TV Review: Jessica Jones
I may not be the first person to point this out, but it is worth mentioning how Marvel's movies have predominantly been fun and lighthearted while their TV shows have been dark and gritty. Okay, Agents of SHIELD followed in the footsteps of the movies. But with a life on Netflix and no longer needing to aim for a PG-13 (a PG-13 that usually deserves PG no less), the Marvel heroes have been flexing their grittier muscles while ruling the medium. And the newest entry is Jessica Jones.
One attention-grabber was the title. Why Jessica Jones? Even for a secret identity, isn't that a very basic sounding name? Well, the comic that inspired the series was originally titled Alias. And there is already a TV show with that name... which coincidentally debuted around the same time as the comic. As a matter of fact, when the TV series Alias debuted, I thought it was related to this comic. So now we actually do have a series based on the comic. But as Shakespeare once said, a rose by any other name would still smell sweet.
The logline of Jessica Jones is that Jessica is an ex-superhero who takes up work as a private eye. The idea of someone who works as a PI for the superheroes of the MCU may seem like an already good idea, but Jessica Jones goes so much deeper. During the first season, Jessica Jones investigates the disappearance of a young girl which leads to Kilgrave, a man from Jones's past, and not in a good way. Over the course of the first 13 episodes, the two have a cat and mouse game where we learn about the pasts of both Jessica and Killgrave. Again, this is STILL the tip of the iceberg for what this show has to offer. The show takes such and dark - and at times cerebral - tone that discussing many of the key moments would be serious spoilers.
Jessica Jones feels so weird being released on Netflix so soon after the debut of Supergirl on CBS. So rarely does one show feel like an antidote to every problem I had with another show. Supergirl suffered from riding the coattails of too many other shows, and constantly talking about how "strong and independent" the lead was while not giving her actions that back those claims up. Rather just constantly jabbering about the eponymous hero's traits, Jessica is strong, smart and holds her own against her arch nemesis. Yeah, she stumbles - she is a boozehound, she has her limits, especially when confronted by the demons of her past. We see her get knocked down, but we see stand right back up.
(Also while Supergirl felt like it was trying too hard to be The Flash at times, Jessica Jones is tonally similar to Daredevil but definitely has its own identity.)
Even in her own right, Jessica Jones still feels like a unique character. She has powers, however after a childhood accident, she through in the towel on being a superhero. Jones is a unique entity in that she has power, but is reluctant to use them. She demonstrates her abilities, but mostly prefers to use her mind to solve problems. Jones does have a few friends join her on her adventures (that is a-hem, NOT a Star Labs clone). She is helped by her best friend Trish Walker, a TV host and her lover Luke Cage, who is slated for his own series soon.
Hands down, the show-stealer of the first season is David Tennant as KIllgrave. I mentioned in my Daredevil review how the Marvel movies - with few exceptions - have had pretty mediocre villains. (Without looking it up, I still can not name the villains from Ant-man or Guardians of the Galaxy and I liked both of those movies.) However, between Kingpin and now Killgrave, Marvel has been knocking it out of the park with their TV villains. I chalk that up to a two factors: 1. The movies are more about the heroes. 2. Because these characters have 13 episodes instead of just being a one-time villain du jour, the TV villains have much more time for development.
The show actually builds a ton of suspense for the character. From the beginning, we see brief glimpses of the character and the monstrous things he has done. When Killgrave finally shows up, he does not disappoint. Killgrave can control minds and he has no problem abusing that power to commit crimes. He also has a history with Jones because of how he used said powers on her. Again, going into too many details would be major spoilers. However, there is so much more to the character than his dirty deeds. Doctor Who fans may be surprised to see David Tennant play such a villainous character (though anyone who has watched Broadchurch will not be TOO surprised), but Tennant just owns this role. In addition to his absolute viciousness, Tennant brings along some of his charm and jokey nature, giving Killgrave a black sense of humor. So is Killgrave just a one-dimensional monster? No, the show actually gives him several faces to his personality, even depicting him as someone who believes he is doing the right thing.
With so much to enjoy about Jessica Jones, there are flaws. For starters, the show kind of takes its time to gain momentum. The first episodes are good, but did not grab my attention the way the first few episodes of Daredevil did. In a way, this DOES work. It lures us into thinking this show will merely be some a standard detective show with superhero elements, only to reveal that there is so much more. Plus, this is a Netflix series so this style does compliment the medium. Viewers can - and will - watch at their leisure, so a slow burn over thirteen episodes will entice viewers to continue watching rather than playing all the hands at once.
However, even if that style technically works, there is another issue. While all thirteen episodes are good on face value, some episodes shuffle their feet a little bit. Some episodes move a little slowly pace, some episodes have gratuitous sex scenes. Also, while this is not a criticism, it is interesting comparing the end of the first season of Jessica Jones to the end of Daredevil. When I saw the season finale of Daredevil, I was excited for the prospect of season 2 with a whole new world of opportunities. The end of Jessica Jones felt like the end of (a 13-hour) movie, just wondering how they were going to follow up for a second one. Though that is a compliment - the show set such a high standard for its first season, one has to wonder how they will top it in the future. (Plus, there ares several years of comic book stories to gather new episodes from so I can remain optimistic.)
In conclusion, Jessica Jones is another stellar entry in the Marvel pantheon. Exciting characters and compelling stories make this worth the 13-hours of watch time. If you have Netflix, you know what to do, if you do not have Netflix, this is one of the reasons to get it.
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