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The Ending Of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan Season 3 Explained

The third season of "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" came to a close with a finale that was literally explosive, and it's safe to say that the show is going as strong as ever. The Amazon series follows the exploits of the titular hero, who works as an analyst for the CIA. While Season 1 pits Jack against a Syrian terrorist group and Season 2 deals with political unrest in Venezuela, Season 3 sees Jack looking to stop a plot to restore the Soviet Union. In addition to focusing on tensions between Russia and nearby countries, Season 3 brings Jack Ryan back to his roots: Clancy's first novel to feature the character, "The Hunt for Red October," saw Jack trying to prove that a Soviet submarine was looking to defect.

As a franchise, the so-called Ryanverse has come a long way since "The Hunt for Red October" dropped in 1984. In addition to Clancy's novels, the character has also appeared in a film series, which began with 1990's "The Hunt for Red October." John Krasinski has since become the fifth actor to portray the character, following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine. With a fourth season of the show on the way, let's take a closer look at the ending of Season 3. Major spoilers ahead.

Resurrecting the Cold War

Season 3 of "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" is full of shocking twists and political intrigue, all tying into a larger plot about a rogue faction within the Russian government working behind the president's back to resurrect the Soviet Union. To accomplish this task, the rogue faction takes inspiration from the political tensions of the Cold War and sets in motion a series of events that will sow distrust between Russia and the United States. This rogue faction, founded by former Soviet soldier Petr Kovac (who was shot and declared a traitor back in 1969), looks to start a war by framing the United States and the Czech Republic for a plot against the Russian president that is actually being carried out by the faction within Russia.

Part of this plot involves creating a nuclear missile that looks like an American missile and staging an accident, having it go off in a small town in the Czech Republic. Luckily, the plan is thwarted by Jack Ryan and the missile explodes underground with zero casualties, but the plot doesn't end there. Going over the head of President Surikov, Russian Defense Minister Alexei Petrov deploys a rogue ship called the Fearless to attack an American ship and start a war between the two nations.

Thwarting a coup

Petr Kovac and Alexei Petrov's plan to overthrow the Russian government and resurrect the Soviet Union is well-planned and methodical. It likely would have succeeded if not for some impressive cooperation between people from multiple countries. Chief among them are Czech president Alena Kovac, the daughter of Petr Kovac; Luka Goncharov, a Russian spymaster; and, of course, Jack Ryan, who has to disobey orders to thwart the dastardly plot, putting him at odds with the CIA. However, Jack would never have known about the plot in the first place if Goncharov had not secretly reached out to him, not wanting to see their two nations at war.

The most surprising addition to this group of do-gooders is Alena Kovac, the president of the Czech Republic. Alena learns throughout the season that her father has been manipulating her into setting the stage for his coup. This includes inviting the Russian Minister of Defense to a soccer game, where Petr Kovac has him assassinated so he can be replaced by Alexei Petrov. Alena turns against her father, proving she is loyal to her country. She even allows him to bleed out and die in order to protect her nation. While Jack Ryan is instrumental in stopping the coup, the show emphasizes that it couldn't have been done without the help of patriots from all three countries.

What is patriotism?

One of Season 3's overarching themes revolves around what it means to be a patriot. While a love for one's country is an undisputed quality of patriotism, some people seem to think that being a patriot also involves supporting all of your country's decisions and always following orders. "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" challenges that notion, showing that blindly following orders, even when you know they are wrong, is not patriotism at all. Rather, in order to best serve your country, it is sometimes necessary to challenge what you know to be wrong, even when it breaks the rules.

This dilemma is a constant factor in Season 3. Early on, when the CIA looks to bury the investigation into the coup and pull Jack out of the field, he goes rogue and refuses to report in, knowing that if he doesn't continue his investigation, it could cost a lot of lives and lead to war. In addition, the Russian spymaster Goncharov breaks protocol and secretly reaches out to the American government, particularly Ryan. He spills certain classified secrets in order to help them save the Russian government from the coup. Interestingly, the show's villains, Petr Kovac and Alexei Petrov, use the same mentality to justify their coup, believing that they are saving Russia by reinstating the Soviet Union.

