I bought one of my sisters the the series Firefly for her birthday. I was over at her house one day last week and we watched a few episodes:
I'd actually never watched Firefly, the short-lived 2002 science fiction show by Joss Whedon before, though my sister has been after me for a while to do so. So far I'm quite enjoying it; the cast is superb. Once we're finished the entire series, I'll probably have more to say about it... I'll no doubt have to check out the follow-up movie, Serenity, as well.
I've taken a week of my vacation time, and I and two of my sisters are off to the Island to spend a few days. Not a minute too soon- I'm tired and need to recoup my energy. And the Island is a great place to do it. Below is a clip from an episode of the great Canadian series Road To Avonlea, which is set on PEI and is loosely based on several of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books. This particular clip has some lovely shots of the natural beauty of the Island, one reason we love visiting there so much.
I did my First Aid recertification yesterday after realizing that I had accidentally let it expire in May. Oops. I'm now once again an official First Aider, ready to perform CPR, administer an AED, prevent choking, poke people with EpiPens, and bandage/treat all manner of injuries with confidence and efficiency...
Kidding aside, our instructor was really good, with lots of personal experience/ practical advice because he's formerly navy, currently a paramedic, and attending medical school. After the exam, on the way home I started thinking about Emergency! the classic TV show about the early days of the paramedic program. Running from 1972-1977, it starred Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth as paramedics/firefighters in Los Angeles. Tighe played sensible family man Roy DeSoto, while Mantooth was impulsive, nurse-chasing Johnny Gage. Both, however, were skilled and dedicated paramedics. Fun fact: the firehouse used in the series was an actual working station and the other firemen in the show were all real firefighters. The series was created by Jack Webb, and was a spin-off from his earlier police show Adam-12. Though of course the equipment and methods the paramedics and doctors use in the show are outdated, the humour, drama, and topics addressed in Emergency! hold up remarkably well. My parents own DVDs of most of the seasons of the show and I'm never sorry if, while spending an evening with them, they put on an episode or two and we pass some time with the firemen at Station 51 and the medical staff at Rampart Hospital.
"The praise that comes of love does not make us vain, but humble rather. Knowing what we are, the pride that shines in our mother's eyes as she looks at us is about the most pathetic thing a man has to face, but he would be a devil altogether if it did not burn some of the sin out of him." — J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister
One of our favourite shows to watch as a family back in the '90's was Road To Avonlea, a show loosely based on several of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books- mostly The Story Girl, Chronicles of Avonlea, and Further Chronicles of Avonlea. For Mother's Day, I thought that I'd show a couple of clips from the season 2 episode A Mother's Love. In it, a local women's group is holding an essay contest for school girls to write about their mothers. Sarah Stanley, who is an orphan being raised by her Aunt Hetty, wants to write about her but the other girls- especially her cousin Felicity- pour cold water on her plan, telling her that she's not eligible for the contest because Hetty isn't really her mother. Hetty King, an old maid, finds herself being patronized by some of the women in town, with them telling her that she really doesn't know what it's like to be a mother. Hurt by the cruel words and mockery of her cousin and classmates, Sarah decides to exact revenge. Aided by her impish cousin Felix, she forges a letter which indicates that Felicity and one of the other girls, Sally Potts (who were born on the same night in the same hospital) were accidently switched at birth by the frazzled nurse. They only mean to play a trick on the two girls, but the situation quickly spirals out of control when the letter makes it into the hands of the girls' mothers- Janet King and Clara Potts. Panicked and in denial, the two women find themselves arguing the completely opposite point that they had earlier with Hetty: that giving birth is not the only thing that makes one the mother of a child.
In episode 2 of Jack Ryan, we find out what happens in the aftermath of the debacle in Yemen. Suleiman has gone from being a hypothetical threat to being a very real one and is very much on the CIA's radar now, though they have no idea exactly who or where he is. Due to the fact that he was the one who pinpointed Suleiman as a terrorist threat, Jack has moved from being simply an analyst to actually being involved in the search for this new, unknown terrorist cell. Inevitably, this means that Ryan comes into contact with higher ranking members of the CIA, specifically Deputy Director Nathan Singer. Singer very obviously has no liking for Greer and attempts to get Jack to agree to report directly to him, bypassing Greer, by suggesting that this would result in rapid career advancement for Ryan. Jack is obviously uncomfortable about this political maneuvering; he puts off giving Singer an answer at first then, later in the episode, makes it clear to Singer that he won't do it by insisting that Greer accompany him to France.
