For someone not familiar with the comic book series or even much of the Marvel Universe, I was not quite sure what to expect from this Netflix series. I think it is good going in to this series unaware of what to expect, indeed this is something most modern media could benefit from: ignorance and low expectations. Not knowing what to expect kept me hooked for 13 episodes, and I was left wanting more.
Jessica Jones is based on the 2001 comic book Alias, which is not to be confused with the JJ Abrams show of the same name. The titular character is a former superhero who leaves the cape behind to become a private investigator. She still has her super powers, which she occasionally exploits to get the job done, but they are basic powers.
This is not like the mainstream Marvel movies my nephew loves to watch, in fact he will not be allowed to watch this show anytime soon. Jessica Jones is superheroes for adults. It features violence, sex, drugs and other deprivations of modern society. One major theme of the show, albeit implied rather than shown, is rape.
The season-long bad guy is a man named Kilgrave (played with ease by David Tennant) who, like Jessica, has super powers. Kilgrave is able to control people’s minds with simple commands. People usually try to fight it but are unable to stop Kilgrave from controlling them. It is this power which he uses to manipulate Jessica and take advantage of her.
As a result, the Jessica we meet is a strong woman, but damaged by the tragedy in her life. Krysten Ritter fits the role well, keeping Jessica relatable enough for us to get past her icy exterior. Yet the character evolves throughout the series with help from friends and a growing realisation she can actually use her powers to help people. Yes, Jessica is abrasive, tough and angry (in many ways justifiably so) but she also cares deeply about the few close people she has in her life.
Most of the series involves tracking down Kilgrave, who Jessica believed to be dead, and ending him. Not bringing him to justice mind you, but ending the threat he poses. Kilgrave is a nuanced bad guy, and we learn he had a unique childhood (saying much else would be spoiler territory) which helped create the monster. Make no mistake, he is a bad guy, but there is a depraved logic to his existence which (due to Tennant’s performance) almost makes you feel sorry for him. Then you remember the choices he has made.
On the whole, the series flows from beginning to end with ease. Yet this is more episodic television rather than one 13-hour story. A few episodes slow the pacing down and a few plot threads do not seem to go anywhere. This may be because it is setting things up for future releases or a reference from the comic books I would not understand. It does not detract from the show as you will still enjoy 13 solid hours of entertainment.
I was not sure what to expect from Jessica Jones, but I am glad I took 13 hours to watch it. This is a super hero show for adults which takes a look at the darker themes in the Marvel Universe, and the show is better for it. Every actor brings life to these rich characters, giving performances which remind viewers the genre is a genuine source for excellent entertainment. With a second season in the works, I cannot wait to see what this heroine get’s up to next.