Soooo we have those days where we catch up on a show. We missed the buzz. We become busy and forget an episode. Some of us are just plain old lazy. Thanks to the wonders of DVD box sets, Netflix, and the internet, more people are watching television shows than ever. This is what I’ve been catching up on.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe shifted to television with the debut of Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, but the Netflix line of shows have taken up the task at exploring the street level heroes. Starting off with Daredevil and following up with Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Defenders team-up down the line, Jessica Jones is the second show and continues to expand the universe in an entirely new way. First off, let’s explore…
Jessica Jones: Loner Extraordinaire
Jessica Jones is a recent invention, as famed writer Brian Michael Bendis created the creator alongside artist Michael Gaydos in 2001. Unlike Daredevil, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Spider-Man, she hasn’t had a history as extensive as her 50-year-old counterparts, but she does have plenty of character to drive her solo series. Being a woman with super strength and the ability to leap pretty far, Jessica (Krysten Ritter) has enough power to be a formidable opponent without being unbelievable. She bleeds, can get shot, cut up, and knocked out, suffering real injuries with a slightly increased healing capacity. Jessica attempted to be a superhero but things didn’t work out and she went into the private investigator business. Jessica is simply trying to take things day by day as her past has left her traumatized, jaded, and off-putting. She drinks heavily, does her best work in the dark, and simply wants to get paid and survive. Being a private investigator gives her insight into the city and how people work, but as talented as Jessica is, it still leaves her wary of people and stand-offish. Bearing stark differences from the Marvel heroes we all known and love, Jessica is just a person in the world who still wants to do good but hates the attention.
There’s more to Marvel than Superheroes
What is intensely curious about the show is that while Jessica is our protagonist, she is surrounded by people with their own problems who come to Jessica for help or avoid her to the best of their ability. There’s the best friend, Trish Walker, who Jessica has been avoiding right up until we catch up with the two in the pilot. Growing up together, the two girls share a bond, which Jessica would hate to admit, based out of love for one another. For all of Jessica’s sass and opposition to people, Trish pulls her to be more compassionate while borrowing Jessica’s strength.
Trish is opposite Jessica, being a succesful actress, talk-show host, and a woman who is seeking out the best in others. She can also handle herself very well.
Then there’s Jeri Horgath, a professional lawyer who is in Jessica’s corner for business purposes. She gains traction as her success comes to a helm when her divorce and her affair ravage her world. Jeri’s desire for power and her ability to keep her composure come in handy when Jessica’s brashness gets the best of her.
Jessica lives in a dump of a building, and what building isn’t home without neighbors? Of all the crazies Jessica runs into, Malcolm is the one person who cares for Jessica. He’s not too well off on his own, but Malcolm’s perspective is optimistic and open-minded, as he and Jessica become invaluable to one another.
There’s also the big hulking elephant in the room. Marvel fans couldn’t be happier that the MCU finally has a Luke Cage, and Mike Colter definitely fits the bill.
He’s strong and silent, sticks up for him and his own, and is always willing to listen without being too vulnerable (that and having unbreakable skin). Anytime he gets to rough someone up, Luke gets to show off why they call him Power Man.
The World is 1% Good, 99% Evil
What is a superhero show with a villain? Dull, to say the least, but luckily, Jessica’s villain is the best since Loki. One of the biggest standouts from the show is David Tennant’s Kevin “Kilgrave” Thompson (comic fans will also know him as “The Purple Man”). A villain who has the power to mind control by simply telling someone what to do, Kilgrave lacks a conscious and plays with people because it is all he has known.
The show opens up with Jessica suffering PTSD from being controlled by Kilgrave in the past and when Kilgrave reappears, we find victims of crimes performed against their will. Before, Jessica was controlled by Kilgrave in a kind fashion that was considered to be out of love and affection. The relationship grew sour as Jessica lost all control and became a slave to Kilgrave, doing his bidding no matter how much she protested internally. Eventually she broke free but always has her guard up. In modern day, Jessica discovers that Kilgrave is stalking Jessica, with their time together being the basis for a one-way obsession. Jessica’s knack for the P.I. business gets turned around and she discovers how disturbing it is to be hunted like a deer in the woods.
Without revealing too much, the show takes dramatic and dark to all new lows. The show explores the depths of people doing things against their will and immediately deals with the realities that people have to live with. This is not a show for the faint of heart, as many critics have widely spoken about how intimate and dark the narrative becomes, exploring very touchy topics such as rape, abortion, and PTSD. People are murdered, scarred, deal with addiction, betrayal, and violation in the darkest ways. Even Jessica is vulnerable to the lives being ruined around her and, as audiences, we resonate with the feeling of helplessness and facing cold realities.
Coming into the series, I had not read any of the Alias titles and only the first arc of the Pulse, but I had known of Jessica Jones for her appearances in Brian Michael Bendis’ run on New Avengers during the heroic age; seeing her jumping off point in this show and comparing it to what she becomes in the comics, it is incredibly engaging that this C-tier hero delivers one of the best crime dramas in a world of superheroes and in TV in general. There’s humor here and there, but the surprising darkness of the series really needs to be seen to be believed. While there’s only 13 episodes to this first season, I am happy she’ll be joining up with the rest of the Defenders down the line.
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