So here it is, my final round-up for the first series of Jessica Jones. First thing to say, it’s been great reviewing the show for Channel Superhero, I hope to continue doing reviews for the site in the future. As I stated in the first of these reviews, I had no knowledge of Jessica Jones prior to watching the show, although I’ve been making myself aware of the history of the character as I’ve been watching the show. I always think that the strength in anything based on a comic character is that it should make you want to keep watching even if you’ve never heard of the character and I have to say that Jessica Jones has more than succeeded. This is easily better than the first season of Daredevil in terms of the Marvel Netflix shows and I have to say, it’s one of the best parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.
The plot of the series was always engaging to me. Unlike Daredevil which spent too long on a mystery that the audience knew from the start, the audience is in the same position as Jessica throughout the series. As each new twist and turn in the story develops, we react in a similar way to Jessica and because we’re in the same boat, the series remains compelling throughout. However, it’s the thematic weight of the plot that makes the show so good. Put simply, the show is about a rape victim trying to get her rapist to face justice. This brings in a lot of brilliant ideas concerning the way that women are treated after they are raped, the general media culture that often takes the side of the men and dismisses the women, saying they made it up to get attention (a disgusting viewpoint in my opinion) and the support that these women need in order to help get them through their trauma. This is all best seen through the character of Hope, along with a depiction of what can go through the mind of someone who’s been impregnated by her rapist, this whole side of the story being heartbreaking to watch, seeing how much pain Hope has been through because of Kilgrave. Along with the rape metaphors, I also feel there are metaphors for Islamaphobia in here, mainly in the episode AKA 99 Friends where Jessica is blamed for the actions of the Avengers, people being blamed for the actions of others even when they have nothing to do with it. This is an especially relevant theme considering the Islamophobic attacks and statements from the Republican’s running for President in the wake of the Paris attacks. If there is a complaint I have with the plot it’s that it feels a little bit padded, I don’t think it needed to be 13 episodes and probably would have worked better with around 10, similar to the structure of Mr Robot.
Another of the main elements that makes the show work so well is the characters. Jessica Jones is a brilliant lead, aided by the writing and the performance by Krysten Ritter. Jessica is presented as someone who is incredibly weary of the world, someone who has experience horrific abuse and is really suffering from the psychological damage it created, having to turn to alcohol to get through the days. Ritter also lets you know that she wants to help people, but is crippled with doubt over whether or not what she is doing will work, notably in relation to her desire not to kill Kilgrave in order to get Hope out of prison. Ritter also shows the intelligence of the character and her resourcefulness, showing how good a private investigator Jones is. Ritter’s performance is supported by an equally strong turn from Rachael Taylor as Trish. Taylor lets you know how much of the morality Jess has is because of her, being a shoulder of support after what Kilgrave did and always keeping Jessica on the right track. The friendship that Jessica and Trish have is presented brilliantly, along with Trish’s desire to keep herself and Jessica safe. The paranoia that the two feel is also presented brilliantly, although with Trish it takes a different form, showing the consequences of fame, the fear of fans stalking her, along with the impact of a different form of abuse to Jessica, that of parental abuse. Luke Cage is also brilliantly portrayed, the weary nature of the character being presented really well, along with his anger over the death of his wife. The relationship between Luke and Jessica is presented brilliantly well, aided by strong chemistry between Mike Colter and Ritter, there being a sense of understanding in relation to their powers, them feeling like the other understands them and when Luke finds out that Jessica killed his wife, the anger Colter presents and the regret Ritter presents is brilliant.
