Despite being long overdue, we here at the Planet understand that some people haven’t seen ‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones’ in its entirety. Please be advised that there are spoilers contained in the review below.
Jessica Jones steps into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a one-woman film noir; combining the roles of tough talking female lead and hard hitting detective into one sardonic character. Setting up camp just down the street from Marvel’s previous Netflix hit, Daredevil, Jessica Jones delivers an outstanding narrative of a flawed hero with applause worthy performances by Krysten Ritter and David Tennant.
What makes the show stand out from what many would consider an overly crowded cinematic superhero scene is not the fact that it’s headlined by a female, or even that it features what many would consider a female anti-hero, but rather the angle the story itself takes on examining the life of a character when being a superhero doesn’t fit. Borrowing from the 2001 Alias comics by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones focuses on the story of a damaged leading lady who survived physical and psychological torture at the hands of a sociopath.
As a short series, Jessica Jones aims to accomplish quite a bit in the premiere season that will eventually lead up to a Defenders spin off, wrapping together the storylines of multiple planned Netflix/ Marvel collaborations. In addition to introducing and establishing Jessica as a character, the show also gives the audience snippets of Luke Cage’s origin story. As a result, many of the early PI cases that fans of the comics are familiar with get left behind, jumping right in to the culminating Purple Man story arc. While that may be disappointing to some and confusing to new viewers, most people can agree that this story line is key to understanding Jessica as a character.
Through the Purple Man story arc, the audience is introduced to the truly vulnerable side of the protagonist. While earlier installments of the Alias comics focus on Jessica’s flaws and rough persona, this particular arc hones in on why Jessica behaves the way she does, allowing new viewers to see the vulnerable, complex, and deeply flawed character that sets her apart from so many Marvel heroes. To really get to the heart of the character, this was definitely the story to focus on. Unfortunately, for viewers who come to the story without any prior knowledge of the franchise, the show can play out as a 13 episode origin story for The Defenders.
What most viewers can agree on is that the themes of the show are fiercely relevant. Addiction, PTSD, power, revenge, and control are all woven together to unify an outstanding cast of characters. Through Jessica, executive producer Melissa Rosenberg is able to focus the viewer’s attention on how women cope with the aftermath of assault and the ensuing PTSD. With Kilgrave (The Purple Man), the audience is forced to examine the other side of the coin, seeing the antagonist’s addiction as his own fatal flaw. Both Ritter and Tennant portray addicts in a poignant yet different light that draw the audience into each character’s narrative.
When the audience is introduced to the character, Jessica is far beyond caring what people think of her or what her reputation may be. Running a PI service from her apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, she’s an alcohol addicted, sardonic character suffering from a severe case of PTSD. As the series unfolds, we find ourselves immersed in the story of Jessica, a one-time superhero (and Avenger) named Jewel who found herself on the losing side of a battle against The Purple Man. Under his control, Jessica endures eight months of damaging mind control where she is forced to bend to the will of the self-interested sadist. Ritter stretches her acting chops in the role, turning what could be an easily alienated character into a sympathetic figure whose regret and guilt are never far from the surface.
Playing opposite Ritter is David Tennant as Zebediah Kilgrave. Although not sporting the trademark purple skin from the comics, Tennant brings the chilling sociopath to life in a way that is hard to look away from. Unfortunately, as an initial hook for the series rather than a story line that is built up as a final conflict, the story can be wearisome at times. Nevertheless, Tennant does an excellent job of portraying a villain who has developed a fixation on the protagonist that borders on psychotic obsession.
The cast of supporting characters that have been adapted for the screen really round out the show. Pulled straight from the Alias comics are characters like Luke Cage, the love interest who will eventually have his own Netflix series; and a gender-bent Jeryn “Jeri” Hogarth, a lawyer who throws some PI work Jessica’s way. Drawing from some of the more obscure corners of Marvel’s repertoire to replace characters that are off limits, we get the beloved Trish Walker, who fills the vacant role of Jessica’s best friend. Played by Rachel Taylor, Trish once went by the name “Patsy Walker,” a character who debuted in the 1940s as Marvel’s response to the Archie Comics. Eventually, she will go on to become the Avenger “Hellcat,” although there isn’t much indication that we will see the full evolution of her character play out on screen.
At its core, Jessica Jones is a story that manages to expose silver screen superhero fans to the dark, dynamic side of the genre that we haven’t seen as much on the blockbuster end of the franchise. While the series may be light on the action and humor that we’ve come to love in many Marvel films, it does a fantastic job of presenting the darker and grittier side of superheroism in a film noir format that will hopefully continue all the way through to The Defenders.