Breza’s wife, Jana, was also involved in Dmitry’s killing, and they are sitting with Kovac and having lunch because she knows nothing. She isn’t even aware of the fact that her own father, Petr, is a part of the Sokol Cabal, is in cahoots with Alexei, and is essentially using her to ensure the success of the Project. Greer finds out about this by coming across a photo of Petr and Breza. He even notes that Petr’s accent is slightly more Russian than Czech.
We get a little background on how the young Petr was shot in the chest for not following his orders to stop Project Sokol and how he became a citizen of the Czech Republic to ensure the success of that plan. And then, we come to the present day to learn that there’s a subplot within the Sokol Project called Crossbow. There’s a little nonsensical detour amidst all this where Breza suspects that Petr is working with Greer to “tie up loose ends” and hence kidnaps Kovac for leverage. It simply ends with Petr rescuing Kovac and killing Breza. In retaliation, Kovac puts out an APB notice for Petr and brings in Breza’s wife and her daughter, with the former spewing the usual nonsense about patriotism and how the Project cannot be stopped. That said, she’s partially correct because the real plan is to start a full-scale war between the USA and Russia, something that Luka gets to know by infiltrating Antonov’s home along with Ryan.
How Does Jack Ryan Get To The Bottom Of Project Sokol?
Before biting the bullet, Yuri tells Ryan that the weapon in question is small and invisible to the radar, and once Popov is assassinated, it’ll be detonated somewhere significant within 7 days. When Ryan gets to the safe house, he realizes that Wright is ready to frame him as the fall guy for the botched operation (he didn’t find a nuclear warhead or anything) and, of course, the deaths. Greer advises him to not turn himself in because then they’ll never be able to get to the bottom of the Sokol Project. So, he cuts off all communication and decides to go rogue. Wright and Greer start to track Ryan down so that they can get to him before the Russians, or the law enforcement agencies of any other country arrest him. Of course, since Ryan can’t do it all on his own, he takes Tony’s help to hide from the police and the Russian intelligence and then calls in Mike November for assistance.
Jack sends a message to Luka (without knowing that it’s actually Luka) to draw him out into the open. And he gets what he wants, but in a pretty violent fashion because Luka had to bring Konstantin (Russian intelligence) with him, let him beat up Ryan, and then kill him without raising any suspicions. With that out of the way, Luka makes it clear that his priorities regarding stopping the Sokol Project align with those of Ryan’s, and that’s why they can work together to stop Alexei and the rest of his patriotic cult from ever fulfilling their dreams. And said dreams involve tons of uranium being supplied by Levan Zubkov. So, they go to Budapest and bait Zubkov into asking for November’s help. As soon as Zubkov falls for it, Ryan coerces him into revealing the location of the uranium, i.e., Russia’s Matoksa. Upon getting there, Ryan learns that Luka wants to let the plan involving the nuclear warhead go as per schedule so that it can be traced back to the “mastermind.”
The real issue with this style of storytelling is that we already know all the pieces that are at play, involving Petr and his quest for the success of Project Sokol. There is no element of surprise there. The characters are wafer-thin. So, there’s no weight to their world-shaking decisions. And it’s not even a case of cluing in the viewers before the reveal so that they can think they’ve figured out the mystery of the show all on their own. It’s simply bad storytelling. Anyway, the next stage in the Sokol Project’s plan turns out to be framing the Czech Republic for bombing Russia, which is contrary to Ryan’s assumption of making it seem that America has bombed Russia. Luka finally gets to meet Petr, and that confrontation ends with Luka shooting Petr in the leg. But he keeps him alive so that Kovac can get some closure, which she does by essentially facilitating Petr’s death. What about Ryan? Yes, he saves the day and prevents the nuke from reaching Russia.
‘Jack Ryan’ Season 3: Ending Explained – Does Jack Ryan Stop The USA From Going To War With Russia?
After learning about Russia’s plans to cover up a political coup by making it look like the USA wants to start a war with them, Ryan breaks into Estonia, where he’s picked up by Savage and his team in order to stop the American warship from reacting to any act of aggression. Meanwhile, Luka boards the Russian warship “The Fearless” to stop them from acting on Alexei’s orders and launching a missile at an American warship. Alexei takes a good, hard look at his war room, almost content that his plan has worked out. Greer, November, and Kovac take Minister Popov’s bodyguard to traverse the tunnels that’ll lead them to the Kremlin, allowing Kovac to have an audience with President Surikov and giving Greer a chance to talk to Alexei. Surikov finds out that Alexei has given the order to Captain Antonov to put The Fearless into the waters, whereas Surikov’s direction was to simply prepare it. When Alexei says that he wants to end the stalemate with America, Surikov orders him to bring back The Fearless to the docks.
