Wow, just wow. What a spectacular first season of television that was. Marvel’s Jessica Jones comes to us just a few short months after Daredevil ended and it’s already blown that series out of the water. Jessica Jones is a phenomenal television series that earns its place alongside other Marvel greats and stand out among the rest of the pack. It had a difficult task in that it featured a character that is unfamiliar to the general populace (this writer included) and was one of the (if not the) darkest adaptation of a Marvel property. I think I speak for everyone when I say that Jessica Jones is one of the best series of television to debut in 2015.
“Superhero fatigue” is definitely a reality right now. With shows like The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, it is easy to understand why some people were skeptical of Jessica Jones. The series benefits from feeling unlike any other Marvel adaptation currently on the air, with it’s seedy New York City locale and noir-ish tone give the series an edge in that it doesn’t feel like a stereotypical comic book adaptation. In fact, if there were no superpowers involved, this would feel as far removed from a comic book adaptation as you could possibly get.
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter, Breaking Bad, Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23) isn’t your average everyday superhero. She’s foul-mouthed, alcoholic and she’s suffering from a bad bout of PTSD. She also dishes out snark flawlessly, able to put anyone in their place with a mere sentence. She gets by working as a PI, but when a new case brings an old mind-controlling foe named Kilgrave (David Tennant, Doctor Who, the Fright Night remake) back into her life, she must reach out to her estranged friend Trish (Rachael Taylor, finally landing a role in a television series that won’t suffer immediate cancellation) and new friend Luke Cage (Mike Colter) to take him down.
This is of course a very simple explanation of what turns out to be quite a complex plot over the course of Jessica Jones’ 13-episode season. Where Daredevil proved to be a slow burn (though a compelling one) that built up to its climax in the finale, Jessica Jones has about three or four different climaxes sprinkled throughout its 13 episodes. It wisely decides to keep Tennant hidden until roughly the fourth episode, only showing the aftermath of his crime. This helps prevent him from wearing out his welcome early on in the season.
Much has been made of the R-rated content of Jessica Jones, and it is definitely an R-rated show for the sex scenes alone. The violence can be surprisingly graphic, but what is impressive about the se and violence is that it all feels integral to the story. None of it is gratuitous or put in for shock value. This is a bleak, depressing world that Jessica Jones is set in, and all of the mature content belongs here.
Ritter seems to be a polarizing actress for some people, since she always place the “bitchy friend” character. Whatever your preconceived notions of her are, Jessica Jones should wipe them all away. While I may prefer Ritter’s character in Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 (What? It was funny! And she was superb in it) her portrayal of Jones really caters to all of the actress’ strengths. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Ritter will now be a regular on their TV screens. She’s magnetic in the role and is a wonder to behold.
Where Jessica Jones really excels (for the most part) is with its side characters. So often with comic book adaptations, the “best friend” role is underdeveloped and doesn’t serve a real purpose. This is not the case with Trish, who proves herself to be a vital part of Jessica’s team. Their love story is the focal point of the season, especially considering the final “I love you” Jessica tells her in the finale. Taylor plays her extremely will and, like Ritter, it’s nice to know she won’t be on a show that’s cancelled any time soon.
Everyone from Jeri to Malcolm to Hope to Luke to even Ruben (the less said about Robyn, the better) make strong impressions and all get their own moments to shine (though Ruben’s, sadly, would be with his death). It’s rare for viewers to form such strong relationships with this many side characters in this kind of a show (do any of you really care about Iris in The Flash? Or Roy back when he was still on Arrow?), which makes Jessica Jones stand out all the more.
Tennant’s Kilgrave (aka The Purple Man) is one of the most intimidating (and terrifying) villains in recent memory, be it in a comic book adaptation or an original series/film. One can only imagine what became of the poor sap Kilgrave told to go screw himself. Jessica Jones does a fine job making Kilgrave scary, yet also somewhat relatable in the back half of the season. I’ve never seen a single episode of Doctor Who, so I am completely unbiased when I say that Tennant plays one of the best villains I’ve ever seen put on film.
While Jessica Jones is a great show, it is not without its flaws. Clemons (Clarke Peters) is essentially the exact same character as Ben Urich from Daredevil: a wise, older black character who helps our heroes, only to meet an untimely end (they even die at similar points in their respective series.
The twist with Officer Simpson going to the dark side also came out of nowhere. His transformation into a maniacal vigilante seemed to have happened between the episodes. Had he not given his trademark “gimme a red” line, solidifying his identity as Daredevil super-villain Nuke, it would have been even more unwarranted. Still, at this point it came across as mostly fan service. He was a much more interesting character before he went all cuckoo bananas.
It is unclear what the writers were going for with the Robyn (Colby Minifie) character as well. What started out as a slightly annoying character became a completely obnoxious distraction, especially in the final few episodes. This was never more apparent than when she rallied the Kilgrave Survivors Support Group to go attack Jessica at her apartment. It made absolutely no sense.
Finally, while you can certainly appreciate the casting choice of Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth (in the comics, the character is Jeryn Hogarth, a male character), it doesn’t necessarily make you care about her divorce drama with her wife and new squeeze Pam. All of those scenes felt like they belonged in a different show. Of course, where all of that drama ended up was delightfully disturbing (“AKA 1,000 Cuts” may be my favorite episode of the season), but it still doesn’t make up for all of the screen time devoted to the subplot.
These are all minor quibbles though, and the
good great far outweighs the bad in the show. One can only hope that it gets a swift Season 2 renewal, despite rumors on the contrary. We finally have our first female superhero, and she actually feels like a real person who just happens to have a few superpowers. A tough-as-nails, alcoholic, wise-cracking person, but a real one at that. Netflix is two for two with this and Daredevil so expectations for the Luke Cage series will be mighty high. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch Marvel’s Jessica Jones. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.