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January 2, 2023 12:36 pm

Why Is the Puppet Master Villain in ‘Jack Ryan’ Jewish?

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avatar by Alan Zeitlin


The poster for Jack Ryan: Amazon Prime.

There are good and bad people of every religion and race.

In any TV show, a writer is free to create heroes and villains with any backstory they want. But viewers have the right to question the significance.

The third season of Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” is mostly well-written, and has plenty of twists and turns.

The star, John Kransinski, who plays CIA analyst Jack Ryan, does a fine job as a smart guy who can take and throw a punch.

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In the third episode, titled “Our Death’s Keeper,” CIA agent James Greer is played extremely well by actor Wendell Pierce. But the villain, Petr, who we know pulled the strings behind the assassination of the Russian defense minister and is involved in a plot to engage Russia and the United States in a war against each other, tells Greer: “You are familiar with the aliyah in 1970? My mother was Jewish. Instead of emigrating to Israel, she came to Czechoslovakia. I don’t think she was very devout. I think she just wanted to get out of Russia. Those were hard times.”

Why Petr doesn’t call himself Jewish is unclear, since we know that by Jewish law, if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish. On the show, Petr is revealed to have a different (and more Jewish sounding) last name, and is the father of the Czech president, Alena Kovac, played with great subtlety by Nina Hoss.

So what exactly is the point of this character mentioning he was Jewish?

I don’t necessarily suggest anything nefarious was at play. But in terms of writing, why not tell us a little more? What is the point of a throw-away line?

Why would the character say his mother was not a devout Jew? Is it bad to be a devout Jew? What exactly is the point here?

There’s a predictable scene where Petr is hunting for wolves with conspirators, as well as other stereotypical action series tropes. That’s all the more curious, because there are many well-written scenes and unpredictable surprises. British actor Peter Guinness does a credible job as Petr, but it’s a shame the character is not more developed, and doesn’t have a scene where he goes one-on-one against Ryan.

Overall, the fight scenes we see are good, but there is too much violence. But the writers should tell us more about Petr, or not just casually make him a lapsed Jew with no significance, especially when there is the potential for negative stereotypes.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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