Lately there’s been some strong comic book TV adaptations debuting, ranging from the gritty atmosphere of Daredevil to the fun and colourful world of the Flash. Marvel’s Jessica Jones manages to bring another successful, while at the same time different, mood to the table. Focusing on the more shady side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the show has very much a noir feel to it.
The show features Krysten Ritter as our titular hero, a hard-drinking PI with superpowers and a mysterious past. Ritter is on full form, being perfect as Jessica Jones, someone with rough edges who’s been driven into a more secluded nature due to the terrible stuff she’s been through. She has the right balance of wit and arrogance and in spite of everything, still has an innate desire to help others and be a hero. It’s nice that in spite of the wall she’s built up around her, she has empathy for the people victimised by the villain Kilgrave and the main focus of the show is her efforts to take him down.
David Tennant gives an amazing performance as Kilgrave, being as good as Vincent D’onofrio as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, if not surpassing him. Kilgrave has the ability of mind control, making people do whatever he wants them to while at the same time being a narcissistic sociopath with absolutely no morality or code. He is terrifying because he is completely about himself; he has no grand schemes or plans for world domination. He simply acts in the moment, doing whatever’s on his mind with anyone who’s present. At one point he remarks how difficult it must be not to have his powers, showing how deranged he truly is. It’s a testament to Tennant’s acting skills that he can charm you with his humour and likeability, even making you sympathise with him at times, before turning and reminding you why he’s so repulsive.
An interesting choice made by the showrunner, Melissa Rosenberg, is not to shy away from the fact that Kilgrave is a rapist, both mentally and physically, and tackles head on the consequences of what he’s done to so many people and how it changes them. The show takes the idea of a supervillain to its scariest and most evasive place while making sure not to lose focus or devalue the people who have been victimised by him. The writers don’t back away from this and give opportunities to show how the characters process what has happened to them and work on what to do next in wake of such a violation.
The remaining supporting characters are also portrayed well and help to bring out different aspects of Jessica’s personality. Carrie-Ann Moss as Jori Hogarth is a ruthless and manipulative lawyer, being a shark of the world of law while Jessica’s neighbour Malcolm, portrayed by Eka Darville, is sympathetic and endearing. Wil Traval portrays Will Simpson, an adaptation of the character Nuke, a cop who only sees things in black and white and has the aura of having something off about him. Mike Colter as Luke Cage proves he’s more than capable of having his own Netflix series, being tough, strong and sharing great chemistry and sexual tension with Jessica.
The highlight supporting character is Rachael Taylor as Trish ‘Patsy’ Walker as Jessica Jones’s adoptive sister and best friend. She acts as a contrast to Ritter’s character and it’s great seeing how, while being polar opposites of each other, the two women support and complement each other.
A weak link of the series is the character Robyn, another one of Jessica’s neighbours. She’s unlikable in all her appearances and too heightened and farcical for this world. It doesn’t help that she gets more involved in different plot points as the show goes along. The number of time and scenes spent on Hogarth’s marital issues, despite the payoff, felt like a bit too much.
Also, like Daredevil before it, Jessica Jones felt like the more stronger episodes came a little before the end. I’m not saying the ending isn’t good ,but the build up was done much better.
Having said that, Jessica Jones is still a true triumph adding something different to the superhero genre. It’s the most adult entry from the Marvel Universe with plenty of R-rated violence and a frank depiction of sexuality. To the show’s credit, none of these scenes feel as if they’re present for shock value or for show, but rather help depict the harsh and brutal world of the story.
Jessica Jones is a grim show and really creepy at times. However, it’s a compelling series from start to finish with an excellent lead character guiding us through the dark and murky underbelly of the Marvel Universe. This is a stand out series, not just for Netflix’s line up but also for the ever-growing world of superhero shows in general and is definitely worth a watch.
Jessica Jones is available on Netflix