Marvel’s Jessica Jones is a must watch


Photo of Jessica Jones. Photo from Google

Stop. Yeah, you read that right right. You should be watching Jessica Jones instead of reading this spoiler free review so you know what you’re getting into. Still here? Well let me tell you, Jessica Jones will surprise you and even shock you. It will not be the easiest to watch. This show doesn’t follow the usual Marvel PG-13 routine, but don’t let that get in the way of the fact that this is one of the best shows on Netflix and on television out there right now. It is unapologetically Marvel’s feminist female driven show many have been waiting for, and don’t let that stop you – it is a must watch.

This isn’t your usual superhero TV show. Don’t look for the the Avengers. Don’t look for a good boy scout who wants to do the right thing in a tights and a cape. This isn’t for the faint of heart, this is real life. Like Daredevil, this is a decidedly mature project furthering the places they went and ramping up the intensity as a different beast. Marvel’s Jessica Jones has its heartwarming moments and is even inspirational, but this is not a show meant for kids. It is less of a show about being a larger than life superhero: instead it shows the grit of reality behind every characters motivations and the world weariness of people who are not larger than life. Screw the cape. Just because some of the characters have superpowers doesn’t make them individuals who can easily brush off death, mental illness, and even addiction. It is all about survivors. As star David Tennant puts it, Jessica Jones is “stripping away the spandex and the extraordinary,” and may reach out to audiences who usually avoid superhero stories with its strikingly real content.

Based on the character from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ Alias, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a dark, irreverent badass of whom is a recovering superhero. Her powers come from an accident after which she mysteriously gained super strength. Unfortunately, even her abilities didn’t stop her from becoming a victim of rape and abuse. It’s easily grasped that she started her detective agency to trying to overcome both her experience with Kilgrave (the main villain) and her ineffectiveness as a “traditional” hero. She’s a damaged fighter, a hard drinker, and with her work as a private eye she’s just simply looking to make a living. Jessica can find out the worst in people, and she’s good at it. From the get go, you know she is ready to kick some serious ass if need be. Ritter’s impressive performance shows that she is vulnerable without being helpless; she is a survivor and that is the core of the show. She doesn’t care about what anyone else wants; she’s got her own troubles she’s trying to deal with and a dark past to run away from. Who could blame her for being cynical?

This show does a wonderful job of setting up Jessica’s world. From the first episode with its direct narrative, seeing Hell’s Kitchen from her eyes comes naturally. You grasp the mask Jessica shows to the world through her bluntly facetious attitude and disrespect towards everyone. She pushes most everything and everyone away so she doesn’t hurt them or others doesn’t hurt her. Even by looking at the cool watercolor intro, “Jessica Jones” leans heavily on a detective noir influence the wise-cracking no nonsense lead fits into.

That doesn’t mean the show doesn’t shy away from Jessica’s sexuality: it promotes it. She is as aggressive in her job as she is her romantic pursuits. The show also gets gold stars for representing another character, Jeri Hogarth, in a lesbian relationship. It is clear from the start that Marvel is taking risks, and it absolutely delivers.

The show has a fantastic, and strong supporting cast. Every character seems to bring out a different side of Jessica’s personality. With Mike Colter as Luke Cage, the show serves as a preamble to Colter’s own show with the same character of which he more than earns in his performance. It is a pleasure to watch the chemistry between Ritter and Colter, their witty repartee and connection is a definite highlight of the series. Eka Darville is endearing as Jessica’s drug-addicted neighbor, Malcolm. Carrie-Anne Moss brings on a similar steely role like in House Of Cards, this time instead being a self obsessed and powerful lawyer named Jeri Hogarth who brings work to Jessica. Jeri and Jessica often bump heads and definitely don’t like each other, but have an interesting relationship considering they so often need each other. Wil Traval plays a cop named Will Simpson who means well, but there’s something a little off about him even when he means to save the day. Erin Moriarty really shines in her role as Hope, a once missing person Jessica was hired to find when she was found missing. Erin has to go to some pretty dark, unsettling places and nails the character’s traumatized reactions.

Rachael Taylor is a delightfully strong female lead as Trish “Patsy” Walker, a take on the Marvel superhero Patsy Walker/Hellcat. Her character has a unique friendship with Jessica. It is another great highlight of the series is that the bond between these two completely different women is unbreakable. The connection draws attention to itself and shows through their work and their chemistry together. David Tennant as the lead villain, Kilgrave (aka the Purple Man), is such a clever casting choice. As a Shakespearean actor and most famously known for being the 10th Doctor in “Doctor Who“, Tennant’s appeal really draws in an audience who will want to like him but won’t be able to even tolerate such an irredeemable character. Kilgrave is a chilling individual seemingly fueled by menace, creepily invasive, and will do anything he can to get what he wants. Even when Tennant is off-screen, Kilgrave is there in the atmosphere and the audience can feel the destruction he leaves in his wake.

