Following up on Marvel’s excellent Daredevil original series for Netflix comes Jessica Jones. While the titular heroine has a small following among comics readers, I expect that the general public will react to her name with a, “Who?” Thankfully, Marvel’s latest Netflix series allows people to get to know her intimately, in a fantastically cerebral ride. I was really impressed with the job Marvel did with Daredevil and while Jessica Jones isn’t as broadly appealing, in many ways it’s a superior show. Here are some random thoughts on the Jessica Jones Netflix series, using the trusty RPadTV binary system.
[Turn your spoiler shields on!]
Better Than Daredevil (Good): My biggest problem with Daredevil was that the supporting cast was better than the lead. Charlie Cox was decent, but not as good as the actors and actresses that surrounded him most episodes. That’s not an issue with Jessica Jones. Krysten Ritter was phenomenal playing a damaged, layered, and gritty hero. Her Jessica Jones was complex and interesting, powerful and vulnerable, charming and off-putting. Thanks to some great writing and a strong performance, Jessica Jones is one of the most fascinating characters the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen.
As Good As Daredevil (Good): That isn’t to say that Miss Ritter wasn’t surrounded by similarly strong performances. Her antagonist and supporting cast were great too. Jessica Jones‘ Luke Cage and Trish Walker were a little bit better than Daredevil’s Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. Most of my nerd friend’s liked Daredevil’s Kingpin better than Jessica Jones‘ Kilgrave, but to me they were equally strong — but very different — villains. Similar to how Jessica Jones is one of the most unique heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kilgrave is one of its most unique villains (more on him later).
Poor Hell’s Kitchen (Bad): People that aren’t familiar with New York City will think that Hell’s Kitchen is the most dangerous part of Manhattan. In reality, it hasn’t been dangerous for decades. On the plus side, Hell’s Kitchen in Jessica Jones wasn’t as ridiculously dark as it was in Daredevil (where apparently there was a lightbulb shortage). Still, the real Hell’s Kitchen is a gentrified neighborhood, complete with several Starbucks, Subways, and other soulless franchises. Seeing it portrayed the way it is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes me laugh.
Kilgrave? More Like Deprave! (Good): Jessica Jones‘ villain, Kilgrave, is…f*cked up. With the ability to control minds, Kilgrave makes everyone do whatever the hell he wants. He’s depraved and debauched, enjoying his powers to the fullest. He has no problem making a daughter shoot her parents to further his goals. He’s fine with taking both of a man’s kidneys, leaving the victim to rely on dialysis for the rest of his life. He steals, kills (indirectly, most of the time), and rapes as he sees fit. You get the sense that he doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything too wrong; he’s just using the powers he ended up with. Actually, you get the sense that he doesn’t think about the consequences of most of his actions. Kilgrave is a villain of pure id.
A Faithful Sidekick (Good): As a longtime Marvel Comics reader, I’m curious to see where the show goes with Patricia “Trish” Walker. Jessica Jones’ best friend, the two have a long and complicated relationship. I loved how Trish’s background as a child actress was used throughout the series. While she doesn’t have her bestie’s super powers, she’s a strong woman in her own right. Trish grew from a manipulated child star with a hellacious stage mom to a confident and capable adult. Comics fans know that she becomes Hellcat and joins The Defenders. With The Defenders series looming, I’m hoping that Netflix Trish follows a similar path. Plus, the It’s Patsy (the show she starred in as a kid) theme song is funny.
Fizzled Nuke (Bad): The Will Simpson character had lots of potential, but ultimately didn’t live up to it. Simpson started out in an interesting way — a cop controlled by Kilgrave that tried to kill Trish. After coming to his senses, he was remorseful and started a relationship with his victim. He interrupted the dynamic between Jessica and Trish while adding a direct connection to the police…and then he got powered up by super drugs…and became an uninteresting psycho. This character was better off as a somewhat meddlesome good guy than a generic baddie.
Sweet Christmas! (Good): Also looming in Netflix’s future is a Luke Cage series. A supporting character in Jessica Jones, Luke shines in the time that he’s given. In the show, he’s a bartender that’s getting over the senseless death of his wife and hiding several secrets. He’s a great complement to Jess, as they’re both damaged, but deal with things in different ways. I really liked this version of Luke Cage as a supporting character and am looking forward to seeing him star in his own show. I love that they kept his “Sweet Christmas!” phrase, but wish they slipped in an old photo of Luke wearing a yellow silk shirt and a metal tiara. That would have been awesome.
Atypical Heroics (Possibly Bad): If you like your heroes large, loud, and bashing things then Jessica Jones isn’t for you. As I mentioned in the intro, the show is cerebral. This isn’t a beat-em-up action show. Daredevil was beaten up a lot in his show. By contrast, some of the biggest hits Jessica takes are mental and emotional. While there are some nice action sequences in Jessica Jones, there are even more mystery, thriller, and film noir elements. When Daredevil first aired, I enjoyed how different it was from anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jessica Jones takes it to a whole other level.
Contrary Backlash (Bad): Some people are hating on the show because it’s so different. Some feel that critics are overly praising Jessica Jones because it has several strong female characters. RPadholic Smartguy mentioned that he thought the show was about sexual abuse because of an article he read. Try to ignore all the backlash, because you’ll be missing out on a great show. Yes, Jessica Jones has several strong female characters, but that’s a wonderful thing. It also has physically and emotionally strong male character in Luke Cage. Yes, Kilgrave has sexually abused some of his victims, including Jessica, but the show and the characters are about much more than that. This is a complex television show and some people are oversimplifying it.
Bottom Line: While I loved Jessica Jones and think that’s it’s even better than Daredevil, I understand why some people won’t like it as much. It is, perhaps, too different from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has more in common with CSI than it does with The Avengers. As for me, I enjoyed the show’s distinct tone and characters. The protagonists are all wonderfully flawed and layered. While he’s not as powerful as Loki, Kilgrave is an even scarier villain. Jessica Jones has continued Marvel’s tradition of exceeding expectations with its Netflix series. In many ways, what’s happening in the small-screen corner of the MCU is more interesting than what’s happening on the big screen. Jessica Jones is a big reason why.