Marvel continues their plan to dominate all media with Jessica Jones

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My wife and I binged watched JESSICA JONES over the holiday break.  We were so engaged with the show that we ended up knocking off 4 or even 5 episodes off at a time.  JESSICA JONES is the television adaptation of the comic series, ALIAS, which we both loved.

My interest in comics tends to wax and wane over the years. I had just started reading comics again in 2001 after taking a few years off.  ALIAS come out in November 2001, when I was literally trying every new series that was coming out to find new series that caught my attention.  At the time, I had no idea who Brian Michael Bendis or Michael Gaydos was, but I was immediately drawn into the world they created.  ALIAS was about a former superhero named Jessica Jones.  After being mind-controlled by Zebediah Killgrave (Purple Man), Jessica gives up being a superhero and becomes a hard-boiled private investigator.  Often her cases involve her dealing with super-hero related crimes.   ALIAS was such a popular book that Marvel ended up bringing Jessica Jones into the main Marvel universe (it started as a MAX title), and she’s been a major supporting character ever since.

When Marvel announced JESSICA JONES as one of their Netflix series, they quickly grabbed my attention.  Especially when they announced David Tennant would be playing the slightly renamed Kilgrave.  Not only am I a huge fan of his work in DOCTOR WHO, but he’s shown some serious acting chops in shows like BROADCHURCH and THE ESCAPE ARTIST.  In JESSICA JONES, Tennant plays a raging psychopath who gets off on using his powers to fore other to perform for his own gain and amusement.  But somehow, Tennant still managed to make the character relatable, almost charming at times.  This is a character who treats rape as “no big deal,” and I kept feeling myself drawn to his charisma and charm.  I actually felt very dirty after watching his performance…

What made this show work so well was the main story arc about Jessica Jones trying to get over her past traumas involving Kilgrave.  When Kilgrave returns and is obsessed with Jessica, this is exactly where the show was at its best.  Krysten Ritter and David Tennant had incredible chemistry, and you couldn’t help but be drawn in to their conflict.  I also thought the show made some bold choices in dealing with Jessica’s PTSD.  Jessica often comes off as almost as bad as Kilgrave when it comes to being manipulative and disregarding others’ feelings.

JESSICA JONES has some unique twists on conventional wisdom, especially when it comes to women.  Typically your hard drinking private eye is a guy, but Krysten Ritter was damn convincing in the role.  I kept finding myself comparing the show to SUPERGIRL.  In SUPERGIRL, they do a lot of “girl power” to remind the viewer that girls are just as viable as heroes as guys.  JESSICA JONES went the opposite route and showed that women could be cold, calculating, and total bad asses.  I think both have a real strong place in showing a wide range of roles women can make their own.

Another example of this was Carrie-Anne Moss playing a gender-swapped version of Jerry Hogarth (in the comics Hogarth is a guy and the lawyer of the Heroes for Hire).  They even managed to have a “sleeping with her secretary” story which was another clever play on what you would expect to see.  Carrie-Anne Moss, much like Jessica, is someone who seems willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her own goals, and it results in some disturbing moments, especially when it comes to Hogarth’s ex-wife.

Rounding out the main cast was Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker.  I thought both were terrific choices.   Mike Colter brought a lot of depth to Luke Cage, and I am looking forward to seeing him take over his own series later in 2016.  In the show, Kilgrave killed Luke Cage’s wife using Jessica Jones.  Jessica’s semi-stalkerish relationship with Luke Cage went a long way towards showing how far she removed she was from her hero past. 

Trish Walker was another great addition to the show.  I have only really seen her as Hellcat in the comics, but for the show, she is a former child actor who has made it big as a shock-radio journalist.  After Jessica’s parents died in a car crash, she came to live with Trish and her nightmare of a mother.  Jessica’s relationship with Trish is just about the only loving, normal relationship Jessica has allowed herself.

On top of main cast, Jessica Jones had a lot of quirky characters that really helped to flesh the world of the series out.  When you see Jessica Jone’s strange neighbors, it made me feel like we were watching live in a real New York apartment building.  That was a real cool trick to pull off.  

And they even managed to tie the show in with DAREDEVIL, by having Rosario Dawson return as Claire Temple, a nurse who seems to keep getting involved with superheroes and their problems.  She only appeared in the last episode, but I thought it was a nice bridge between the two series.  And Dawson supposed to have an even bigger role in the upcoming LUKE CAGE series.

I did have some complaints about JESSICA JONES.  While I did think it was great they had some many supporting characters, it seemed like they had a little too much show to fill.  As a result, many of these characters ended up getting story arcs that added nothing to the main story.  Which was a problem, since the best part of the show was anything with Ritter or Tennant.  Some of the side arcs, like the drug addicted Malcolm trying to find redemption, ended up working fine.  But, the creepy twins who end up getting sucked into Kilgrave’s madness made me cringe in just about every scene they were in.

And even worse was Wil Traval as Will Simpson.  When we first meet Will Simpson, he’s a cop who is being controlled by Kilgrave to try and kill Trish.  After they manage to free him from Kilgrave’s control, his story ends up all over the map.  Trish is falling for him.  Simpson wants revenge on Kilgrave, killing anyone who gets in his way…even fellow officers.  Oh, and by the way, he’s a former Special Ops soldier who takes drugs to give him superpowers.  And the company that made the drugs might be tied into Jessica Jones’ origin too.  The whole story arc was bizarre and out of place.  It felt a little like they were trying to build into something bigger, maybe that would be dealt with in later series.  But to me, it just felt like padding to help get the series all the way to 13 episodes.

I also thought that some of the violence was a little gratuitous.  From the beginning, they promised this was going to be a lot more mature show than Daredevil with lots of sex scenes (though you don’t really see anything in them).  But especially towards the end, you get the impression they decided that since the show was already going for an adult audience, they could go a little buck wild with the violence. Hogarth’s ex-wife tries to kill her by “death by a thousand cuts.” Kilgrave’s father gets both arms chopped off, and we see an innocent victim of Kilgrave decide to impale himself on hedge clippers.  At times, the violence bordered on cartoony, which I am pretty sure was not the intention.

I also thought the ending felt a little like a cop out.  Early on, we realize that Jessica had become immune to Kilgrave’s powers.  Kilgrave was still able to manipulate her by putting innocent people at risk, but as Jessica defied him, Kilgrave became obsessed with increasing his powers to be able to control Jessica again.  In the final confrontation, we find out Jessica is still immune and she snaps his neck.  It's kind of anti-climatic.  I would have rather seen her outwit Kilgrave.  In an earlier scene, she is able to get Trish to defy Kilgrave’s order to “put a bullet in your head,” by physically placing a bullet in her mouth.  I was hoping that would lead into the end, but nope, she’s just immune.  And when she kills Kilgrave, all his control over people has been broken.  It was just way too tidy an ending for a show that didn’t seem to do anything in a contrived or easy manner.

But, on a whole, I still thought it was a great series.  I would rank it just slightly below DAREDEVIL, which I thought managed to have a lot more consistency.  At it’s best, JESSICA JONES might have been a better show that DAREDEVIL, but there were also some deep dips where I felt like the show was going on for a little too long.  But, Krysten Ritter was brilliant, and I really hope that she has a big role in LUKE CAGE’s series.  There are definitely some major unresolved issues between the two characters!  

4.0 / 5.0