Like Daredevil before it, Jessica Jones is pushing new grounds with television and the superhero genre. In Marvel’s most mature property to date we also see some of the most relevant social commentaries, making the show a timely reminder that the superhero genre is far from dead, and can teach us a lot about how to handle issues. (Some spoilers do follow). If you haven’t seen it already, it’s worth it.
Jessica Jones is a former street-level superhero turned private investigator, working hard shifts long into the night just to afford her rabid booze addiction. We soon learn alcohol is her only way of coping with post traumatic stress disorder, or at least the only way she knows how. She is in emotional recovery from a man who has the incredibly powerful ability to use mind control in cruel, excessive ways. And one of Jessica Jones many thematic successes lies with its unerring focus on not shying away from PTSD, and all the pain it brings with it.
Of course, the theme of PTSD only goes so far, as past issues resurface. The inherent evil behind Kilgrave, the man who can manipulate the minds of anyone around him via ‘suggestion,’ brings with it many other poignant real-life issues we see people facing on a daily basis, including consent, police brutality, the loss of loved ones, knowing when to pull the plug, drug abuse and more. Jessica is terrified of confronting her past, but that’s the only way to move forward, taking the reigns of the problem at hand: taking Kilgrave down for good.
We see many caught in the crossfire between Jessica and Kilgrave, many who are hurt simply because he wants to hurt her, torture her slowly. And make no mistake, Kilgrave is as evil as it gets. Played by none other than the lovable David Tennant, Kilgrave is actually quite charming. But he can, at any moment, cavalierly choose to have someone kill themself, or someone else, making him one of the most terrifying individuals in the MCU ever. We never get emotionally attached to his character, as we do with Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, but he’s right up there with the best baddies (or worst, however you rank that). And that’s the thing, you want to feel bad for him – but it just isn’t possible.
His incredible obsession with Jessica Jones is on another level entirely, at one point going so far as to recreate the home of her childhood. He is really creepy. And it’s unsettling that the production team decided to let him use the same British voice as the Doctor in Doctor Who (which is notable because he’s a Scottish actor). The story loses itself in the middle episodes, if only a smidge. It may just be that this wasn’t the way I felt the story should have logically gone.
Luke Cage is portrayed incredibly. If you’re a fan of the comic book character, he’s easily one of the best cast Marvel actors around. His backstory is only touched upon slightly, but we can infer that he has a similar background and origin to Kilgrave himself. The two turned out drastically different. Luke’s simply a misguided pillar of good. But when he’s angry, you really should get out of his way.
The action in the show is probably the weakest link in the chain. Most kerfuffles are handled with awkward-looking punches and throwing people around until they get knocked out or give up. Jessica’s superstrength fluctuates to accommodate the story, which is upsetting. In one episode she can lift a car with ease, while in another she has issues taking on a few normal thugs. I will say that the fights didn’t really need to be heavy martial-arts type showdowns, like in Daredevil. Neither she nor Luke Cage have any background or training in fighting, so the story is served better that they don’t show off any crazy moves.
I was disappointed that there wasn’t a showdown that included the man without fear. Only a passing mention at his presence elsewhere in the plot is given. But there is some crossover. Just not what you’d expect.
The show had a lot of characters to keep track of, and their side stories don’t always work. If this were a weekly series, it’d be very hard for fans to handle the vast cast. The only subplot that really worked (kinda?) was the relationship between Trish and her mother, who abused her right to make choices for her daughter as a child star. I’m expecting the motives of her mother to become more clear as the series progresses. The most ridiculous subplot revolved around a main character suddenly going completely awol and drug crazed. It really only served as a way to drag out 13 episodes.
But some subplots revolve around more or less realistic notions. A) People meet up for self-help groups in the wake of the super powered individuals in the MCU; namely Kilgrave and his path of destruction. B) People have messy divorces that they have to deal with. But both of these subplots are mostly pointless stepping stones for the overall tale they’re trying to tell, often getting in the way (with horrific results). Just because these people have issues doesn’t necessarily make it a better show for highlighting them.
Another thing this show does right is its ability to showcase a mostly strong, female cast. It’s rare that any show has this ratio of women leads. That said, many of these strong, competent characters end up becoming completely incompetent when the crap hits the fan, making a downward spiral of failure seem like a long-winded Tarantino-esque joke. And I take umbridge with that. Because as soon as a ‘what the heck is happening’ moment occurs, it seems the entire cast loses a grip on things. That also has plenty to do with the length of the series. It didn’t need 13 episodes, and many times this felt stretched.
With Daredevil, 13 episodes made sense. There were a lot of minor villains he had to get through to finally catch up to Fisk. With Jessica Jones there is only Kilgrave. And it becomes a bit annoying when he continuously slips through their hands after being captured a number of times.
Overall though, this series was a delight. Not, like, a thematic delight. It was dark as hell. But an extremely strong step for superhero television. And it’s a show that can be enjoyed by non-superhero/Marvel fans. Although it should have been closer to 10 episodes in length, it got mostly everything right. Except for Robyn. Wow. Big mistake there. But Malcolm made up for it. I recommend Jessica Jones to adult viewers only, as it certainly isn’t suitable for younger audiences. It doesn’t curse heavily or show any nudity, but plenty is suggested and the themes alone are super heavy.