Jessica Jones proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of Marvel Studios' best talent is working on their television shows, not their movies.
Don't get me wrong, I love Marvel's movie output, but this year has shown that the most interesting characters with the best stories are not the ones we're seeing on the big screen. Jessica Jones is the second in Marvel and Netflix's five series Defenders project, following hot on the heels of the brilliant Daredevil. Whereas that series dealt with questions of morality between its many bloody fight scenes, this series deals with more uncomfortable issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, abuse and rape. While it deals with all of them in ways that are careful and respectful, this series still might be too difficult for some viewers to sit through. I myself had to take a breather before I got started on the next episode.
Say hello to Jessica Jones, my favourite comic book heroine since I first read Alias 14 years ago. I'm sure the question on many people's lips going into this series is probably "who the hell is this Jessica Jones character anyway?" which is understandable, seeing as she is one of Marvel's more obscure heroes. What's great about this episode is that it doesn't bash us over the head with exposition in the first five minutes to answer that question. We slowly learn almost everything we need to know about Jessica as the episode unfolds with some key questions, such as how'd she get her powers, left unanswered.
What we do learn is that Jessica Jones is a former would be superhero now working as a smart mouthed private investigator in Hell's Kitchen, New York City. While Jessica might live only a few streets away from Matt Murdock, their worlds couldn't be more different. Jessica's world is one of pure noir, a genre mash-up of everything from Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, to Jim Rockford and Veronica Mars. If you have any notions of P.I. work being glamorous or exciting, this show dispels them in the first few seconds. Jessica earns her living taking pictures of cheating spouses or doing grunt work for high priced lawyers. Jessica isn't out there trying to be a hero like so many other comic book characters we see on TV. That's the last thing she wants to do. She tried it once and it ended badly for her. Really, really badly. Now she's just looking to earn a honest, or dishonest, buck so she can keep her liquor cabinet fully stocked.
I honestly can't heap enough praise on Krysten Ritter. I'll admit, I had my doubts when she was first cast. I just couldn't picture her as Jessica. But she's made me eat more than my fair share of humble pie. From the very beginning she simply was the Jessica Jones I have known and loved for the last 14 years. In fact, the entire cast is excellent. Mike Colter makes for a instantly likeable and charismatic Luke Cage, making me more excited for his solo series than I ever have been before. Carrie-Anne Moss owns every scene she's in as Jeri Hogarth. And David Tennant just made my skin crawl as Kilgrave.
When Jessica first realises that Kilgrave is back, her first instinct is to get out of the city as quickly as possible -- and who can blame her? This man terrifies her, not just because of what he can do to her, but what he can make her to do to herself and others. We may never see Kilgrave in person, he only appears in Jessica's PTSD flashbacks, which alone are frankly disturbing (I literally shuddered when he licked her face), but we get a clear picture of just how dangerous and how cruel he can be. He took Hope, subjected her to a twisted recreation of his equally twisted time with Jessica, and then made her kill her own parents, orphaning herself and her younger brother. He destroyed an entire family simply as a way of saying "Hello" to Jessica.
Jessica Jones isn't a story of saving the world, a city or even a few blocks, it is about surviving the true horrors this world can throw at you. Kilgrave is the most terrifying villain Marvel has produced so far simply because he is the one who feels the most real. He is the abusive ex who won't stop stalking you. He's the rapist who gets away with it because "Sorry, but it's your word against his". We live in a world filled with Kilgraves and they don't need superpowers to destroy people's lives.
|It's safe to say I'll never be able to look at the Tenth Doctor in the same way again.|
--Jessica Jones was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos and first appeared in Alias (not related in any way to the Jennifer Garner spy series), one of the titles of Marvel's now defunct MAX imprint, which produced comics with adult only content.
--Melissa Rosenberg has been developing a series about Jessica Jones since 2010. At first it was going to air on ABC under the title AKA Jessica Jones, before the network decided to pass on the series. This was definitely for the best. The last thing I wanted to see was a watered down network TV version of Jessica Jones. She wouldn't be allowed to swear, for a start.
--Bendis' earliest ideas for the series had it centred on Jessica Drew, best known as Spider-Woman. Eventually, he decided it would be better to have an original character free of established continuity -- but she'd still be called Jessica.
--I have never related to a fictional character more than when Jessica woke up to find her phone dead because she forgot to plug the charger into the actual socket.
--Many scenes are lifted frame for frame from the comics such as Jessica throwing the client through her door window and her infamous sex scene with Luke (which was just as uncomfortable on screen as it was on the page.)
--If you're wondering why the jazzy score reminds you of Homeland, that's because both shows share the same composer, Sean Callery.
--In the comics, Jessica's best friend was Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel. Since that character is being saved for her own movie she has been replaced by Rachael Taylor's Trish "Patsy" Walker.
--The Saul Bass-like title sequence was designed by David Mack who also designed the covers for the comics.
Jessica: "I was never the hero you wanted me to be."
Trish: "You need to go back to that therapist."
Jessica: "That quack that had me reciting street names from back home? Two hundred bucks for Birch Street, Cobalt Lane, Bullshit Drive!"
Jessica: "In my line of work, you gotta know when to walk away. But some cases just won’t let you go."
Jessica: "You turn that thing on, I'll pull your underwear through your eye."
An excellent start to what I hope will be a brilliant series. Four out of four broken doors.
Mark Greig is the Walrus, goo goo g' joob. More Mark Greig.