Jessica Jones first season review
The best private eye in Hell’s Kitchen
As four major films (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2, The Night Before, Legend, The Secret in Their Eyes) release nation-wide this weekend, many viewers decided to head to the local theater for entertainment as opposed to the proverbial Netflix and chill. However, Netflix still released its newest, big-budgeted, instant-streaming series, “Jessica Jones.” Based on the Marvel Comics series, the show follows a depressed, alcoholic private eye named Jessica Jones who has super-powered “gifts,” such as superhuman strength and a flying jump. Exactly like the other hero in the Marvel/ Netflix/ ABC series “Daredevil,” she lives and operates in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. On a weekend dominated by a predictable blockbuster, “Jessica Jones” couldn’t have debuted at a better time for those looking to weather snow/ rain storms with binge-watching.
With public interest in the super hero genre wanes, the creative minds behind the scenes at major comic book companies D.C. and Marvel have recognized the need to adapt and evolve with the feasibility of their livelihood headed “the way of the western” genre as filmmaking icon Steven Spielberg predicted earlier this year in an interview with the Associated Press. Enter television—both companies expanded their brand from the silver screen to the small screen, but only Marvel Studios chose to connect their televised/ streaming series into the same universe as their movies. In addition to the two 13-episode Netflix properties, two other Marvel series currently run on ABC in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Agent Carter.”
Branching off from where other super hero stories tread, “Jessica Jones” stands as Marvel’s darkest, most-graphic property in its cinematic universe. Sex scenes and cursing occur, but never hit the level of adults-only with the show really only avoiding the f-word and full-frontal nudity in terms of censorship. The violence, however, never relents and matches par with R-rated material. For example, a domestic disturbance ends with one woman clubbing another woman’s head into the side of a glass coffee table. Simply put, this show doesn’t appeal to all ages and younger viewers should turn to Katniss Everdeen this weekend for a narrative with less adult content. It’s still weird to think, however, that such a dark, mature character and situation exists in the same world as the streamlined and crowd-friendly Avengers, Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg (“Dexter,” The Twilight Saga) opens the first episode on Jessica (Krysten Ritter—“Breaking Bad,” “Don’t Trust the B**** in Apt. 23”) as a recently established P.I., miserably coping with a recent, mysterious tragedy while operating business out of her messy apartment. We learn the details of her past in pieces and put together the puzzle of a former abusive relationship on a super-powered scale. Both writer and performer create a character with obvious flaws, but also with obvious qualities outside of her super powers. Ritter slips just as comfortably into Jessica’s edgy attitude as she does the trademark leather jacket, jeans, and boots. Formerly using her powers for good until a life-altering encounter, Ritter wears Jessica’s guilt and shame in each frame, developing a character who wants to right her wrongs despite the growing depression and addiction. Look for her in the Golden Globes next year for her lead performance as a super hero with an alcohol problem and getting over an abusive relationship.
Ritter’s supporting cast never lets down, either. Mike Colter (Men in Black 3) co-stars as fellow Hell’s Kitchen super hero, Luke Cage—another hero getting the Netflix streaming series treatment in 2016. Colter’s Cage brings out the best in Jessica and takes away the isolation she feels as a super-powered New Yorker. The actor brings a benevolent, calm understanding to his character which should make him a likeable protagonist when he gets his own show. Australian actress Rachael Taylor (Transformers) plays Jessica’s adoptive sister, talk radio host, and former child star, Trish. Trish supports her wayward sister both financially and in spirit, encouraging Jessica’s heroic endeavors. Australian actor Eka Darville (“Empire”) plays Jessica’s drug-addicted neighbor Malcolm. Throughout the first season, Malcolm and Jessica make each other better, stronger people in simple acts of decency and kindness to reflect that even flawed characters can be good guys—a theme repeated with other characters, as well.
While Ritter’s strong, seemingly-effortless, and heroic lead performance makes the show worth the investment, it’s celebrated character actor David Tennant’s (“Doctor Who,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) deplorable, unfathomable villainous staging that takes “Jessica Jones” into the television elite. Tennant plays Kilgrave, a bad guy with a taste for finer things and Jessica, specifically. He shares history with Jessica and he’s back to shove it down her throat. Kilgrave has the incredible ability to control a person’s mind with mere vocal suggestion and the series doesn’t shy as to the horrible depths a delusional sociopath with such ability could reach—ordering one passerby to place tree trimmers in his mouth and to then fall forward, for example.
Now that “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” safely landed to audience and critical acclaim, setting up “The Defenders” on Netflix ought to prove a little easier with a second season of “Daredevil” and first season of “Luke Cage” on the schedule for 2016. Don’t look surprised when “Jessica Jones” gets a second season green lit—or a first season of “Iron Fist.” Netflix’s newest Marvel series debuted in grand form with a television writing veteran at the helm, fearlessly breaking super hero genre boundaries, and brought to life by a spirited performance from the entire cast who create a dark, disturbing underworld to the same New York rescued by the Avengers in 2012. Surviving and coping with an abusive relationship is never easy and “Jessica Jones” is a primary example of the super hero genre restructuring and adapting its audience and ability to relate to viewers.