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Some time ago, Marvel made a deal with Netflix to create several original series for the streaming service that are not only a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but are also darker, grittier, and way more adult than any of the movies or ABC shows based on Marvel properties. The first show was Daredevil, which was released back in April to both audience and critical acclaim, and in November we saw the release of the second show, Jessica Jones.
When Jessica Jones was first announced for Netflix I, like many others, said “wait, why her?” I had an idea of who Jessica Jones was due to some of the New Avengers comics that I used to read, but looking back, I didn’t really “know” her. To satiate my curiosity, I did a little research into her history in the comics and what I found sounded pretty dark, complex, and interesting.
Essentially like in the show, Jessica used the superpowers that she gained after a car accident that also claimed the lives of her entire family, to become a superhero. Her career as a hero is cut short when she comes across a villain named the Purple Man who could control the minds of others. After breaking free from his control, Jessica struggles to readjust to life again after all the trauma that he put her through. Retiring from the hero business, she begins a new career as a private detective through Alias Investigations. Now that the Purple Man has returned to New York, Jessica must do everything in her power once again to stop this monster from ruining the lives of others for his own personal gain.
All I can say is that I love this show. Jessica Jones is a well written and acted modern-day noir drama that just so happens to includes superpowers, with a haunting story that captivates you throughout its entirety. If this was on a regular network it just would not have worked. There are so many themes, subjects, and elements in Jessica Jones that make it so incredibly unique when compared to any other shows currently on television.
Kristen Ritter is amazing. I can see why she was nominated for a Critics Choice Award for this performance. Jessica is a damaged individual. She lost her family in an accident that she blames herself for, has powers that she can barely control, and has suffered as a slave to a man who could literally control her every action. Even with everything that has happened to her, Jessica does not let that damage define her as she still manages to do her job, protect her remaining loved ones, and try to get justice for the people hurt by the Purple Man, while also providing some hilarious quips and sarcasm. She’s essentially an anti-hero who makes bad decisions, treats people poorly, cares little for the opinions of others, is incredibly rude and blunt, deals with alcoholism, and is pretty irresponsible. A main character like this could turn many viewers away from any show, but Ritter manages to play her with so much charisma and wit that this character’s mistakes and tough exterior end up being as compelling as her hesitant attempts to do the right thing and be the hero that she is meant to be.
David Tennant is a perfect choice for the Killgrave, aka the Purple Man, and does a fantastic job portraying the character. He constantly juggles between emotions throughout the series. Whenever he is in a room, he can be charismatic, funny, tragic, sadistic, or disturbing in the blink of an eye. I was both in love with and in constant fear of this character whenever he was on-screen. During my second viewing of the season, the person I was watching the show with kept telling me how fascinating Tennant’s performance was to them because they had never seen someone play a character like that before. Goes to show how much possibility and variety is now open to us thanks to streaming services like Netflix that can make shows like this possible.
So far I’m liking Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Not only is his chemistry with Kristen Ritter fantastic, but he manages to fit the character to a tee in both looks and personally. He even manages to make Luke’s famous catch-phrase “Sweet Christmas” sound awesome. While Luke is an important character for Jessica in the comics, I was a little afraid that he would get too much screen time and derail the main story for this show so that the writers could focus on setting up his character for future projects. Thankfully I was wrong–they manage to find the perfect balance of screen time for him and still make him compelling and interesting enough to make me want to know more about him while still developing Jessica’s character and story. After watching Jessica Jones, I can safely say that I am looking forward to seeing Colter appear as the star of his own Netflix/Marvel series later this year.
At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Rachael Taylor’s Trish Walker. It might have been the dialogue she was given in the first two episodes or the way the character was acting in the beginning, but over time I eventually grew to like the character. In the comics, Trish (full name Patricia Walker) is a heroine named Hellcat who as a child was the star of an Archie-like comic book series loosely based on her life and written by her mother. In this version, Trish is essentially an ex-Disney channel child star (weird in-joke since Disney owns Marvel) who was physically abused by her mother, who was also her agent. Thankfully her life started to improve once Jessica, her adopted sister, comes into her life and protects her from her mother. After Jessica’s incident with Killgrave, Trish spends the next year learning some martial arts and self-defense techniques in order to help save Jessica from her own demons. This is a pretty interesting interpretation of the character. I really like how they modernized her story by making her an ex-child star and how they also managed to intregrate Jessica’s past with hers. Hopefully we’ll actually get to see her don her Hellcat costume at some point so that she may become her comic book counterpart or so that Jessica can at least make a few snarky comments about it (just like when we saw her Jewel costume).
Wil Traval’s Frank Simpson is an interesting addition to the cast. At first, you think he’s just another one of Killgrave’s victims who wants to stop him from ruining any more lives, but as plotlines progress you start to see that there is a little more to this guy and just how far he is willing to go to finish his mission. He has a lot of surprising moments toward the end of this season and will most likely return as a major problem in the next season. Not much else to say about this guy without giving too much away but so far I’m just glad they didn’t make him as deranged as his comic counterpart (cough, American flag face tattoo, cough).
Eka Darville’s Malcolm is another great character in the show with an interesting story arc. I don’t want to say any more about his role due to possible spoilers. There are plenty of other great characters and performances in this show as well but if I were to talk about all of them this review would be way longer than it already is.
Of all the cast of characters in the show Robin is the only one that I just can’t stand. I know she was made to be this annoying crazy girl who serves a purpose for the growth of Malcolm’s character, but I just find her unbearably annoying most of the time. I have nothing against the actress who plays this character it’s just that the character as written is incredibly weak. When Season Two comes out I hope that Robin is either better written, better incorporated into the story, given less screen time, or just cut out of the show completely.
As much as I enjoy this show and most of the characters, I did find a few faults that could just be attributed to my own personal tastes and/or nitpicks. I felt like most of the sex scenes were just too much. Seeing so many of them in a Marvel project made me feel uncomfortable. While the scenes were not meant to be too graphic, it feels like they bogged down the first couple of episodes. Once these scenes were out-of-the-way in the first three or four episodes, the show really started to pick up after they once again focused on developing the characters and the plot. Speaking of momentum, I also feel like the last three episodes started losing some of it toward the end. Don’t get me wrong, they are good episodes and the conclusion to the season is very fitting, it just feels like they weren’t quite as strong or engaging as the episodes that came before them.
While I personally find Daredevil to be the better show, I still think that Jessica Jones is an amazing, thrilling, dark, witty, fun, intelligent, and engaging addition to not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also to Netflix’s lineup of original programming. Like many shows it has its faults but the few bad things that are in it are outweighed by the many good things that make this show what it is. I am really looking forward to seeing how Jessica’s story continues in Jessica Jones Season Two, Marvel’s Luke Cage in a few months, and in The Defenders mini-series.
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10