Not that this means that Ryan and Greer are suddenly pals: their relationship remains a rather adversarial one. Jack just happens to dislike sneakiness a little more than he dislikes his boss. This is shown in the scene where the two of them figure out that Suleiman was at one time incarcerated in France. Ryan- tired, frustrated and in pain- snaps at Greer and Greer responds in kind. Despite their personal differences, however, it's obvious that the two men's respective areas of expertise complement each other and they work well together even if neither of them are very happy about it.
I do like the fact that we don't find out everything about Jim Greer right away- for example, we still don't know any more than Jack what Greer did to get relieved of his command in the Middle East. What we do discover in this episode is that Greer converted to Islam so that he could marry his wife and that, now that they're divorced, he has stopped going to the mosque. This creates an interesting senario: a lapsed Muslim ruthlessly tracking down Islamic terrorists while struggling to reconnect with his own faith, if he has any left.
We learn more about Jack's character in this episode as well. We find out that the helicopter crash while he was serving in the military resulted in Ryan having to have multiple surgeries on his back. Re-injuring it, however, does afford him the opportunity to reconnect with Cathy Mueller at the hospital. Their second meeting results in Jack getting her number so that he can ask her out at some future date. As they converse, we see another interesting facet of Ryan's character: although uncomfortable with dishonesty on a personal level- as witnessed when turning down Cathy's father's scheme and Singer's manipulations- he is perfectly capable of unhesitatingly lying for and about his job. He lies to his coworkers- who are in the CIA- about his injuries. And he's lied twice now to Cathy about his job; he can't tell her or anyone else what he's actually doing because it's classified. This raises interesting questions about what will happen if a relationship develops between them... how do you maintain a meaningful relationship with someone who can't really know who you are or what you do.
Hanin is becoming more and more uncomfortable with what's going on in her home- rightfully so. She once agreed with what her husband was doing, and considered him a freedom fighter when he was opposing Bashir al-Assad. Now, however, he's actively engaging in acts of terror and bringing both the materials for bomb making and his terrorist associates into their home. It's this last that seems to be pushing Hanin to the edge; while she might have been able to turn a blind eye to her husband's activities, the fact that he's exposing their children to them has her terrified for their safety.
Suleiman, whom we've only seen up to this point as a clever and ruthless terrorist, shows another side of his character in this episoode- that of a doting husband and indulgent father. However much he cares about his family, though- and it's obvious that he does- he doesn't love them as much as he loves his cause. No man who was putting his family first would bring dangerous, unsavoury men into close proximity with them, or risk implicating them in his criminal activities. Suleiman does both.
We're also getting to see the vulnerability of women in an environment like this: Hanin is powerless to do anything to stop what's going on. She can't take the kids and leave- where would she go, and who would give her help or support? She can't even really confront Suleiman about what's happening, because even hesitantly questioning his actions just ends with him bluntly telling her that she must trust him because he is her husband. This vulnerability is further illustrated by Yazid's predatory behaviour towards Sara, who is only 14 years old. No doubt, if Suleiman had known about what happened, he would have put a stop to it, but what else could he expect, bringing a pack of degenerates into his home? This is just further evidence that his terrorist cause supersedes the importance of his family or anything else. Suleiman may be a cut above the cretins he's associating with, but in the end he, too, is a fanatical zealot.
The latter part of this episode sees Ryan and Greer traveling to Paris, tracking the number from Suleiman's cell phone. Here they meet up again with Matice- now Garth- and participate in a raid on the terrorist cell which Suleimon's brother Ali is currently with. There's a nice moment in the SWAT van when Matice- who only knows that Ryan is an analyst- is rather condescendingly explaining to Jack how to use the gun he hands him. Jack doesn't say anything, but his expert handling of the gun tells Matice without words that he knows how to handle firearms expertly, and reminds us that he is a former marine.
