Jessica Jones: Season 1 Review

  • Jessica Jones: Season 1
  • Review:  ★★★★☆

It truly has never been a better time to be a comic fan for television viewers, especially a Marvel one.  Marvel has already released three fantastic series and now they have served up their second Netflix series with Jessica Jones.  Early this year Daredevil raised the bar for what Marvel could bring to television.  That’s not to say Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter are not great themselves, but Daredevil raised the bar even further than we thought possible.  With that in mind, Jessica Jones had a huge shadow to live up to in terms of anticipation.  Does this series reach the same heights?  It’s pretty damn close.

Jessica Jones is a private investigator, taking on cases such as catching affairs and finding missing persons.  What gives her a slight edge is the fact she also happens to have super powers:  increased strength, “falling with style”.  However, her abilities previously put her on the radar of Kilgrave, better known as mind-controlling Purple Man in the comics, who spent a significant amount of time violating Jessica’s free will on nearly every level.  After managing to break free from his control sometime ago, she has been left traumatized by the events and keeps everyone at a distance.  Now Kilgrave has returned with his sick fascination of her, meaning she is going to need the help of all those around her to stop him once and for all.

Krysten Ritter does a phenomenal job portraying Jessica Jones.  Her character suffered a vile experience at the hands of Kilgrave and Ritter perfectly portrays the longterm emotional damage something of that nature has caused her.  She is a strong and robust character, but her vulnerability still bleeds through in impactful ways.  She certainly gives us the best performance of a female superhero from Marvel to date.  She is a hero at heart, but has her fair share of flaws beyond liking to drink a bit more than she probably shouls.  It’s a powerful performance and nearly one of the best of the show.

We say Ritter’s performance was nearly the best only because David Tennant brings us one of the greatest and deepest villain performances from a Marvel production yet.  His performance comes off as mostly stable with hints of anger, delusion, and strong doses of megalomania.  We never knew Tennant could be so creepy and we loved it.  At times the show tried to make us think Kilgrave might be a tragic character, only to show in the end that he is absolutely, completely despicable with no redeeming qualities.  Never before have we had a Marvel villain we were so excited to see get what’s coming to him.  Tennant pulled off the villain so well, it is became one of the most memorable we’ve ever seen from Marvel.

Beyond the two amazing leads, Jessica Jones also features a solid supporting cast that all bring tremendous foundation to the show.  Mike Colter plays a perfect Luke Cage and just gets us that more excited for his own upcoming series.  Carrie-Ann Moss brings plenty of shadiness to Jessica’s side, much more than we ever expected.  Eka Darville actually popped out as a huge surprise as Jessica’s neighbor who like Jessica has to overcome Kilgrave’s influence throughout the series.  Still, two of our favorite characters were Rachel Taylor’s Trish Walker and Wil Travel’s Will Simpson.  Both play familiar characters from the comics but make them better than they ever were in the source material.  Trish plays Jessica’s main partner, but goes much deeper than that as we watch her overcome her own troubling upbringing and become a hero in her own right.  Will, unlike Kilgrave, actually becomes a sympathetic villain of sorts as we watch him slowly spiral downward because of his otherwise noble ambition of being a hero and protecting Trish.

Like Daredevil, the show embraces the dark side of the Marvel universe and runs with it from the beginning to end.  From a theme level, the adult underlyings of the show are even more powerful than anything that has been brought before.  While it is only talked about from the past, Kilgrave emotionally and physically raped Jessica using his powers of control.  He did the same to Pam.  He forces innocent people to kill themselves and loved ones.  This certainly explores areas no Marvel series or even film has before.

The violence is just as high as Daredevil, if not more, but it doesn’t have the same amount of action.  We’re not mentioning this as a negative, but if you are using Daredevil as a guideline, it won’t quite lineup.  Daredevil in general is more of a street brawling character, something we expect will be more prevalent in Luke Cage as well.  As Jessica is a PI, there is of course much more of an investigative approach then physical one.  It actually served as a great reminder on several occasions that we do not need to see large action pieces or intense hand-to-hand fights to be mesmerized and impressed by Marvel.

Again putting it against Daredevil, which did almost everything right, Jessica Jones had one glaring problem.  In Daredevil, while Kingpin was the main villain, it never felt like as though he was th only one in Daredevil’s way.  There still were the Kingpin’s partners, other cases, and even Stick’s arrival to keep Matt pulled in various directions.  While Jessica Jones featured this as well, it was not used to that extent.  The whole series felt like a 13 day period with a singular focus on Kilgrave.  With him being Jessica’s only major conflict, it allowed to many times where she came just this close to catching him or to many times where she didn’t kill him when she had the chance.  Kilgrave’s atrocities continue to build up throughout the series and every time we thought Jessica had reached the tipping point, she didn’t.  It just began to feel like the game of cat and mouse was used to frequently.  Daredevil felt like there was enough story to extend the season by more episodes, Jessica Jones felt like it could have cut an episode or two as the story was stretched further than needed.

Like we said at the beginning, Daredevil raised the bar extremely high.  It might not have overpassed Marvel and Netflix’s first collaboration, but it still got very close and surpassed almost every other comic series out there from a performance and general quality level.  It introduced us to two of the strongest female heroines we’ve seen from any Marvel production yet.  It also did a great job of fitting in, establishing itself as its own, while building plenty of structure from the future.  Those are separate things that don’t easily fit together, but it does just that.  Marvel has once again has simply made a great television viewing experience for adults with Jessica Jones.

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