A tense standoff

The season's overarching theme is never more apparent than in the big climax, which sees a tense standoff between the renegade Russian ship, the Fearless, and the American ship, the USS Roosevelt. The captain of the Fearless, Rolan Antonov, is a member of the rogue Russian faction, the man tasked with carrying out the final step in its plan to overthrow President Surikov. The plan (named Operation Crossbow) involves Captain Antonov launching an unprovoked attack on the USS Roosevelt. If the Roosevelt fires back, it will mean war between Russia and the United States. Luckily, Goncharov manages to sneak aboard the ship and convince second-in-command Daniil Kagansky that the orders are wrong, prompting Kagansky to relieve Antonov of his duty — though not before he manages to fire a missile.

While the USS Roosevelt successfully averts the missile with countermeasures, its own captain, Andrew Bennett, follows the rules of engagement and prepares to fire back. Luckily, Jack Ryan — who has boarded the USS Roosevelt against orders — convinces him to stand down, trusting that Goncharov will stop the Fearless from firing another shot. Both crews have to trust that the other won't fire and destroy them, and ultimately they all make the right call, putting their own lives at risk to avoid war. By trusting the other side, everyone makes it out alive and a costly war is avoided.

Similarities to The Hunt for Red October

"Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" Season 3 may be telling its own original story, but with Russia as the season's main focus, it's hard to overlook the similarities between this season and Jack Ryan's most famous story, "The Hunt for Red October." While fans may have been hoping to see a new version of Captain Marko Ramius (the captain of the Red October, famously portrayed by Sean Connery in the 1990 film adaptation of the novel), sadly, the character doesn't make an appearance. However, Season 3 still has a lot of similarities to the novel and film versions of "The Hunt for Red October," which were likely meant as homages.

Some of these nods appear throughout the season, such as The Sokol Project being built around the development of an undetectable nuclear missile — the Red October is a near-undetectable submarine built to carry nuclear warheads. Jack's relationship with Luka Goncharov also has some similarities to the relationship he has with Marko Ramius in the novel and film, with an initially shaky trust being built between the two men. The final standoff bears the most obvious similarity, with Jack Ryan once again trying to avert a naval battle between the United States and Russia, arguing for a peaceful resolution based on his trust in a Russian operative.

A new CIA director

The rogue Russian agents under the resurrected Sokol Project may be the main antagonists of Season 3, but there's a surprising secondary antagonist in the form of CIA director Thomas Miller. From his introduction early on in Season 3, Miller is shown to be a man of very little integrity, always putting his career and political standing first. He uses Jack Ryan as a scapegoat when an operation goes awry in Greece, resulting in the death of a local police officer. He blames Jack and sends the CIA to capture him, forcing the titular character to go on the run so he can stop Project Sokol and the coup.

Luckily, Jack's immediate superior, Elizabeth Wright, begins to see through Miller's self-serving agenda and secretly supports Jack behind the scenes. As the CIA Station Chief in Rome, Wright puts her career on the line to enable Jack's investigation. While she is initially reprimanded for her actions and relieved of her duties by Miller, she is eventually rewarded for her courage. After Miller is exposed, the president of the United States appoints Wright as the new director of the CIA, and she becomes instrumental in resolving the standoff between the Fearless and the USS Roosevelt.

Goncharov's fate

One of Season 3's biggest standouts is Russian spymaster Luka Goncharov, played by James Cosmo. Early in the season, Goncharov comes across as something of a wildcard, but then it's revealed that he's Jack Ryan's secret Russian source. On top of his time helping Jack Ryan de-escalate the conflict between Russia and the United States in the present, we also get to see him as a young Soviet soldier in the 1960s. As he's such an interesting and well-rounded character, audiences may have found it frustrating that his fate is left so ambiguous at the end of the season.

Through a voiceover framed as a letter to Jack Ryan, Goncharov seems to be aware that his time may be coming to an end. When a soldier shows up at his door, he says he will make it easy for him and come willingly. All signs point to his likely execution, but the show never officially confirms this. It seems strange that the Russian government would want to execute Goncharov after he fought to eliminate the rogue faction and save President Surikov, but he had to break a bunch of rules to accomplish this, including sharing classified information with a United States agent and killing high-level Russian government agents without authorization. While his intentions may have been to help Russia, his actions may have ultimately sealed his fate.

