Warning! Spoilers for the entire season of Jessica Jones ahead! You have been warned.
With the series now being out a month more or less, it’s time to give our thoughts on the second of the Marvel/Netflix collaborations, Jessica Jones. It’s very important to note just how different this series is from the previous Netflix/Marvel collaboration, Daredevil. It would’ve been very easy to try and mimic what made Daredevil so popular with Jessica Jones and reap the rewards. Instead, Marvel Studios made a powerful character drama that dealt with very real issues.
To be fair, that’s not to say that Daredevil didn’t do great character stories, but with Jessica Jones, it went to a higher level. From the moment we meet Jessica Jones, we know she’s nothing like the heroes we usually meet. She’s a detective, but what she does she does for money, and to get through the day has very little “justice” in her occupation. She works to pay the rent and drink whiskey, a lot of whiskey.
Don’t think that she’s hollow though. There’s a very real reason for her blunt way of living. She was once a hero, or tried to be, and then she met a man named Kilgrave, and everything changed. Easily one of the best parts about Jessica Jones is actress Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of a woman suffering from PTSD in one of the worst ways imaginable. Kilgrave has the ability to control anyone, bending them to his will with but a word. He took a liking to Jessica, making her do terrible things. Though he’s been “gone” for a while, Jessica still feels his presence, hears his voice, and sometimes even lashes out in fear or anger that he is around. Most shows don’t deal with issues like this, but Jessica Jones handles it very well.
Again, this all goes back to Krysten Ritter and her time as Jessica. She’s hard as nails, but you feel sorry for her in almost every way imaginable. Then when she realizes Kilgrave is alive, Ritter sells that fear and panic very well. It’s here that the story really takes off. Unlike Matt Murdoch and the Kingpin, you see that Jessica would rather run from her foe than confront him. That’s good storytelling. But, as this would be a short series if that took place, it soon becomes almost impossible for that to happen because a tragedy involving a client, and victim of Kilgrave, makes Jessica seek both justice and revenge on her old foe.
Throughout the 13-episode season, we see Jessica try to not only find her nemesis, but also expose him for what he has done. This does sound very parallel to Daredevil, but how it’s done is totally different, mainly in how the supporting cast gets involved. Whereas Matt kept his powers from everyone (save for a few, and Foggy found out later), Jessica Jones shatters that right off and has her best friend, and future hero, Patricia Walker already know about her abilities and wanting to help. The sisterhood between these two characters is shown throughout the series. From Patsy finding out about Jessica’s powers, to Jessica dealing with their abusive mother, and the promises they make to protect each other, it’s great stuff.
Here we find another key difference, as the supporting cast gets really fleshed out in this season. While it would’ve been easy to focus on Jessica herself, not unlike what happened with Matt Murdoch, the series branches out, and we learn a lot about several other characters. All of which intertwines into a very powerful, and personal, narrative. From Jessica’s drug-addicted neighbor Malcolm, to her ally Jeri Hogarth, and the slightly off-kilter Will Simpson, there’s a lot of characters with arcs of their own going on here, and it’s good material.
Of course, the big two supporting characters that need mentioning are Luke Cage and Killgrave. These two really shined here and in very different ways. Arguably, these were the two characters that needed to be in Jessica Jones, as they have massive ties to her history. For Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, he gets to show off the soft-spoken side of the character that people like in the comics, but we also get to see his superhuman side. Specifically, Luke Cage has unbreakable skin and comparable strength. One of the best parts of the series for me was when Jessica and Luke had a meal together and asked about each other abilities and powers and how they got them. You have to remember, this is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is ever growing and evolving. Not everyone who has powers (or augmented abilities) is an Avenger. Some like to keep their head down.
Another strong aspect with Cage is that we get to see the relationship between him and Jessica evolve over the course of the season. The relationship goes from flirtation, to the two getting…together, and beyond. The wrinkle here is that Kilgrave had Jessica kill Luke’s wife when she was under his control. This haunts her, and she feels like garbage every time she’s with Luke. And yet, she can’t help but be with him, as he understands her. It’s a complicated relationship, but again, they make it work.
Then of course, there’s Kilgrave, played by David Tennant. For many, it was curious that Tennant, famous for playing Doctor Who on one of the show’s most famous runs, would be this incredibly vile and evil villain. Yet, leave it to the people at Marvel and Netflix to know how to cast a villain, because Tennant owns the screen every time he’s on it. Funnily enough, both Kilgrave and Kingpin don’t show up in the first episodes of their series. But for Killgrave, even when he’s not on screen, his presence is felt. Tennant plays Kilgrave with the perfect balance of sneer, guile, suaveness, and arrogance. He loves being able to control people, especially Jessica, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get her back. But the real twist is that he actually loves her, and he wants her to do the same. You can see it in a later episode where he promises not to control her, all in an attempt to make her truly feel something for him.
If there’s a true difference between Daredevil and Jessica Jones in how they deal with their villains, it’s the finality of things. Jessica actually captures Kilgrave about 3/4 of the way into the season, and then tortures him to get a confession. This again shows the dark side of Jessica Jones, one that Matt Murdoch struggled with but never crossed over into. Jessica has no such issues.
In the epic climax, Jessica literally kills Kilgrave. She did it for justified reasons of course, but still, it was very visceral. This leads to an entirely different ending from Daredevil’s first season. If you recall, after Kingpin is put away, Matt, Karen, and Foggy celebrate and ready themselves for the next step of their lives. For Jessica, after she finishes off Killgrave, she doesn’t feel better. In fact, you could argue she feels worse. That ending scene where her newfound fame has “blessed” her with new clients, and she erased the message was very telling. There is no happy ending for her here, she lost too much in the process, and it’s clearly affected her. This does leave us with some fun questions about where it’ll go if it gets renewed, and again separates it from other hero shows.
Now, all the praise above is deserved, rightfully so, but there are some issues with Jessica Jones. First off, it’s graphic, and clearly not for younger audiences. Daredevil was violent, but rarely ever crossed into “shield your eyes!” territory. Here? Not so much. I’m not saying it’s a downer per se, but it will deter some from watching certain scenes in episodes. This means not only bloody scenes, but other visceral and macabre acts. You’ve been warned if you haven’t seen it already.
Also, while there are a lot of supporting characters, not all shine. Carrie-Anne Moss’ Jeri Hogarth is a compelling character in some ways, but her storyline drags, then it has a very brutal conclusion that affects the character in a way I’m not entirely sure makes sense. Then there is the Robyn character, who is an annoying presence throughout the series. Furthermore, there are some very questionable decisions and reveals by some of the characters that honestly don’t make sense. Key among them is when Simpson (who is somewhat high on drugs to be fair) kills a cop that he knows and respects. Yes, the drugs are altering his mind to be sure, but the way he talks about the cop is one of admiration, then he up and kills him. It came off as weird.
Then there’s the “Jessica can resist Kilgrave” plotline. While it’s interesting, it doesn’t make sense. Why her and not someone else? Was it really the act of killing Luke’s wife that set her off? Why that act and not something else? Other characters killed for Kilgrave, but they didn’t have that resistance. So why Jessica Jones? It’s never really explained, and that’s sad because it’s a key part of the story.
Overall, Jessica Jones is a great story and show. Anyone who likes deep character arcs is going to like this series. Yes, it’s not for everyone, and there are the occasional bumps in the road. But for this character? That’s OK.