The episode ends with a cliffhanger: Ali is wounded in the firefight but escapes. Most of the other terrorists in the apartment are killed, but the woman who is wearing the suicide vest detonates when she is shot. We are left not knowing what's happened to Greer, who is in the apartment when the explosion occurs. This is presumably where episode three will pick up.
While Ryan and Greer are somewhere over the Atlantic, in Syria Hanin is uneasy about the bunch of criminals who are squatting in their house. She is right to be worried; the repulsive Yazid corners Sara while she's alone and intimidates the 14 year old girl in a creepy/rapey way. She gets away from him and runs to her mother, sobbing in fear.
That night, Hanin asks Suleiman why he has brought these men to their home, where her children are. He doesn't give a satisfactory answer but does give her a pretty necklace, seeming to think this is an equitable exchange. Hanin says that she understood why he fought against Assad, but doesn't understand what he's doing now. He tells her that she must trust him because he is her husband. She doesn't look convinced.
In Paris, Greer and Ryan are met on the tarmac by Matice- who is now calling himself Garth- Police Captain Sandrine Arnaud, and the Paris SWAT team leader. Arnaud makes sure they know that they are subject to their law enforcement's regulations while on French soil and then they are loaded into a police van which is filled with SWAT team members. Matice gives them some guns.
They find themselves on their way to a raid on a terrorist cell to which Suleiman's phone has been traced. It's in an apartment building in Paris. Inside the apartment, Suleiman's brother Ali is seated at a table with a bunch of other men and women, using SIM cards to transfer funds to Suleiman. They get a warning from a lookout that the police are coming and scramble to pack up all the cards and grab their weapons. Ali pulls out a suicide vest which he just happens to have on hand and one of the women ends up "volunteering" to put it on. These guys are real heroes. While the terrorists exchange fire with SWAT, Ali escapes out the window with the SIM cards, though he does get slightly wounded.
Jack, who has been helping a wounded officer out of the building, spots Ali on the street and gives chase. He is hampered by the panicked crowd and, though he draws his gun, he doesn't dare take a shot for fear of hitting a civilian. Ali escapes into the milling horde. Meanwhile upstairs, Greer has gone into the apartment with SWAT. One member of the team ends up shooting the girl in the suicide vest and, as Ryan is returning to the building, he hears an explosion and looks up to see smoke billowing out of the apartment's shattered windows.
In Paris, a priest leaves his church; he is followed and stabbed to death on the street by two Middle Eastern-looking men. In Washington, Jack is back to work though he's in rough shape- stitches in his side, scrapes and bruises, and he's aggravated his bad back. He and Greer are called into a debriefing on the Syria debacle. Suleiman has been identified in some propaganda beheading videos, though they have no ID on the other guy. Jack says that Suleiman isn't ISIS: he's using modern money transfers from a European bank, which is more sophisticated than ISIS gets. Greer backs Jack up, saying that Suleiman's men have military-like training and precision. After the meeting, Greer tells Jack to go see about his back. Meanwhile, in Yemen Suleiman is sending his brother Ali on some sort of mission which requires him travelling by boat. He then heads for home. Jack is at Washington Memorial Hospital, having an MRI done on his back, which we learn that he has had multiple surgeries on. The doctor tells him he has a bad sprain and advises doing stretching exercises like yoga.
After his appointment, Ryan goes to the floor where epidemiology is located to see Cathy Mueller. She's pleased to see him and comments on his rather spectacular exit from her father's party. Jack tells her that he had to deal with a cargo shipment of romaine lettuce which was contaminated with ecoli; Cathy is understandably sceptical that this would be so urgent that the coast guard would be sent to fetch him. Jack changes the subject and asks her if she'll have dinner with him sometime... she agrees and gives him her number.
Back at his department, Jack's co workers are curious- and suspicious- about what's going on. Jack puts them off, telling them that he hurt his back rowing. He is soon called into Greer's office where he is presented with Suleiman's phone which was left behind in Yemen. Greer tells that it has an eight digit encrypted passcode and instructs Ryan to work on breaking that code. He is doing so when he gets summoned to the seventh floor- where the top brass are.
