After only two episodes, Treadstone has retconned the origin of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and revealed startling new details about the mysterious program that created him. Executive produced by Tim Kring (Heroes), Treadstone is USA Network's action-thriller series set in the Bourne universe that introduces a new generation of human weapons following in Jason Bourne's footsteps. However, Treadstone is also simultaneously a prequel series with flashbacks to 1973 that are beginning to detail the secret beginnings of the CIA's reactivated top secret black ops division.
Of course, Jason Bourne is Operation: Treadstone's most famous graduate (and the only surviving member of the original version of the program). In The Bourne Identity, Bourne was stricken with amnesia, which was a side effect of his brainwashing and by being shot during a failed mission. Bourne went rogue to discover who he really was and to bring down Operation: Treadstone and he was able to get the program shut down by the end of his first film. However, Bourne continued his quest to learn his true origins and by the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, he discovered that his real name is David Webb and that his father Richard Webb (Gregg Henry) was the CIA analyst who created Operation: Treadstone, which utilized behavior modification overseen by Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney) to turn U.S. service members into assassins (dubbed Assets), complete with new identities.
Treadstone retconned the creation of Operation: Treadstone (and Jason Bourne's origin) by revealing that its roots come from a program called Cicada, which was controlled by the Soviet Union. The series introduced CIA agent J. Randolph Bentley (Jeremy Irvine), who was essentially the first Jason Bourne. In 1973, Bentley was captured by KGB agents in East Berlin and disappeared for nine months, during which time he was subjected to brainwashing and torture, which mentally broke him. Bentley was then given advanced training in combat, weapons, and spycraft, which was overseen by KGB Agent Petra Andropov (Emilia Schüle). The intention was for Bentley to become the first Cicada agent - a black ops assassin who would be inserted into a new life and lie in wait until he was activated for a mission.
The Cicada program was the brainchild of Soviet scientist Dr. Gustav Meisner (Martin Umbach). Using a combination of hypnosis, drugs, sleep deprivation, and electrical stimulation to certain areas of the brain, Meisner's methods were designed to strip away a person's identity and make them controllable human weapons. Though Bentley was able to rebel against his programming, escape his captors, and return to the CIA, he still succumbed and killed targets while suffering from induced hallucinations during his months under KGB control.
The throughline from Bentley's ordeal in 1973 to Jason Bourne's creation is easy to draw: the CIA adopted Meisner's methodology for Operation: Treadstone, which was created by Richard Webb, and Dr. Hirsch utilized the sadistic behavior modification procedures developed by the KGB on David Webb to turn him into Jason Bourne. The method of placing Treadstone Assets all over the world - like how Bourne was stationed in Paris under the alias John Michael Kane, as he discovered in The Bourne Identity - originated from Dr. Meisner's Cicada program. Other Treadstone Assets, like the assassins sent after Jason Bourne in the films, were also activated, although in Treadstone, the activation method is the French song "Frere Jacques" while in the Bourne movies, it was a simple text message.
Treadstone also reveals that even though Jason Bourne successfully got Operation: Treadstone shuttered in The Bourne Identity, it was secretly re-established. Like Jason Bourne almost two decades ago, new agents like Doug McKenna (Brian J. Smith) and SoYun Pak (Hyo-Joo Han) were recruited by the resurrected black ops program as new Cicada agents and unwittingly lived borrowed lives until they were mysteriously activated in Treadstone.