Luka confronts Antonov for putting Russia, and technically the entire world, in danger because of a hokey plan to restore the Soviet Union’s former glory, which essentially concludes with the both of them saying that they’ll have to answer for their past crimes one day. In the war room, Alexei gives a spirited speech to his ministers, which is essentially about the motivation behind the Sokol Project, and then starts the voting to remove Surikov so that he can carry out his operation without any obstruction. At the same time, Ryan swims aboard the USS Roosevelt, and Greer, Mike, and Kovac make it to their respective destinations inside the Kremlin. Ryan alarms Captain Andrew Bennett about the coup that’s taking place in Russia and requests that he only be on the defensive if things go south because being on the offensive is exactly what Alexei and Antonov want. Ryan also lets him know that Luka is in The Fearless, and he must come out of this altercation unharmed so as to burst the Russian conspiracy wide open.
Greer tells Alexei that his coup is going to fail, Surikov is going to survive, and that means Alexei will be imprisoned for being a traitor. Greer offers Alexei a way out of this mess, where he has to come away with him as soon as possible. Kovac sits down with Surikov and lets him know that Popov was killed by Petr and Alexei, and she tells him that she has a recording to prove it. In exchange, Surikov has to pull back his troops that are near the Czech border and refrain from escalating the situation with the USA. Mike steps in to explain that Alexei intends to worsen Russia’s situation with these two countries to paint the image that Surikov is weak and then get him removed. Surikov then listens to Luka’s recording, where Alexei admits to killing Popov. He quotes Thomas Jefferson and promises to use it to do what Kovac and Mike expect him to do. Ryan tries to buy Greer, Mike, and Kovac some more time. Surikov plays Alexei’s recording in the war room. Realizing what has happened, Alexei tries to make a run for it and gets killed in the process.
Surikov proceeds to sort out the traitors in his cabinet because a lot of them were ready to support Alexei’s coup plans. All this information obviously doesn’t reach the USS Roosevelt and the Fearless. So, they continue their preparations to attack each other. Despite Luka’s intervention, Antonov fires a missile at the USS Roosevelt. Bennett manages to defend his ship and then prepares to fire back. Ryan continues to advise him not to do so because that’s exactly what Antonov wants. In the White House, Elizabeth Wright tells President Charles Bachler the same thing because she knows that they’re walking right into Alexei and Antonov’s trap. Luka successfully carries out a mutiny. Ryan gives a hackneyed speech about sacrificing everyone on the ship for the country. Things calm down as Luka takes control of the Fearless and lets Bennett know that Antonov has been put under arrest. The President allows Bennett to assess the situation and take the necessary measures. And, well, Bennett decides to de-escalate, and everyone sighs with relief. Everyone (and I mean everyone) shakes hands and heads home.
Mike offers his private protection to Kovac. Bachler makes Wright the Director of the CIA. A week later, Luka is picked up from his house, probably to be executed. In a letter to Ryan, he tells him that they’ve done their job, and now the world is moving forward. He says that this fight they just engaged in was passed onto them by their predecessors, and it’ll continue to go on as long as humanity exists. But he hopes that they can try to be better than the institutions they serve because that’s the one thing that matters most. In addition to that, he expects that, despite living a mostly dishonorable life, he has done enough to die honorably. And he wishes that Ryan will probably have the same feelings when his time comes. Now, this sounds great from an idealistic and stoic perspective. However, since it’s juxtaposed with images of Ryan and Greer getting medals of honor from Wright, the wall commemorating the members of the CIA who have given their lives, and then the logo of the CIA, all of it rings very hollow. Because it glorifies the institution that’s susceptible to corruption and regularly engages in domestic wiretapping, partakes in extrajudicial justice, is guilty of several human rights violations, and influences public opinion via various illegal means.
In fact, midway through “Jack Ryan” Season 3, the showrunners drop all pretense of trying to build up to this aforementioned monologue from Luka. It starts to portray the villains as caricatures who are this close to growing a mustache to twirl it and the antagonists as people who are dumb enough to make themselves susceptible to replacement by someone who has half a brain in their head. Jack Ryan and James Greer turn into these stereotypical, infallible American heroes who can do no wrong, and their confidence and aura make everyone believe in them. Their flaws, their humanity, and their relatability are nowhere to be seen in the frame. The commentary on the thankless nature of the job, attempting to show the extent to which the protagonists have to stretch their definitions of morality to get their job done or have real emotional stakes in the story, has completely evaporated into the atmosphere. And all we are left with is blatant CIA glorification and an oversimplified deconstruction of global politics. Since Season 4 of “Jack Ryan” has been greenlit, I hope that they dig into their subject matter instead of dealing with it in the most cliche ways possible and give their characters some real weight and stakes. This is Jack Ryan at his flimsiest. So, the only way forward is up.