Nathan Singer, the Deputy Director of Operations, tells Jack that he's impressed with his work on this case. He says that Greer is on his way out and implies that Jack would be a suitable replacement, if he's interested. He says that, if Ryan plays his cards right, this case could make his career. Jack, uncomfortable, asks if he can have some time to think about it and Singer agrees, but says not to take too long.
Back in Syria, we see Hanin giving her son Samir an injection and we find out that he is diabetic. Suleiman arrives home, bringing presents for his kids just as though he's a normal dad who's been on a business trip instead of a murderous terrorist. He greets Hanin warmly, but that doesn't distract her from the fact that he's brought a lot of unsavoury characters with him who take up residence in their compound/home. One of them is this guy- named Yazid- who keeps staring creepily at Hanin's eldest daughter Sara who is 14 years old.
At a cafe in Washington, Greer is meeting a guy for lunch who we find out is from the mosque Greer used to attend. We learn that Greer converted to Islam so that he and his wife- who is Muslim- could get married and now that they're divorced, Greer has stopped going to the mosque. The man encourages him to return and gives him some prayer beads.
Meanwhile at the office, Jack is having no luck with the code and can't try multiple combinations because after 10 tries, the phone will lock permantly and delete it's stored information. He's not in the best of moods and butts heads with Greer when he arrives, questioning him about Karachi, Pakistan, which is where Greer was stationed when he did something to get himself relieved of his command. Greer tells him to mind his own business; they're not friends and he doesn't owe him an explanation. The footage of Suleiman's interrogation has been running on the computer screen while the two of them are squabbling and Greer breaks off when he notices something: Suleiman holds his wrists out for the hand cuffs like someone who's had experience wearing them. He's obviously been incarcerated before, but the Americans have no record of it. Ryan remembers that the cell phone has a French SIM card, checks France's criminal database and finds Suleiman's prison record. Acting on a hunch, he inputs Suleiman's prison number into the phone: it's the passcode and it unlocks the phone which contains four phone numbers, all in Paris. After reporting this development, Greer and Ryan are assigned to go to Paris to investigate and the two climb on a plane and head overseas.
The pilot episode of Jack Ryan was really a decent series opener. It introduces us to the main characters as well as some ones who may become important later, and sets up the plot which will run through all of the season's episodes. The titular Jack Ryan is ably played by John Krasinski, who's a lot more buff than he was in his Office days. He does the "everyman" thing very well although, as it turns out, Ryan isn't exactly your average Joe. He's a former marine who has a doctorate in economics which he uses in his present job in the counterterrorism department at the CIA, to track the money supplies of terrorist organizations. At first, Ryan seems a little too good to be true: brilliant, skilled, idealistic, and principled- he even bikes to work at the CIA- he's not too far off from what his previous employer calls him: a "self-righteous boy scout". Fortunately over the course of the series, Ryan's character is fleshed out and given more depth. Gradually we find out more about the helicopter crash which ended Jack's military career and still haunts him- and discover it occurred because of a decision he made. We also see his idealism take a mauling as it becomes clear that tracking down a ruthless and deadly terrorist means doing things- and dealing with people- which are morally questionable. Jack's new boss Jim Greer is a good foil for Ryan. A military man who has been relieved of his command in the Middle East under murky circumstances and demoted to a desk job at the CIA, Greer is no boy scout. Cynical and pragmatic, he is interested in getting the job done and has no time for- or interest in- playing nice with people who get in his way, whether that's his underlings or his superiors, and this doesn't endear him to either group. He and Ryan butt heads several times during the pilot episode and the argument they have over freezing Suleiman's finances is a good distillation of the differences in their outlooks. Jack argues that they should shut down the terrorist's accounts immediately to prevent him from using the funds to perpetrate a 9/11-style attack. Greer refuses, saying that freezing the account will alert Suleiman that they are on to him; they will lose their advantage and miss the opportunity to apprehend him and all his henchmen... the Coventry conundrum.