The Intelligence Star

Toward the end of the final episode, Jack Ryan and James Greer are awarded a star-shaped medal by new CIA director Elizabeth Wright. While the show never officially specifies which medal the two agents receive, it looks like they're getting the Intelligence Star. The Intelligence Star is awarded to officers of the Central Intelligence Agency for "voluntary acts of courage performed under hazardous conditions or for outstanding achievements or services rendered with distinction under conditions of grave risk." The Intelligence Star is a mainstay in Tom Clancy's novels, with multiple heroes receiving the honor.

The last episode of Season 3, which is appropriately titled "Star on the Wall," honors those who have sacrificed everything for their country. The episode wraps with a scene of Jack Ryan and James Greer walking past the CIA Memorial Wall, full of engraved stars representing officers that have died in the line of duty. The scene is played alongside a voiceover of Goncharov talking about living a life with honor and how there are no real heroes in their line of work, only good people willing to do the right thing and not blindly follow orders.

What happened to Michael Peña's character?

The upcoming fourth season of "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" will be the final one. While no plot details have been revealed, it has been rumored that Abbie Cornish will be reprising her role as Dr. Cathy Mueller, Jack's love interest from Season 1. In the Jack Ryan novels and film series, Jack eventually marries Cathy and has a daughter with her, so their reunion in the fourth season could be the perfect tie-in to the source material. In addition, both James Greer and Jack Ryan eventually become directors of the CIA, so it will be interesting to see if either inherit the position in the show.

"Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" Season 4 will introduce audiences to Domingo "Ding" Chavez, a prominent character from Clancy's novels. It's been said that Amazon is working on a spinoff show starring Michael Peña, who will play the character in Season 4. Multiple outlets reported that Peña was set to make his debut as Chavez at the end of Season 3, but that never came to pass, much to the annoyance of fans. "My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined," one Redditor said.

In an interview with The Wrap, John Krasinski revealed that they shot Season 3 and Season 4 "back to back," so the decision to leave Peña out of the third season was clearly made in the editing room. Viewers will now have to wait until Season 4 to see Peña in action as Chavez, a former gang member who joined the military and rose through the ranks after witnessing the death of his friend in a drive-by shooting.

How Season 3 teases a Rainbow Six spinoff

Season 4 of "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" will spend some time setting up a Domingo Chavez-led spinoff in which Michael Peña will play the main role, reports have suggested. The seeds of this spinoff series were actually sown in Season 3. As noted by Screen Rant, we get a taste of what's to come when Jack Ryan and Mike November (Michael Kelly) embark on a raid of a nuclear facility, looking for proof that the Sokol Project is up and running. In the episode "Druz'ya I Vragi" (meaning "Friends and Enemies"), the pair recruit some special forces soldiers to help with the raid.

If you're a fan of Clancy's work, you'll no doubt have noticed some subtle hints during this part of the show. In one scene, November refers to the unit they've put together as "Hotel Six," which is seemingly a reference to "Rainbow Six," one of Clancy's best-known novels. Chavez plays a big role in the plot of this book, which follows a covert international counter-terrorist organization known as Rainbow. Two teams are formed as the group seeks to find a link between seemingly random terror attacks, one of which is led by Chavez. "Rainbow Six" is also the basis of a very popular video game series, so it wouldn't be a surprise if that's what the upcoming spinoff show is modeled on.

Is Season 3 based on real events?

With Season 3 releasing at the end of 2022, a year in which the war between Russia and Ukraine has been a mainstay in the news, many viewers may be wondering just how much of the season's story is based on real life. While the events of the show are entirely fictional, there are some undeniable similarities to real-world events. Much of the plot revolves around a sect in Russia wanting to expand into other Eastern European countries, and early in the season, Alena Kovac mentions Russian incursions into Ukraine.

Though it may seem like the show was looking to capitalize on current events, it turns out that the similarities are entirely coincidental. In an interview with TV Insider, John Krasinski revealed that they came up with the idea for Season 3 three years ago and that filming had wrapped prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "It's just horrifying to see that something we wrote to be so larger than life that there couldn't be any possibility that it could happen in real life not only happening in real life, but happening at a level that is ten times as scary and horrifying as our show," the actor said. "It's something that we all take very, very seriously."