Good Stuff. Really Good Stuff.
Jessica Jones is a show that delves into bloodier, violent and darker themes than we’re used to seeing in Marvel movies. It is the second installment to the series of collaborations between Netflix and Marvel Entertainment, the first in which is Daredevil. If you have not watched them, please put both series onto your list of things to watch in the future. Like Daredevil, this Marvel-Netflix series is part of a cycle of Marvel-Netflix shows that will culminate in a “Defenders” team-up down the road.
The Tough but Fragile Protagonist
What makes Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter) great is that it is not a typical superhero TV show, it is a story about how a superhero failed and continues her life as a private investigator. She is very human, she makes terrible decisions, keeps secrets and isn’t especially responsible. She just so happens to be strong enough to lift a car, able to leap a tall fire escape in a single bound, and can take more physical punishment than normal human beings.
Jessica is a tough alcoholic private investigator that lurks around Hell’s Kitchen, can kick ass and gets things done. However that is just a facade, all that strength and not-give-a-shit attitude is a illusion to hide the pain and guilty memories that keep clawing at her soul. Even with all her flaws, she’s gifted at solving mysteries in her sinful city, regardless of the presence of superheroes, because there is only so much they can do. She is the one that deals with cheaters, murderers, addicts and such on the street, unlike the other flashier heroes. Overall, Krysten Ritter’s performance has certainly done justice to the character.
The Amazingly Terrifying Villain
David Tennant’s Kilgrave is the first truly terrifying villain that Marvel has managed to deliver to the screen. Tennant’s performance strays far from his Tenth Doctor charm, his performance delivered legitimate scares to the audience. I only have praise to shower David Tennant, as his acting really made Kilgrave one of the most feared TV villains you can find in the recent years.
Can you imagine having the power to command anyone? Would you become the master of the world? For Kilgrave, no. He just wants to live his life with pleasure. The one thing he wants most is Jessica. That is what makes him an amazingly terrifying villain: he is really petty.
What we see of his monstrous actions are more akin to a horror movie than a Marvel project. The implications of what Kilgrave can do with his powers are explored to their fullest and it is just terrifying, he may as well be a god IF he wanted to. The most scary thing that can happen is that Jessica’s superpowers could fall under Kilgrave’s spell, but that worst-case scenario has already happened in the show’s backstory. Kilgrave is not a problem Jessica can solve with her fists, although you’ll desperately want her to.
Power and control are the show’s dominant themes, it shows Jessica recovering from a set of experiences that almost destroyed her faith in her ability to live her own life. With the addition of Kilgrave looming over everything, the show takes a horrifying premise and executes it superbly with shocking twists and escalating dread.
It’s a horror story.
The use of Kilgrave’s powers in advancing the plot was also interesting, it provided a powerful study of weighty issues like rape, domestic abuse, addiction, adultery, abortion and survivor’s guilt. As a TV show, a piece of entertainment, Jessica Jones is pretty light on light moments. Even instances of people just being nice to each other are pretty rare. Not that I am complaining; from the sharp-tongued heroine to the unimportant characters, almost everybody in the show is horrible to each other, from incestuous demented neighbours, rapacious lawyers to abusive mothers .
The action in Jessica Jones is less spectacular than what we got in Daredevil, but direct physical violence is far less central to the themes of the show. Jessica Jones is a legitimate thriller, exchanging martial arts or huge explosions for the kind of heart-pounding tension did the series justice.
Jessica Jones is an undeniable, fantastic series. The acting is top notch, the characters are fascinating, and the directing is phenomenal. This is a compelling and great story, treating PTSD and complex subjects such as consent and control, all wrapped into a wonderful noir detective ambience. Remove the Marvel brand name, it would still be an amazing standalone thriller that could proudly sit alongside some of the most acclaimed and popular dramatic TV of the last few years.
By Tyler Lai