It is an interesting choice to not reveal the identity of Suleiman until almost the end of the pilot. Instead, we see more of his wife and children throughout the episode. Hanin knows what her husband is involved in, and she is afraid for herself and her children. Her fear is given visual form when, at one point, her kids- two girls and a boy- are playing by tracing each other's outlines in chalk on the pavement. When they run off, Hanin stares down at the drawings, which look rather like the chalk outlines at murder scenes.
Suleiman is portrayed as being intelligent and ruthless, and it doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that the series will eventually lead to a showdown between the terrorist and the CIA's resident smart guy Jack Ryan. They have a preliminary face off in Yemen, when Jack interrogates the then unidentified Suleiman. This scene ends in the escape of Suleiman and is very effective, but I do have a few issues with it. One of these is, this is an American military facility which is attacked by a group of terrorists in a couple of pickup trucks. Not only do the American soldiers appear to take more casualties, but the terrorists escape again in the two trucks. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like in real life the casualty count would have been reversed and there probably wouldn't have been enough left of the two trucks to drive away. The reason why terrorists more often than not use IEDs, etc. is because in a straight fight they generally get decimated.
The fight scene between Ryan and Suleiman's brother seems a tad unrealistic, too. Jack, after being knocked down, gets repeatedly pummelled in the face but then gets right up and continues fighting. Well, maybe... but Jack also slams the terrorist bro's head into the stone wall and he just shakes it off and continues on fighting as well. In any case, these observations are mere quibbles- no one really expects fight scenes in movies and shows to be realistic. All in all, Pilot was a successful series opener- introducing most of the major characters and setting up a compelling plot. The beauty of it being a multi-episode show rather than a two hour movie is that it gives time to slowly unravel the story and reveal the characters' history, motivations, and intentions little by little and after this premiere episode, I was invested enough in the people and plot to continue watching Jack Ryan.
When they touch down in Yemen, Greer and Ryan are met by Matice, a CIA operative. He takes them to the compound where the prisoners are being held and questioned. The two men are being questioned in separate cells and Jack Ryan is eventually assigned to interrogating one of them, who insists that he is just a bodyguard who knows nothing. While the interrigations are going on, a group of middle eastern men arrive at the compound with the bodies of dead terrrorists, for which they receive payment from the American soldiers. The bodies are placed in a cool room for later identification. As it turns out, however, one of the "bodies" is not actually dead and, retrieving a gun smuggled inside of one of the actual corpses, he takes a soldier captive and forces him to show him the cells where the two prisoners are being interrogated.
While this is going on, the men who previously brought the bodies attack the compound, creating a diversion which draws most of the military staff present into the fray. Greer orders Ryan to stay in the cell with the prisoner he's been questioning and one of the guards, and then goes out with Matice to fight the attacking terrorists. Meanwhile, the terrorist inside the compound locates and shoots the other prisoner to keep him from talking and then enters the cell where Ryan is, shooting the guard. Ryan grabs the man and they struggle violently, Jack getting the worst of it as the terrorist slashes him with a knife. He then gets knocked into the table to which the prisoner is chained, and the man tries to choke him with the chain as the other terrorist seeks to finish him off with the knife.
Jack manages to yank himself free and lands on the body of the guard. He pulls a grenade off of the body and, as the terrorist raises a gun, shows him the pin that he's just pulled out of the grenade. Ryan says that, if he is shot, they will all die. The terrorist relents at an order from the prisoner, whom he then unchains. As the two men leave, Jack realizes who it is that he was interrogating and calls his name: Suleiman. The two of them stare at each other, then the terrorists leave and Jack slowly collapses on the floor, though not until replacing the pin in the grenade. While the firefight is going on at the front of the compound, Suleiman and his cohort escape over the wall at the back. Shortly after this, the surviving terrorists retreat and we later see them meeting up with the two escapees. Suleiman and his rescuer embrace and there is another flashback to the two brothers seen at the beginning of the episode, whose village was bombed and family killed. It becomes obvious that these are the brothers, all grown up.
As Suleiman and his men make their escape, Jack limps painfully out of the compound and joins Greer in staring after the lights of the terrorists' vehicles as they disappear into the darkness of the desert night.