Marvel’s cinematic universe and even normal TV hasn’t seen a villain like this before. The latest Daredevil may have raised the bar with realistic villains, but this show goes to unsettling places with the villains power: mind control. What if someone could make you do whatever they wanted? What if that person has no moral compass and is a narcissistic sociopath? Kilgrave has no cartoonish goals of world domination or destruction or massive loads of cold hard cash, he just makes people do whatever he wants in the moment right there and then. That’s what makes him so terrifying. He could be simply walking next to you on the street, riding with you on a subway, or knocking on your door and just with a mere sentence he could ruin your life. He could care less about your feelings, your goals, your dreams and your existence. If you inconvenience him or you have something he wants he won’t hesitate to punish you or take it from you. And the worst of all? You will be willing to do it…you’ll feel compelled to.


Photo from Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Photo taken from Google

The show doesn’t shy away from the fact that Kilgrave is a rapist, both mentally and physically. The show tackles and projects the fact that it is all about survivors of trauma, particularly of Kilgrave, and its engagement with it is sensitively accomplished and powerfully moving. It doesn’t devalue the victims or loses focus upon them, the writing just takes the show and their characters to an emotive and real place. How these characters, like real people, deal with trauma is their choice. Whether they try to move on with their lives or not after what they’ve endured is entirely up to them. 

Jessica Jones is not without its flaws, however. The character Robyn (Colby Minifie) is a complete misfire. Another of Jessica’s neighbors, she’s introduced as half of a uncomfortably weird twin brother/sister duo, alongside Ruben (Kieran Mulcare). Robyn’s character is uncomfortable and over the top and seemingly unnatural. The scenes she is in grind to a halt. As she becomes more plot important, at her seemingly most unbearable she seems to convince others of her ignorant suggestions. It is frustrating. While the actress is not to be blamed and does a wonderful job, it is not a pleasure to watch such a character on screen.

Perhaps there are too many scenes dwelling on Jeri’s marital conflict. While the build up leads to an powerfully impactful payoff that weaves itself into the main plot, maybe there could have been less screen time devoted to what could have been effectively done with less. The show also feels like it peaks before the season finale. Some of the shows most exciting moments revolve around episode 9 and 10, with many huge plot elements coming together at once and showcasing the aftermath of such. There isn’t a bad episode in the series, and the finale is no exception, but it didn’t have quite the edge of your seat excitement like the previous episodes. There is also some questionable science in the later episodes, but that means spoilers. While it doesn’t exactly feel like a superhero story, sometimes comic book “science” does in fact come into play. It is expected in any story with super powers, but annoying with the tone of realism throughout the show.

However, Jessica Jones more than just holds its own. The fight scenes are painlessly cool and casual as they are exciting. There are many quotable lines that are meant to be left out of a spoiler free analysis that reflect the show’s themes: such as do what you believe is right, you don’t need to be a superhero to do the right thing, and that in the face of a dog eat dog world even by believing you can make a world a better place is at least something. The script is well-written, the acting is pretty spot on, and the show is dynamic and riveting to watch. There’s a brief crossover to Daredevil and there are heavier ones hinted in the future, and with the concluding episode you can’t help but wonder what else is to come. All in all, Jessica Jones stands tall. With its diverse cast and crew and two strong female leads, it is bound to attract more of an audience than just your targeted audience super fan to your average casual comic book lover: it’ll go far beyond that.

The best part about it all is that Jessica Jones stands on its own. You don’t need any previous comic book knowledge to enjoy this TV show. While it does play in the same universe as Daredevil and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while recommended it isn’t at all necessary. It is compelling as a stand alone in and of itself from start to finish. Jessica Jones is the most adult series from Marvel yet, but while it is frank in its sexuality and brutal in its violence, it is never done gratuitously or for shock value. It is as realistic and gritty as it is emotive and human. Jessica Jones speaks volumes for the hopeful evolution of Marvel material, and on the heels of Daredevil so far has consistently raised the bar. What else is to come is for another time, but for now this show deserves to be praised. This is Marvel’s latest triumph, and it isn’t to be ignored.