Netflix managed to get off to a running start as it began its foray in to the world of superheroes. With all eyes on them, they have now taken us down a different, equally dark, and equally excellent journey through the grim underbelly of Marvel’s more complex properties.
This is not your standard popcorn affair. This is not an easy going, flick on the TV and watch while you have half spare show. If you want to get the full effect of Marvel’s Jessica Jones, you need to sit down and give it the attention it deserves. When it comes to the darker side of heroics you won’t get grittier than what we have on show here; Jessica Jones wears her PTSD clear for all to see, and while this is often a clichéd means of eschewing proper character development, in this case Kristen Ritter’s nuanced performance gives it real gravitas and the edge it adds to the character comes off as nothing less than truly genuine. She manages the unenviably task of balancing bravado and vulnerability, which is even more impressive when you consider she is playing a character with strength matching that of some of our more well-known super heroes.
Criticism is often levelled at the MCU for its inability to consistently produce complex villains. They have managed it with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and have teased us with the promise of an all-powerful Thanos, but other than that there are no others that really go above and beyond. In their depiction of the more human side of the Marvel Universe, Netflix presented us with the odious, yet intricate Wilson Fisk. This was a villain that would be hard to top, even with the ability to construct and develop them over a number of episodes. Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave doesn’t surpass Fisk, but he is certainly on par. It is good to see that they did simply carry out a copy and paste. Kilgrave is a different character, with different motivations and a very dark complexity to his personality. He is a broken man with a shattered psyche, but with David Tennent’s exceptional portrayal he manages to convey this evil streak with a subtle innocence, luring us in to the belief that there is something far more to him buried deep inside.
Throughout the series there is always the hint at something much grander going on, an entity or enmity that surpasses even Kilgrave’s somewhat linear intent. This extra evil is nothing more than an aura that surrounds the entire season, hinting at the origin of Jessica’s powers, having a hand in all sorts of malevolence that permeates the later episodes. We know next to nothing of this background villain, but it shows Netflix’s intent to weave a flowing narrative throughout its shows that is not solely reliant on the odd cameo. The only downside is that you may end up wishing your life away in the run up to the inevitable Defenders show, which will be a climax to all these efforts.
As we are drawn in to Jessica Jones’ world, we see the influence of those around her, how they are twisted by their mere association, forced to do bad things for even worse people. There are no bad characters, bad people yes, but each of them is portrayed to perfection, with Carrie Ann Moss giving a stellar performance as the attorney with resting bitch face, and Mike Colter introducing us to Luke Cage, who is soon going to have a much larger role in this universe. Deaths carry weight, tears hit us right in the heart, and a sneer will give us nightmares. It is everything you want from a superbly acted TV show and more.
With Jessica Jones’, Netflix has given us a very different beast to their Daredevil offering. With the exception of some minor pacing issues in the earlier episodes, once the action starts and Kilgrave throws himself all in, there is absolutely no let up and you will be hooked until the very end. Just don’t expect something kid friendly like the rest of the MCU because they is very much aimed squarely at the adults.