Marvel’s Jessica Jones (2015)
(Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, David Tennant)
Netflix web series
Let’s get this out of the way first: I went into this show knowing very little about the main character within the Marvel comics universe, so this review is only going to cover the Netflix series without any comparison to the comics. That said, I’m going to have to pick up some of the Alias books when I’m finished writing this.
Krysten Ritter plays Jessica Jones, a freelance private eye with a shady past. Her life mostly revolves around where her next paycheck comes from while she drowns her bad memories in cheap liquor. When she finds that an enemy from her past, Kilgrave (David Tennant), has returned, she has to decide whether she will stay and face him or keep running away. Like Netflix’s first foray into the Marvel universe, Daredevil, this series presents a darker side to the conventional superhero. That’s not to say that they threw in a bunch of sex and cursing and stepped back saying “This is a grown-up way to show super heroes.”, though those elements are there. Instead they flesh out the characters and have them live real lives with the addition of their “gifts” amidst the backdrop of a dark and dirty Hell’s Kitchen. The main characters are all given their own arc, and the series allows them to explore different emotions and situations instead of making them generic tropes.
I was initially worried about Tennant playing the villain. I know that he’s had many other roles, but I couldn’t stop seeing him as the Doctor (from his excellent run as Doctor Who) playing a hammy likeable villain. After a couple of episodes, I’m happy to say that I was very wrong in doubting his acting skills. Kilgrave is a monster with no conscience. He’s got some humorous moments, but that never undermines the threat he poses being able to control virtually anyone’s mind he chooses. Likewise, Luke Cage is presented as a bad-ass with real-world problems and a stoic sadness. Even the supporting cast is full of strong performances. I can’t praise enough how much this series emphasizes the characters and uses them to move the plot forward instead of taking the easy way out and roping them into something we’ve seen over and over. That’s the sign of good T.V. writing and direction and it shows the advantage of having thirteen episodes of a show versus limited time in a feature film.
I don’t want to go too much into the story. I’d rather not ruin it for you, but I’ll leave you with a thought: Remember the superhero movies that came out in the late nineties and early 2000s? The ones with the brooding hero and what was supposed to be moral ambiguity of them being vigilantes? What if they had enough time to emphasize the characters and weren’t restrained by a PG-13 rating? That is what this series is. This is a depiction of a darker, edgier kind of hero that is not simply a stylistic choice, but character driven set in its own living world. I highly recommend checking it out. Personally, I can’t wait until the next one drops.