REVIEW: Jessica Jones Season 1

As everyone and their mother knows, Marvel has essentially conquered the silver screen and created the first shared cinematic universe in history. Now, their aim is to do the same thing on Netflix leading up to the Defenders, a more street level Avengers full of characters starring in Marvel’s queue of Netflix-only shows.

Their first salvo was a successful reboot of Daredevil, fitting him nicely into the MCU while letting him breathe and establish his own corner in the shared Marvel continuity. Never did Daredevil feel hamstrung with the same issues that plagued Agents of Shield in its first season.

The next show on the road toward the Defenders is a lesser known character amongst the mainstream, Jessica Jones.

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The character of Jessica Jones is fairly new by Marvel standards, created in 2001 by master scribe Brian Michael Bendis as the first title in Marvel’s MAX imprint. The series, titled Alias, was a runaway success that catapulted Jessica Jones right into the thick of the action in Marvel’s mainstream universe.

Marvel can literally put out a movie about a talking raccoon and a cuddly Space Ent (seriously), but even Jessica Jones is an important and big risk. First off, it addresses a huge issue that Marvel has failed to address. Despite the many female superheroes on its massive dossier, Marvel hasn’t produced any film or TV series until Jessica Jones with a female character as the lead. The Marvel powers that be have tried making excuses and such, but there are none for fixing this problem sooner.

Two, barely anyone knows the character outside of comic fans. That was never the problem for most of Marvel’s other characters. Granted, Daredevil and the Defenders plan opened the perfect runway to draw potential viewers. But if Jessica Jones stumbles, that’s not just a huge setback for Marvel’s Defenders plan, but also a huge setback for female superheroes. It’s unfortunate to think like that, but if Jessica Jones fails many Hollywood types will see this as a reflection on ALL female superheroes. Stupid, right?

Anyway, shall we begin?

REVIEW:

At the start of the season, we are introduced to Jessica Jones, a tough as nails PI with a penchant for foul language and whiskey. We also find out that she’s got some superpowers and some serious emotional damage. A tragic accident from Jones’s childhood killed her parents, but something from the truck they collided with gave her super strength, accelerated healing, enhanced durability and some degree of flight which she hasn’t quite mastered yet.

At one point, she wanted to use said abilities to help others in lieu of the Avengers. But a rather vile individual named Killgrave preyed on Jessica’s good intentions with his mind control to make her his slave in every conceivable fashion. And yes, I do mean THAT horrid fashion as well.

Its been a year since Killgrave was killed in a bus accident, freeing Jessica of his compulsion. Now she must pick up the pieces of her ruined life as best she can. Unfortunately, all that self-help will have to wait when Killgrave comes back from the…well, grave. And he’s hellbent on leaving a trail of bodies and broken people in order to get Jessica back under his thrall.

WHAT WORKED:

Jessica Jones (aka Krysten Ritter)

First off, the casting of the show was fantastic. I had my reservations about Krysten Ritter. Never really saw the big appeal about her. But in this show, I finally saw it. She played Jessica as tough and aloof with a biting sarcasm more often than not. But when it came to the more meaty and vulnerable facets of the JJ character, Ritter knocked it out of the park. She was perfectly believable as the bad-ass, superpowered PI in just about every scene. Without a believable Jessica Jones, the show wouldn’t have worked. Thankfully that wasn’t the case.

Also, I liked that despite her powers, Jessica couldn’t just laugh off bullets or backhand bad guys into next week (just the next block). She can take damage and heals faster than most, but she’s as vulnerable as a normal human. This made for interesting scenarios Jessica had to escape that didn’t require the show to pull a ‘Worf-Effect‘ just to make her vulnerable.

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Killgrave (aka David Tennant)

WOW. What a villainous turn by the former Time Lord. Amongst all of Marvel’s villains, Killgrave is by far the most monstrous and the most repulsive. There was no moral conflict in him like we first saw in Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk. Killgrave is 100% evil to his core and without remorse. What was so brilliant about how the character operates is that he uses Jessica’s conscience against her by setting up contingencies to evade capture. For example, if Jessica gets too close, he’ll order a group of bystanders to throw themselves in the middle of rush hour traffic. or if a radio host calls out Killgrave for the sick monster that he is, then Killgrave will have a cop pay said radio host a visit and kill her.

There are some slight changes in the character. In the comics, he was a minor Daredevil and Spiderman villain named Zebediah Killgrave with the codename ‘The Purple Man.’ In the show, his real name is Kevin Thompson and he named himself ‘Killgrave.’

Tennant did a fantastic job playing off of Jessica’s fear, hatred and disgust with his depraved obsession to regain control over her no matter who he destroyed in the process. To him, they are soul mates and Jessica was the only one of his slaves that didn’t bore him. Killgrave is the worst type of parasite. He controls others to do his bidding so his hands remain clean. And of course, even in this strange new world of gods and aliens, who will believe mind control when its such an intangible thing?

The way the character is played makes you easily root for Jessica to find a way to not just win, but end Killgrave permanently.

