Marvel's Jessica Jones Review
Have you met Miss Jones?
When it was initially announced it seemed like an audacious plan but the tie-up between Marvel and Netflix has proved to be hugely successful.The first fruits of this union was a reboot of Daredevil that finally banished the memory of the ill-fated Ben Affleck starrer from 2003. It was a realistic and gritty Daredevil which better reflected the character from the original comics. Whilst the series still existed in the same cinematic universe as the Marvel films and TV series, it was an altogether more adult vision. This was a world where people might have superpowers and mention The Avengers in passing but faced far more real world problems. The villainous Kingpin in Daredevil was involved in property development and drug trafficking, as opposed to orchestrating alien invasions. The series worked perfectly, establishing a realistic backstory to Matt Murdock and including the kind of strong violence and bad language not acceptable in shows like Agents of SHIELD.Marvel and Netflix have followed up the success of Daredevil with their latest collaboration - Jessica Jones. The new series retains the more realistic approach established in Daredevil but goes for something far more psychological. Whilst there is plenty of action in Jessica Jones, it's more of the cat-and-mouse variety, rather than just running around at night beating up criminals. Jessica Jones herself is an ex-superheo who has hung-up her metaphorical cape and now works as a private detective. She is a damaged soul who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder which she self-medicates through booze and casual sex. She is haunted by her ordeal whilst under the influence of the evil Kilgrave and when she discovers that he isn't quite as dead as she thought, begins to plot her revenge.
The basic premise of Jessica Jones the series is drawn primarily from the Alias storyline that ran in the MAX imprint from 2001-2004. In much the same way as Netflix allows Marvel to delve into more adult waters, so the MAX imprint allowed for more challenging storylines in the comics. And that's exactly what it delivered with a basic plot that revolved around sexual abuse and plenty of four letter words. The TV version covers similar ground, with Jessica (Krysten Ritter, Breaking Bad) still trying to come to terms with the abuse she suffered at the hands of Kilgrave (David Tennant, Doctor Who), whilst working as a private investigator (Alias Investigations).
Jessica Jones might exist in the same gritty world as Daredevil but the new series still manages to create a style all of its own. There's isn't quite as much violence as Daredevil but there's a lot more sex and swearing for a start. The main characters are also different, they're more overtly superpowered than Matt Murdock but they generally try to keep themselves to themselves. Ritter plays Jessica as someone who is initially running away from her past before ultimately deciding to confront it. Along for the ride is fellow superhero Luke Cage (Mike Colter, Zero Dark Thirty) who will be getting his own series soon and best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor, Transformers), a former child TV star who is now a radio host.
A key character from the comics is Jeryn Hogarth who, in the series has had a gender change, and is now called Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix). Hogarth is a high-flying lawyer who uses Jessica for various investigating work and is in the middle of divorcing her wife. Other key characters include Jessica's neighbour Malcolm (Eka Darville), Trish's abusive mother (Rebecca De Mornay) and police officer Will Simpson (Will Traval). The writers give all the characters realistic motivations for their actions which, when combined with some excellent performances, provide them with a degree of depth.
Any superhero is only as good as their villain and David Tennant's Kilgrave is a worthy opponent.
The multi-layered drama gradually provides more information about Jessica's past and her relationship with Kilgrave and despite how good Ritter is as Jessica, it's Tennant that nearly steals the show. Any superhero is only as good as their villain and Kilgrave makes for a worthy opponent. It isn't just his ability to control peoples' minds that makes him scary but his belief that he is justified in his actions. In much the same way as the writers humanised Wilson Fisk in Daredevil so Kilgrave is shown to be more than just a monster in this series. His presence is often heralded by flashes of purple, which is a subtle way of acknowledging his other name in the comics - The Purple Man.
Show writer and executive producer Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter) has done a wonderful job of bringing Jessica Jones to the small screen, creating a believable anti-hero and a story that includes plenty of fun nods to the original comics. At one point Trish tries to convince Jessica to wear a custom that is based on the costume Jessica wore in the comics and suggests she calls herself 'Jewel'. That's actually the name Jessica used in the comics but in the series she just says it sounds more like the kind of name a stripper would use. There are also occasional mentions of the larger Marvel universe, with Luke at one point mentioning "the big green dude and his friends".
The series takes full advantage of the Netflix model and plays more like a 13 hour movie, making it ideal for binge watching. In addition it not only succeeds as a standalone series but it also fits neatly into Marvel's plans for further shows on Netflix. We already have a second season of Daredevil on the way, which will add The Punisher into the mix, and that will be followed by Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the superhero team-up The Defenders. In the meantime Jessica Jones is an excellent addition to the Marvel universe and might even be the best TV series the studio has created to date. So we can't wait to see what's next.
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