The second Netflix Marvel series has arrived and with it Jessica Jones shows us more of the harsher, darker MCU we were introduced to last year in Daredevil. Based on the outstanding Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos comic Alias, Jessica Jones is a noir-inspired detective series that doesn’t shy away from the crappy side of the MCU. While not a straight adaptation of the short-lived run, the spirit and key points are still there giving us another outstanding show in the more mature line that is starting to develop on Netflix.
After a short-lived stint as a wannabe superhero, Jessica makes her living as a private investigator taking pictures of mostly cheating spouses while drinking hard and being ever so witty on the side. But it’s not until Kilgrave (cause the name “homicide-ditch” was too on the nose) returns that things get really dark. Kilgrave is a man with no moral compass and the ability to make you do anything he tells you and yes, this makes him every bit as twisted as you’d expect. While Kilgrave was never the main focus of the comic, the effects of what he did were present from the get-go so making him the main antagonist of the adaptation feels right. The bulk of the story revolves around Jessica trying to prove Kilgrave exists so she can free one of his victims from prison because mind control murder is now a thing in the MCU. I don’t want to spoil anything here, so I’ll leave it at that but you know as well as I do it’s not going to be that easy.
Krysten Ritter just nails it as Jessica Jones; she’s anti-social, difficult to deal with, clearly has a lot of issues and is generally rude and sarcastic to everyone she meets, yet you can tell there’s more to her and every so often you see the person that was – the one who wanted to help shine through and she makes you root for her because of it. The chemistry Ritter shows with both Kilgrave and Cage are totally different yet equally as captivating to watch. With Kilgrave, you believe this is a person who makes her skin crawl that she would do anything to be as far away from as possible and with Cage, you know she want’s to be there to help fix the damage done in his life. Neither feels forced or artificial and that’s a credit to Ritter and the others involved. On the other side of the board is David Tennant as Kilgrave, a villain unlike anything in the MCU so far. He doesn’t care about cosmic cubes or taking over crime empires to rule the world, no, all he cares about is what he wants right now. Tennant’s own likability and charm only really serve to occasionally distract you from what an utter monster he really is and switch between modes of cheerful, happy-go-lucky monster and “oh god he’s going to make me watch as I eat my arm” monster are well portrayed by Tennant. Mike Colter is great as Luke Cage and the sooner his show gets here and we see more of him the better. Rachael Taylor’s supportive best friend, Trish Walker (AKA Pasty Walker AKA Hellcat) is also fantastic in the supportive friend who doesn’t take your crap role. Carrie-Anne Moss was good with what she got as a somewhat cliched nasty lawyer character, Jeri Hogarth. Eka Darville puts a strong and sympathetic showing as Jessica’s drug-addled neighbor, Malcom. Erin Moriarty impresses as Hope Shlottman showing the after effects of time with Kilgrave well.
As I said earlier, the show deals with some dark and serious subject matter and not just Jessica’s borderline alcoholism or PTSD, but mostly in the frank approach that Kilgrave is a rapist, both mentally and physically in some cases, but it’s never treated as a plot device or a means to add drama; it’s well handled and the effect it has on people is realistic, but no less disturbing that it should be.
Overall, the series is well paced at 13 episodes with only a minor stumble or two towards the end and aside from a few characters feeling out of place and overly annoying (Robyn & Ruben I’m looking at you) and a what feels like an unnecessary change to the Jessica/Kilgrave backstory, the series doesn’t really stop being compelling and entertaining from start to finish. Much like Daredevil, there is setup for whats to come and much like that series, hopefully we’ll get more soon.