Jack Ryan Season 3 Ending Explained: What is the Sokol Project?

Jack Ryan must confront the machinations of a long-planned Soviet era coup in the season 3 finale.

Nina Hoss (Alena Kovac) in Jack Ryan Season 3
Photo: Attila Szvacsek | Prime Video

This article contains spoilers for Jack Ryan season 3.

Through two seasons, Prime Video’s Jack Ryan has covered some well-trodden topics for CIA spy thrillers. Jack Ryan season 1 found Tom Clancy’s titular CIA analyst on the case of an Islamic extremist’s curious bank statements. Season 2 moved the action to South America, where Jack tried to ensure the democratic legitimacy of a Venezuelan election (a welcome change of pace for the CIA).

While both of those seasons were reasonable successes for the series, Jack Ryan was still missing a prevalent element from Tom Clancy’s writings and spy thrillers in general. That’s right: the Russians, baby. America’s favorite Cold War era big bad finally makes its return in Jack Ryan season 3, albeit in a little more measured, less jingoistic way. The bad guy in Jack Ryan season 3 isn’t so much Russia, but Russians – more specifically, a handful of Soviet era hardliners who are eager to restore the heyday of the U.S.S.R.

This season present some of the biggest threats yet for John Krasinski’s version of Jack Ryan from assassinations to misinformation to an attempted nuclear strike – all the while he must work alone, estranged from his CIA handlers. With all eight episodes of Jack Ryan season 3 available to stream on Prime Video now, let’s break down the season’s big arc, that ending, and what it means for Jack going forward.

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What is Sokol?

For starters, Jack Ryan season 3 reveals that “sokol” apparently is the Russian word for “falcon,” which is a fact I immediately informed Den of Geek‘s own Tony Sokol of. In the context of the show though, “sokol” refers to both a project and a weapon set to be utilized within that project.

Jack Ryan and his colleague Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce) lay all the facts down for CIA director Elizabeth Wright (Betty Gabriel) pretty thoroughly in episode one. According to their intelligence, Project Sokol was a plan initiated by a handful of hardline Soviet party men within the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. The plan was based on a Soviet war game called “Seven Days to the Rhine” (which is real, by the way) that played out what would happen if the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO went to war.

The Sokol Project would essentially force the “Seven Days to the Rhine” game into action by sowing chaos into eastern block nations through assassinations and disinformation, then deploying an untraceable limited nuclear strike as an excuse to reclaim perceived Soviet territory. The “untraceable” part of that nuclear strike is where the actual Sokol device comes in. The Sokol Project sought to create a special bomb that could accomplish such a task.

Though the Sokol Project was the stuff of Cold War legend in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Jack comes to realize that there are still some adherents around within Russia who want to see the dark plan come to fruition.

Who Were Petr and Luka?

Jack Ryan season 3 opens in 1969 with a handful of Russian soldiers killing off all of the Sokol scientists at the behest of the Soviet higher ups. Though it’s not immediately clear who these soldiers are, information slowly leaks throughout the season that many of our major players in the present day were a part of this moment.

Luka Goncharov (played by Game of Thrones‘s own Jeor Mormont, James Cosmo, in the present) was the second-in-command soldier who received the orders from his superior. He then passed those orders onto a group that included Petr Lebedev and Rolan Antonov. Petr rejected the orders, not because he didn’t want to kill all these scientists, but because he believed in Sokol as a project. Luka shot him and left him for dead, but he not only survived – he grew up to be a mysterious powerbroker (played by Peter Guinness) who helped install his daughter Alena Kovac (Nina Hoss) as president of the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Rolan Antonov became a captain in the Russian navy.

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Petr enlisted the help of Defense Minister Alexei Petrov (Alexej Manvelov) to stage a coup within the Russian government and enact the Sokol plan. Plan A was to influence Alena to allow NATO missiles in the Czech Republic, but she proved to be frustratingly independent, so they went along and tried some other strategies to jumpstart the Seven Days to the Rhine.

How Does Jack Save the Day?

Jack Ryan saves the day a whole hell of a lot in season 3. Like more than usual even. Despite not having access to usual CIA resources for much of the season, Jack: figures out the Sokol plan, gains turncoat Luka as an ally, kills a bunch of bad dudes, foils a nuclear accident, then foils yet another nuclear provocation. That last bit is arguably the most important one and it takes up much of Jack’s time in the final episode.

As previously mentioned, Alexei and Petr’s plans evolve quite a bit throughout the season. After plan A of getting NATO missiles into Czechia fails, they try to stage a nuclear accident within its borders. Once that fails, they move on to something quite beautiful in its simplicity: overthrow the whole dang Russian government and use a coup-friendly Naval officer (Antonov) to goad the Americans into a nuclear strike. Easy-peasy.

Thankfully, Jack and Luka are able to put a stop to this through the sheer power of persuasion alone. There is very little gunfire exchanged in episode 8 “Star of the Wall,” instead it’s just two groups of people on warships pointing weapons at each other and de-escalate. The real hero proves to be Luka who is able to get the Russian warship to depose their captain Antonov and stand down. Once Luka makes the call over to the USS Roosevelt, Jack is able to get his American counterpart to do the same. It’s a happy ending for the world but an unhappy one for Petr (who was killed by his daughter earlier), Alexei (who was killed by Kremlin agents), and Antonov (who was imprisoned by his peers).

What Happens to Luka?

Unfortunately, Luka seemingly receives an unhappy ending as well. Though Luka did well to redeem the many sins of his past, let’s not forget that he did kill an entire roomful of scientists who were just doing what their country asked of them. Luka leaves a nice letter for Jack that essentially says the world can stay safe as long as there are men like him who choose to value life over the institutions they represent. But then Luka gets a knock on the door from a very dour looking man who has probably come to kill him for his crimes against Russia. “Do not worry, I will not make this difficult,” Luka says to his likely murderer.

What Will Jack Ryan Season 4 Cover?

One thing’s for sure is that Jack Ryan will return in a fourth and final season, with Prime Video confirming that in May 2022. Knowing that Jack Ryan season 4 will be the final go-around for the Prime Video version of the character opens things up quite a bit.

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After Islamic extremists, South American coups, and Cold War era Russian nonsense, there aren’t many other common American geopolitical thriller tropes for Jack Ryan to tackle but there are still plenty of countries on the map to visit. Who knows – maybe this is the season that finally makes a live-action Jack Ryan character President of the United States like Tom Clancy did in his novels!

We do also know that Michael Peña will appear as Domingo “Ding” Chavez in season 4 and that Prime Video hopes to get the character his own spinoff after that.