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The Ending Of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Explained

"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," like previous Tom Clancy adaptation "The Sum of All Fears," intentionally featured a younger Jack Ryan, played by Chris Pine, without the experienced, salt and pepper gravitas of Alec Baldwin or Harrison Ford. In the film, Ryan is a low-level CIA operative whose discovery of a terrorist conspiracy anchored by Russian billionaire Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed) sees him dodging assassins, visiting Moscow, and chasing bomb threats.

But unlike Ben Affleck's vehicle "Fears," the 2014 spy thriller was intended to be a full-on reboot of the popular film series. "Shadow Recruit" was supposed to have been the "Batman Begins" of the Jack Ryan franchise — produced from a new script not based on any of the previous books, with a hot star fresh off the recent "Star Trek" movies and plenty of openings for sequels.

But alas, it wasn't meant to be. Despite obvious intentions to launch a new series, disappointing box office returns and mixed reactions from critics ensured the status of "Shadow Recruit" as the most recent Jack Ryan film to date.

Here's how the ending of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" resolved its terrorist plot while gearing up for sequels that never came to fruition. 

Jack Ryan foils Cherevin's plot to destroy the economy

Jack Ryan hacks into Cherevin's files only to discover that the oligarch is using his son, Aleksandr, as a sleeper agent to help destroy the U.S. economy, already vulnerable from his financial machinations with China and Japan. The plan: to target Wall Street using an explosive device and bring America to its knees. 

The CIA agent races to New York and locates Aleksandr, and after a violent chase and physical confrontation, Ryan successfully hijacks the car containing the bomb and crashes it into the East River. The detonation in the river kills Aleksandr while Ryan escapes, no worse for wear — as is the case with most of the Jack Ryan films. 

As a result, Cherevin is executed by his co-conspirators for his failure, and Jack Ryan gets married to his fiance Cathy (Kiera Knightley) and is elevated in stature at the agency. The film's final scenes involve Ryan at the White House with his superior Harper (Kevin Costner), officially introducing himself to the president.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit set up sequels that never happened

Ultimately the ending of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" was meant to open the door for more Ryan sequels with Pine. Not only does the young agent get married and open up about his life to Cathy, changing his status in his private life, but Ryan's heroic actions have changed the course of his career and gotten him to the White House.

Early on, Harper tells him that "You're not just an analyst anymore. You're operational now," and part of Ryan's arc in the movie is fully embracing that reality. When he gives the president his name, he's well on his way to becoming the confident, heroic figure in "The Hunt For Red October."

In the novels, Ryan works his way up to Deputy CIA Director, then serves on the Cabinet, then as president. With only a few of the Clancy books getting adapted to screen, the "Shadow Recruit" producers had plenty of material to work from if they had made more Jack Ryan films. 

Alas, the disappointing box office performance of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" killed the demand for more films with Pine's version of Ryan. But the character returned on streaming television a few years later, with "Office" star and "A Quiet Place" director John Krasinski currently playing Jack Ryan on Amazon since 2018.