I love comic books about lady superheroes. Lately I’ve been digging Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel, but when Netflix announced their lineup of Marvel shows with Jessica Jones I didn’t know who she was. I also didn’t read any of the comics ahead of time because I wanted to go in with a fresh brain and the opportunity to enjoy this show for what it was – without prejudice about “why didn’t they do it this way?”
So – remember back when I watched Daredevil? I don’t remember if I said this in my review, but it was a fairly dark show – on the level of the recent Batman movies where it’s not sugar-coating things, and it’s much grittier, less cartoon-y. Well, compared to Jessica Jones, Daredevil is sunshine and cupcakes, because JJ is f’d up. But let me explain.
Jessica Jones is a private investigator, and it turns out she also has powers. At one point she used them as a superhero, but retired from that game, and decided to use her skills in her business. She has a tragic backstory where she was in a car accident with her family, and she was the only one who survived. She was adopted by a stage mother, looking for a good story for her child-actress daughter to use for good publicity. Jessica and the daughter (Patsy/Trish) became lifelong friends. But at some point, Jessica was found by Kilgrave – a villain with the power to make people do whatever he wants just by telling them. And he makes Jessica his girlfriend…against her will. The story of this series is after Jessica has escaped Kilgrave’s influence, and how he comes back into her life, and terrorizes New York City.
I’m not going to share a lot of spoilers because that would require recapping almost the entire season, and I don’t have the ability to sum it up quickly, but if you want zero spoilers…go straight to the trailer at the bottom of the page for spoiler-free final thoughts.
And Kilgrave is the part that makes this show so dark and twisted. Perhaps because so many of us have this fear of being out of control – of not being able to do the things that we want – that it makes him so scary. He could make your sole purpose in life to find a slow and torturous way to kill yourself, and you would have no choice. He could tell you to kill others, and again – no choice. There are a lot of other articles out there that talk about how Kilgrave is the best villain because of this and other factors. He is so scary himself, and yet, he’s never the one doing the evil things – he just suggests them, and then others do these things for them. It doesn’t help that David Tennant who plays Kilgrave is so handsome and charming, and so many of us know him from his time on Doctor Who. Here, he his very nearly the devil incarnate, and he plays the role so slickly – with such manic charm that it’s easy to see why he was the choice for the villain who can make others do his bidding.
And beyond Kilgrave scaring the pants off us all, this show is so well done. Krysten Ritter plays Jessica, and she’s just this slip of a woman who is obviously trying to get the world to stop looking at her – but she can’t stop looking at what’s wrong in the world. You feel how damaged and deeply shattered Jessica is, and how much she just wants things to be simpler. And then she does these amazing things that make you understand that perhaps she’s just trying to blend into the background because she’s so extraordinary. Being uncomfortable with your abilities means that she doesn’t want anyone to notice her, despite the fact that she deserves to be noticed and recognized.
Her friendship with Trish (played by Rachael Taylor) is also pretty great – it’s got so much depth and history behind it. You can tell instantly how comfortable these women are with each other, and how much they love each other, with whatever complicated backstory that requires. Seeing the contrast of their lives – successful Trish who is a celebrity and constantly in the public eye versus Jessica, who just wants to slink into the background despite her hero abilities – is one the amazing parts of this story, and how they are so supportive of each others needs in spite of their differences.
The series also serves as the introduction of one of the next Marvel-Netflix television stars in Luke Cage played by Mike Colter. While none of the Jessica Jones characters made an appearance in Daredevil, we do get a connecting thread in the form of nurse Claire Temple (played by Rosario Dawson). So having the opportunity to get some real in-depth background on Luke before he spins off his own show is amazing. He and Jessica have a bit of a romantic relationship, and it’s so much real-er and grittier than any comic book relationship I’ve ever seen on the screen. Their interactions are so raw, that sometimes it’s almost hard to watch because it doesn’t feel like the melodramatic fiction that we are so often presented on dramatic television, and especially with what’s essential an action show.
The rest of the supporting cast are pretty terrific too, and I feel bad for not having the time to spotlight all of them, but I will just name Eka Darville as Malcome as particularly wonderful, and making such an amazing transformation both physically and emotionally over the course of the show.
So – would I recommend this show? Yes, definitely, but not to everyone. If you’re the kind of person who likes bright and happy (sort of?) super hero movies that are feel goods where only the bad guys die and there is no real collateral damage, maybe steer clear. There are so many civilians who are victims in this show that it can feel difficult to watch. It’s also surprisingly bloody, and I say this as someone who watched all the seasons of Hannibal. If you get queasy from blood or gory violence…this may not be your bag.
Otherwise, if you’re willing to deal with the darkness and slight gore – do it. It’s SO worth your time, and it was definitely worth mine.
Details: Jessica Jones, streaming on Netflix.