Jessica Jones is another case study in long form storytelling and why services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are changing how creators tell stories. Done well it is the optimized way to tell a story. Everyone involved gets the chance to expand and focus on the characters in the series. With fewer episodes it allows the showrunners to focus on the main story arc and cuts out the filler found in most series on standard network/cable television. Jessica Jones is another example of when this form of storytelling is done well it can be amazing to watch.
Forget about this being a superhero show. At its core the show is more of a neo-detective noir than a one about a superhero. Yes Jessica Jones has superpowers in the form of amazing strength, but that doesn’t make her who she is. She is a human with deep emotional issues because of events in her life. She is a throwback to the typical private detectives tropes used in classic stories. She is down on her luck, drinks too much, and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Added to these character traits is her super abilities. She uses them in her job as a private detective. Having super strength comes in handy when opening locked doors. The ability to tell the story on Netflix and release all the episodes at one time allowed the showrunners to introduce the main villain in the very first episode. In the first episode we see how terrifying the person Jessica has to face off against will be.
Killgrave is the most terrifying Marvel villain portrayed in live action to date. He exudes a quite charm, but at the same time is so sinisterly villainous you love to hate him. There are many instances in episodes were he terrified me. Anything done to children generally terrifies me, because I instantly think of my own and how I would react to them being harmed. The scene where Killgrave “breaks” into an apartment and orders the children into the closet broke my heart. The fact the little girl had to go to the bathroom, but wasn’t allowed to perfectly illustrated the complete lack of empathy Killgrave has for anyone other than himself. As a parent not being able to protect my child was extremely frightening. Killgrave only cared for himself and for what he wanted. His driving force for the entire season was to get the one thing he couldn’t control: Jessica Jones.
On the other hand as soon as Jessica herd Killgrave was back she wanted to run away. She wants to get out of town and as far away from him as she can. Jessica knows what he can do because he violated her in every sense for a period in the past. It is one of the main reasons Jessica is damaged when we are introduced to her. Her first instinct to run is completely understandable. What makes her a hero is her decision to stand and fight. She knows he can control her (or at this point she thinks he can) but in spite of this supposed knowledge she turns to face the danger. She wants to try and protect others from going through everything he put her through. The most damaging being when Killgrave forced her to kill.
When she was forced to kill it snapped her out of Killgrave’s control. She still feels guilty about her actions. She knows she had no control, but it still torments her. It is such a torment that she laments and drowns in her misery. She follows around the dead woman’s, Reva, husband Luke Cage. We quickly learn Luke has powers too (and if you’re a comic book fan you knew that already) in the form of unbreakable skin. The initial fight Jessica and Luke have in his bar against the rugby team is fantastic. Most of the great action pieces of the season involved Jessica and Luke. When Luke came under Killgrave’s control the fight between Jessica and him was terrifying because you didn’t know how Jessica could defeat him without killing him.
I can’t wait to see what Netflix does with Luke Cage’s own series. It will be interesting to see how much Jessica is involved in his show since he was so prominent in hers. All of the main actors in the series did a fantastic job. Krysten Ritter is great in the title role and is completely believable as the broken hero. David Tennent is equally terrifying as Killgrave. You believed that he was able to control others, and that everyone else is available for his benefit. Racheal Taylor is great as Jessica’s best friend Trish and as mentioned before Mike Colter is amazing as Luke Cage. The only drawback of the entire first season was some of the ancillary characters. While the performances of the actors in their roles were fine, some of the story decisions didn’t fit with the overall narrative.
The two characters which stick out the most to me are Sgt. Simpson and the annoying neighbor Robyn. I didn’t get Simpsons storyline. He was just a normal cop, who Killgrave used to try and hurt Trish and then was remorseful and wanted to help fight back. Then all of a sudden he was a secret super-solider with access to facilities and later drugs which make him superhuman. It just seemed to come out of nowhere from the first couple of episodes he was in. It is no surprise that episodes which focus on Simpson and Robyn were my least favorite. I didn’t understand Robyn suddenly showing up and at the Killgrave support group and rallying them to go and attack Jessica. It was the weakest part of storytelling in the season. It seemed like the writers were struggling for a way to have Killgrave escape from Jessica during this particular episode and they needed a way to tie up the Ruben murder storyline, so they married the two. It just seemed forced and out of place with the rest of the season.
Other than those two small flaws I loved almost every other aspect of the show. I haven’t even mentioned Carrie-Anne Moss who plays a fantastic slimy lawyer who hires Jessica. The series has not been green lit for a second season, but we know we are getting more Jessica Jones in the Defenders series and hopefully in Luke Cage. I want a second follow up season. I think it is going to be tough to top the villain of Killgrave. It was extremely satisfying to watch Jessica finally kill him, but also disappointing that he can’t be used again. I’m hoping he stays dead and that they don’t find some weird way to resurrect him. That would cheapen the entire season in my opinion. I don’t think that will happen, but it seems no one truly stays dead in comics, so who knows.
I could write more about Jessica Jones and break down each episode, but it truly is roughly 13 hour movie that should be digested in as close to one viewing as possible. I would recommend this series to people who aren’t superhero fans and I think they would be entertained. There is enough separation from other properties for this to stand on its own. Jessica Jones can be enjoyed without watching other movies or shows. This show has been praised highly and I’m just heaping more on.
Let me know if what you thought and wear it ranks in regards to other superhero shows. I think I enjoyed Daredevil just a tad more overall, but it is extremely close. The Flash is my favorite network show. Let me know your thoughts!
My Rating: Must Binge Watch