Marvel’s Jessica Jones is a visceral, unrelenting series in collaboration with Netflix that despite some minor production missteps, delivers some of most real characters to the larger universe, including the ultimate terrifying villain which propels the show to the forefront of how comic books and superheroes should be portrayed in an episodic format.
From the moment the intro rolls (all 90 seconds of it), Jessica Jones feels inherently different than its older sibling, Daredevil. However, unlike the previous Marvel and Netflix show, Jessica Jones focuses on characters not previously seen or heard of in the comic book movie world, even prior to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Through the loud trumpets, jazz drums, and voyeuristic design, it hearkens back to noir stories of yesteryear, but still lives in the present rather than hold onto half a century old film tropes of the same genre.
This is where I applaud the improvements Marvel has made moving into its sophomore effort on streaming services, making Jessica Jones a more cohesive story than just episodic. In comparison to Daredevil (its only competition on this service), Jones just has better flow from start to finish, which spending entire episodes dealing with backstory or how she got her gifts. Ultimately, this show feels like long month in the lives of our characters without slowing down once. This also leads to a few story points being set up for an inevitable season 2 (ComicUI is calling it now), where we’ll revisit some dangling threads that were brought up too late in the series’ 13 episodes, as well as a few rushed over plot pieces. These faults are easy to look over in the grand scheme of things and hardly diminish the great work surrounding them.
By the time I reached episode 3, I suddenly realized that the majority of the cast was comprised of women and it didn’t phase me. These include scenarios that could be portrayed by either sex but are predominantly left for male characters. The bold inclusion of women characters as strong, resourceful, and even flawed also builds on what Daredevil accomplished with Karen Page. The side characters also brought flavor to the show, including those who live in Jessica’s apartment complex and Kilgrave’s victims. It seems unreal how human everyone feels in the show, including those who could be classified as Meta-Human, but Marvel held nothing back.
As for characters, the my unfounded dislike for Krysten Ritter in person, has melted away in her portrayal of Jessica Jones. She’s cold, but with a warm center and the various layers in between create this multi faceted character who could either go with the expected response to a situation, or play by her own book, giving us something closer to real life than just normal happy endings and perfect situations. This couldn’t exist without her supporting cast, including our first look at Marvel’s Luke Cage, who will be headlining his own series in 2016. Their chemistry and history together make them an integral part of each other’s lives and gives me hope she’ll continue to be a part of his show next year. Mike Colter is also a true embodiment of Cage as a character, despite how forced his “Sweet Christmas” sounded sometimes. Lastly, Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker was better than Foggy Nelson in Daredevil (sorry) in the companion role, who not only fleshed out Jessica’s history, but also refused to be a damsel in distress. Ms. Taylor has come a long way from her role in Marvel’s Man-Thing in 2005 on Sy-Fy, which we’re all thankful for.
Kilgrave gets his own section for the show. He share some similarities to Wilson Fisk, in that he doesn’t truly make an appearance until the rest of the pieces are in play, his parents created this ‘monster,’ and also that he’s also doing every act throughout the show in the name of love. From there, the characters split and Kilgrave becomes more menacing, thanks in part to the talented David Tennant of Doctor Who fame. The man-child who gets everything he wants just by speaking is a terrifying concept, especially as he doesn’t have the mildest of tempers, often resulting in death, dismemberment, and other gruesome acts along the way. He has style and sophistication about himself, but underneath Kilgrave oozes pure menace without actually thinking what he’s doing is truly bad. The way the show characterizes him and builds upon his psyche gives Marvel their best villain in this point in time.
Let me add, that the show fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe without forcing itself on us. There are more subtle nods to the Avengers actions from 2012 and the Daredevil series set in the same locale without it feeling like they overlap. Just because we don’t see Matt Murdock in the background helps Jessica Jones breath and grow without the burden of fan service or catering to the lowest common denominators, something the movies may fall into unless they start becoming similarly independent.
For a series based on a comic book, the production value goes above and beyond what we’ve come to expect from the genre. This is a quality seen throughout the show in almost all aspects, except one, the music choices for 75% of the series. This is owed to the noir concept that carries throughout the film, as Jones is a private eye, a true dick if you understand the vernacular here. But much like those older noir stories, the music helps convey the tone of intrigue, loneliness, and introspection that comes along with the job. However, as the story turns more toward Jessica’s past coming back to haunt her, it becomes a series drama and the noir music pulls us out of Jessica Jones’ struggles and make me realize I’m watching a show, rather than having full investment in the going ons. For all the things this show does right, only a few blemishes against it can be highly forgiven, as it doesn’t ruin the show and makes me happy that we have another hit series on our hands from Marvel and Netflix.
By the end of watching Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Brian Smith, co-founder of ComicUI put it best, “There is not a single episode that didn’t end on a ‘holy fuck’ moment,” and this can be said for the entire series. From the start, Jessica’s story is captivating, her plight is human, her fears are founded, and we go along for the ride. I’m happy I was able to see all 13 episodes in a single day, as the cohesive way this story was told is the natural progression for the Netflix collaboration, signaling what I can hope to be as shared improvements for the upcoming Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage series. If you’re a fan of content that some will describe as the overly generic phrase “dark and gritty” then Jessica Jones will fill your every desire, but if you like to live in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and not delve into the more horrible kinds of people that exist in the world, then you should probably just wait for Captain America: Civil War and write this off as something to watch when you ‘have time.’
Jessica Jones drinks, cusses, fights, and gives us her flawed side in a show that again transcends other comic book and superhero content out there. Much like Iron Man in 2008, this has set a new bar on which all future content will be judged, and if they plan to top this, a lot of work will need to be done. We here at ComicUI give this show a resounding ‘must watch’ title and encourage you to partake in the Marvel and Netflix series as soon as possible.