Superpowered private investigator, Jessica Jones, works cases while barely coming to terms with mysterious tragedies of her past, but life becomes dangerous and complicated when Killgrave, an alternatively powered psychotic and the instigator of those past tragedies, seemingly returns from the dead to wreak havoc.
Marvel and Netflix’s original Daredevil show was a hard act to follow, sure it generated immensely positive fan and critical reaction but also, to a certain extent, Daredevil, thanks in some small part to the now infamous Ben Affleck movie, is one of the more recognisable names in Marvel’s second tier canon.
So it was rather brave to follow it up with a show about a character that not only has no previous interaction with the Marvel live action universe, but also can’t rightly be called a superhero and has only appeared solo in a low selling book that was cancelled after just thirty-some issues, about a decade ago.
For whatever reason they saw mileage in both the character and stories presented in those issues of Alias (the original title for the Jessica Jones comic) written by Brian Bendis, and, not entirely surprisingly, the gambit has somehow paid off, because Marvel/Netflix’s second swing at a mature content comic adaptation is engaging, original and as important to expanding the live action universe in a new direction as any property before it.
Kicking off wonderfully with film-noir-ish music and opening credits inspired by the cover paintings of David Mack, Jessica Jones opens as it means to go on, with a bad attitude, a bit of a filthy mouth and sex scenes of a more graphic nature than even fans of the comic would expect.
Essentially one long cat-and-mouse story, the show takes the backdrop of the comic series that featured Jessica’s history and association with Killgrave (known in the comics as The Purple Man), and grows it into an expansive study of obsession, greed and entitlement, along the way getting into such controversial territory as what legally and morally constitutes rape and abuse when violence isn’t involved. I personally would have liked to see Jess take care of a few stand alone cases beside this main story, but that’s just my preference.
Krysten Ritter, having spent a career playing strong and/or wilful women, is excellently cast as Jessica, slickly shifting from strong to vulnerable to confident and so on as each twist in the tales presents itself. But that’s symptomatic of the casting in general, it’s a strong team that’s been put together, everyone selling 100% in their roles, most importantly people of significance to the greater marvel universe; Luke Cage is excellent, looking exactly like his comicbook counterpart (except his tiny, tiny ears… and now I’ve pointed it out you won’t be able to stop starring at their titchyiness) and crafting an attitude that will have you behind him every step of the way in the case that he gets his own series (hope, hope). Even David Tennant, an over-actor this reviewer has a particular abhorrence to, dials it back enough to be tolerable at worst.
During the build up to the show we were quite explicitly told of characters that would be turning up, but it was a pleasant surprise when further Marvel characters of import made an appearance, maybe not to the extent that you would hope they would, as in how far they develop into the characters we recognise, but it’s great to see the live action universe opening up into totally unexpected places.
On the down side, while the aesthetic of the show is slick and tells the story as adequately as any TV show with a decent budget, it isn’t as well considered as Daredevil was, with its ominous shadows, grainy texture and sickly palate; not that I’m saying it should have replicated that style, but found a distinct look of its own.
Another major difference from Daredevil is that Jessica Jones, despite some of its major players, isn’t an action oriented show. It’s true that there are superpowers on display and where there are superpowers there inevitably has to be the odd scrap, but on the whole the show skews more toward intrigue.
Unfortunately this means that much less effort has been put into the existing action set pieces, the instances of which are neither exciting nor that well executed, with power levels varying from episode to episode and a general visually noticeable physicality that suggests Ritter hasn’t been put through her paces in training and is being ably assisted by pulleys, wires and CGFX, which of course she is, but no amount of face straining when lifting heavy stuff can cover up the fact that your body isn’t supporting or distributing the weight in the correct manner to sell it as convincing, and thought the fight scenes are brawl-ish they’re even sloppy within that remit.
Though I’ve talked to a number of people who have enjoyed it more than Daredevil, due to it’s feel, characters and story content, I, being a fan of gloom and action, much prefer Daredevil… It’s just more my cup of tea.
Not to take anything away from Jessica Jones, it is a smart, original, challenging and well put together show that does a great job of diversifying the live action Marvel Universe while telling an intriguing story. With a few tweaks to the visuals and action the next season might be truly remarkable, but either way, with this second series as evidence the future of Marvel and Netflix’s collaborations look set to be a mark of quality. Looking forward to what comes next.