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Luke Cage (aka Mike Colter)

This series, while introducing us to Jessica Jones, was also a backdoor intro for Luke Cage, another member of the impending Defenders group. Played by Mike Colter who is an awesome actor, Cage is a barkeeper a commanding yet cool presence. For the most part he avoids drama and likes his relationships casual due to some recent tragedy. Luke is also another ‘gifted’ (unbreakable skin and super-strength), sparking mutual interest between him and Jessica Jones. And unbeknownst to him, a past connection to Jessica’s time as Killgrave’s thrall gets revealed throughout the season’s 13 episodes. There’s a hint that he was ‘given’ his powers, but the details are still a mystery. I’m guessing that info is being hoarded away for his own TV show coming up in 2016. Way to make me promote there Marvel!

On a pervy note, Colter and Ritter have CRAZY onscreen chemistry. You sometimes feel like you’re interrupting whenever the two are in the same room, all up close and personal. Given that Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are married with a kid in the comics (Spoiler Alert!), the actors needed to work as a believable onscreen couple, which they did.

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Trish Walker (aka Rachael Taylor)

Trish is a former child actress and popular NYC radio host. She;s also Jessica’s BFF and adopted sister. Her and Jessica are estranged at the series’ start, mostly because Jessica has been avoiding her since getting free of Killgrave. Trish is one of the only people who Jessica can’t push away and will do anything for her. This, in my opinion, was the show’s most important relationship. While Jessica and Luke Cage will make a great couple, both have lots of baggage to work through before that happens. You know how onscreen angst goes. Trish represents Jessica’s humanity, her heart as well as her most stable relationship. Trish is the one person that Jessica truly loves above anyone else. Taylor and Ritter were truly believable as soul sisters in every way. I’m looking forward to seeing where this relationship goes as the show continues.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK

1.) This will be a short list. As good as the show was in terms of exploring vengeance against an abuser and reclaiming your identity, it didn’t pack the punch that Daredevil had. There’s definitely a more psychological thriller bent to Jessica Jones, which I liked. However, I liked Daredevil better.

2.) The show didn’t really mesh as well with Daredevil as it should have. Maybe a second viewing is needed, but I was expecting more mentions of the events in Hell’s Kitchen that took place during Daredevil (like how most of the police force was corrupt and on Kingpin’s payroll). We only got a welcome visit from Claire Temple and a cameo from one of the few honest cops in the Hell’s Kitchen precinct. Yes, there were mentions of the Avengers here and there as well as how some people felt about gifted folk. But this show should have been much more linked to Daredevil, but not needing him to show up or anything.

3.) I appreciate the show’s low-fi approach to special effects, but how Jessica’s powers came across was a bit uneven. Just how strong was she. And what were the limits of damage she could take? She could survive getting hit by a car but could be knocked out by a 2×4 to the back of the head. Jessica killed someone (while under Killgrave’s control) by hitting them at full-strength. yet the blow didn’t break bones, just stopped the person’s heart. Again, consistency would be nice.

4.) Jessica’s short superhero career. They kind of glossed over it in the show. I would have liked to see what she did and how she started out. We only got a brief glimpse at her actually superhero-ing before she got Killgraved.

Told you it would be short. Now onto the Easter eggs!

EASTER EGGS: (Warning – Mild Spoilers below)

The Alias Investigations Door:
This is the most obvious one that the show recreated frame for frame. That scene came from the first issue of Jessica Jones’s Alias title when an incensed client makes the mistake of attacking Jessica. Plus, the show kept Alias Investigations as Jessica’s PI business name.

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Patsy Walker:
In the show, that was Trish’s moniker when she was a child actress. In Marvel comics, there is a character of the same name who is also the superhero Hellcat. And given all the self-defense training Trish takes, she might have a future in this superhero business. Oh the possibilities

Jeri Hogarth:
Carrie Ann Moss plays Jeri Hogarth, an immoral name partner at a law firm responsible for many of Jessica’s steady gigs. In the comics, Hogarth is a man who happens to be Iron Fist’s lawyer. If they keep that aspect of Iron Fist the same, then it won;t be the last time we see Jeri Hogarth in the MCU.

Purple Man:
In the comics, Killgrave’s code name is The Purple Man because he’s…well, purple skinned. The show pays homage by dressing him in purple suits and when his powers get a serious upgrade, his blood vessels turn purple whenever he uses his powers.

Jewel:
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Jewel was Jessica Jones’s first alias when she began her short-lived superhero career in the comics.The show pays some nice homage to that having Trish create an exact replica of Jessica’s Jewel costume from the comics.

Will Simpson
Will Simpson initially starts out as a hapless police sergeant who gets Killgraved into almost doing a horrible deed. But as he becomes more a part of the show, we find out more about his past as a spec ops soldiers for IGH. Simpson is a variant of the villainous Frank Simpson known as Nuke, part of the Weapon Plus program that created Wolverine and Captain America.

As Will Simpson was snatched up by his former employers, I have no doubt that we will see him and IGH again in Season 2.

The Incident:
Like in Daredevil, there are constant references to The Battle of New York that took place in the first Avengers film. And while many have embraced The Avengers as Earth’s protectors, many are rightfully terrified of this brave new world. Some have lost friends and loved ones to the damage down during the Avengers battle and blame all gifted humans. This occurs during a case where Jessica is targeted by a wealthy couple seeking vengeance for the aftermath of the Battle of New York.

All in all, Jessica Jones is a very good show that explores a different take on the superhero genre. Its decidedly different from anything Marvel has eve done. Its less about the rock ’em sock ’em of most superhero properties. The psychological cat and mouse game between Killgrave and Jessica is a fascinating watch, which forced the latter to not only confront her past but keep it from destroying everything around her. Definitely check out this show.

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