The show also has a knack of taking characters that were originally the weakest part of the series and making them some of the best parts of the show and no-where is this more apparent than Malcolm. When the show first started I thought that Malcolm would be the stereotypical comedy drug addict and the show does do that for a while but this was lulling me into a false sense of security, then the rug was pulled out. It was revealed that Malcolm was actually being controlled by Kilgrave and given a drug addiction to make him compliant. After that, we see the difficulty Malcolm has in overcoming his addiction and his desire to help people return, first through the Kilgrave survivors group then through others, aided by the reveal that Malcolm was a social worker before Kilgrave took over and all of this is presented by a brilliant performance from Eka Darville. This is also seen through Jeri Hogarth. At the start of the series, her scenes were the weakest, the character wasn’t that interesting, although Carrie-Anne Moss’ performance was always great. Then the pieces fit together, we see the isolation that Hogarth has imposed on people and her emotional blackmail of people, the metaphorical death of 1000 cuts. We see that Hogarth is willing to do anything to get her way, even trying to get Kilgrave to help her and her horror over what Kilgrave does is presented brilliantly. The scenes between her and Jessica are also represented well as, despite being an arse about it, Hogarth is right that Jessica is ignoring her and hasn’t done anything to earn the favours that Hogarth gives to her.
There are some characters that don’t work as well however. None of the scenes with Robyn and Ruben particularly work, mainly due to how annoying the two are written, Clarke Peters as Clemons, despite giving a good performance, is the most clichéd character in the show and, whilst virtually everything else about the character is done brilliantly aided by Erin Moriarty’s great performance, the final stuff for Hope doesn’t work, it feeling like a textbook case of fridging. Then there’s Simpson, who I think is one of the weakest parts of the show. Don’t get me wrong, the whole idea of the character works well, the idea of violence begetting more violence he represents being effective and the revelations about his time in the military and the pills he takes are well handled but Wil Traval didn’t really work as the character, he came across as a bit too arrogant and even selfish and the whole mystery surrounding his time in the military didn’t really work for me. However, this did lead to a part of the story that did work, namely the mystery over how Jessica and Luke got their powers, along with large numbers of other children, and how they potentially link to the group that developed the pills for Simpson.
As good as the rest of the cast are, the MVP of the season was, without a shadow of a doubt, David Tennant as Kilgrave. Everything related to his powers is incredibly terrifying, the way he controls people being presented brilliantly, along with the nonchalant manner in which he sends people off to their deaths showing a callous side to the character. Tennant really shines though with his creepiness. Whilst in the first half of the series he was mainly intimidating, as we see his relationship with Jessica more we find out just how creepy the character is, his obsession with Jessica putting this across brilliantly. This also brings in a main comment that the series makes on culture as a whole, mainly in relation to grand romantic gestures in films. When Kilgrave does a full replica of Jessica’s house, he thinks that it’s romantic, getting the idea to do so from the grand romantic gestures in other forms of media, showing just how messed up all of that stuff is. This also brings in the wider thematic weight of the series through the entitlement that Kilgrave has and his overall attitude to the world. This is a character who has committed so much abuse towards people but is never willing to accept what he does and is always making excuses for his behaviour, none of which justify it, aided by Kilgrave making his backstory more sympathetic to try and get Jessica on side and presenting himself as the victim when Jessica interrogates him. This goes back to the rape metaphor through Kilgrave not willing to accept that he has raped people, which has a feeling of showing how consent is taught so badly to people that they don’t understand when they’ve committed rape, thinking the other party is the unreasonable one, further showing the entitled attitudes of men.
On a technical level the show is excellent. The use of colour has to be highlighted, mainly the use of silhouettes and purple whenever Kilgrave is near, along with when the characters are thinking of him, making sure that his presence is always felt throughout the series, which highlights just how much his presence is needed when he’s not there. The action scenes too are well shot, aided by the stunt team and the performances by Ritter and Colter, it being obvious throughout the show that they are holding back in their fights in order to avoid killing anyone by accident, aided by the more brawler fighting style they have. The music meanwhile adds to the noir atmosphere of the show, something that is needed for the show to work as well as it does, with some of the dialogue adding to this noir atmosphere as well. All of this creates this incredibly compelling world for the characters that I can’t wait to explore again.
Overall, Jessica Jones was a brilliant series and a great part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure I had some problems but in the grand scheme of things, they were nitpicks. These nitpicks are more than made up for by the thematic weight of the series, its strong feminist underpinnings (making it more like Agent Carter than Daredevil in some respects), the incredible performances, particularly from Krysten Ritter and especially David Tennant, and the strong atmosphere. Here’s hoping that the rest of Marvel’s Netflix shows continue to be as good as Jessica Jones.