Marvel followed up its dark Netflix series Daredevil with Jessica Jones a few months back and, since the former is about to release its second season, we thought we’d finally review the latter.
Cast and Crew
Directors: Simon Cellan Jones, S.J. Clarkson, David Petrarca, Stephen Surjik, Uta Briesewitz, John Dahl, Billy Gierhart, Rosemary Rodriguez, Michael Rymer
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg, Brian Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Jenna Reback, Ruth Atkinson, Otto Binder , John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Stan Lee, Joe Orlando, Archie Goodwin, Scott Reynolds, Johnny Romita, Dana Baratta, David Mazzucchelli, Frank Miller, Micah Schraft, Liz Friedman, Hilly Hicks Jr., Jamie King, Edward Ricourt
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones
Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker
David Tennant as Kilgrave
Eka Darville as Malcolm Ducasse
Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri Hogarth
Mike Colter as Luke Cage
Wil Traval as Will Simpson
Susie Abromeit as Pam
Erin Moriarty as Hope Shlottman
Robin Weigert as Wendy Ross-Hogarth
Michael Siberry as Albert Thompson
Colby Minifie as Robyn
Ryan Farrell as Jackson
Paul Pryce as Donald
Kieran Mulcare as Ruben
Clarke Peters as Det. Oscar Clemons
Danielle Ferland as Clair
Nichole Yannetty as Nicole
Gillian Glasco as Emma
Lisa Emery as Louise Thompson
Rebecca De Mornay as Dorothy Walker
Joseph Ragno as Roy Healy
Parisa Fitz-Henley as Reva Connors
Elizabeth Cappuccino as Young Jessica
Charleigh E. Parker as Sissy Garcia
James Freedson-Jackson as Young Kilgrave
Catherine Blades as Young Trish / Patsy
Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple / Night Nurse
An orphaned, broken, hard-drinking private eye with superpowers tries to redeem herself when the mind-controlling villain who once enslaved her forces his latest victim to kill her own parents. Along the way she gets help from her famous adopted sister, Trish “Patsy” Walker, a neighborhood junkie, Malcolm, an ethically-challenged lawyer, Hogarth, and the future Hero for Hire, Luke Cage.
I’m going to note thematic concerns even though, strictly speaking, the show works because it permits those concerns to develop naturally, and with relatively little comment. The story and characters come first.
That said, the show’s central villain, performed terrifically by David Tennant, reflects on many kinds of abuse, affluence, and terrible choices. He’s a man with the power of a god, the mind of an unrestrained child, and the abusive predilections of some abuse survivors. His specific power raises questions about free will, diminished responsibility, and other topics relevant to both the Marvel Universe and ours.
The story raises a number of other questions, some of which can be answered by the dramatic needs of the story. However, they linger, leading us to wonder if the problems couldn’t have been addressed.
Why didn’t anyone ask sooner if loud noise or headphones would cancel out Kilgrave’s powers? I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered early on if something like that would be worth trying.
Why don’t other metahumans notice the multiplicity of odd happenings and the Game of Thrones-like trail of bodies? Daredevil lives, literally, around the corner. Jessica Jones could probably get the attention of an Avenger or two; Kilgrave represents a serious enough threat. Of course, the viewer would feel cheated, but shared universes contain these inherent problems.
Finally, why doesn’t Jessica take a gun once she’s decided to kill Kilgrave? That would have been really helpful.
Originality: 3/6 Daredevil preceded this show, but Jessica Jones does gritty and street in a different and darker way. It’s Marvel’s most R-rated production to date and, despite some conventional noir/superhero elements, it opens up that universe in ways that will surprise those who only know The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Effects: 6/6 The show relies less on effects than most Marvel movies and series, but they have been integrated seamlessly.
Story: 4/6 The story introduced multiple aspects of the character in interesting ways, and doesn’t get bogged down in origins. We learn what we need over time. Luke Cage’s past isn’t explored at all. The season runs less linear than Daredevil, and proves more willing to explore side-stories, as a TV traditional series would. While highly entertaining, it is not without flaws. It drags a little in places, and the tying together of Luke, Kilgrave, and Jessica relies too heavily on pulpy coincidence.
Acting: 6/6 The series features strong actors turning in credible performance as characters dealing with incredible circumstances. Krysten Ritter turns Jones into one of Marvel’s most compelling characters. Tennant is outstanding, and his definitive death should mean he won’t return. That is for the best; anything else would cheapen the character and the story.
Emotional Response: 6/6 The series delves into the disturbed psyche of its villain, and several broken relationships. The most affecting relationship, however, was Jessica and her adopted sister, Trish.
Overall: 5/6 I’m looking forward to the second season, and I’m really looking forward to the Luke Cage series.
In total, Jessica Jones, season one, receives 36/42
It’s kind of interesting to imagine what would have happened if other heroes became involved (other than a sapping of dramatic tension and fading of focus on the protagonist); obviously, it would have been wrong from the perspective of story-telling.
I suspect Kilgrave avoids going to Avengers tower because (apart from the obsessions that drive him), the chance of controlling someone that powerful is offset by the likelihood that some of these characters would be entirely beyond his control.
Iron Man? If he has his costume on and hears through some kind of mic system, he wouldn’t be controlled. Short fight.
The Vision? Artificial entity, and likely immune. Really short fight.
Thor? Norse god. Probably immune. Laughably short fight. Very dangerous situation if he can be controlled, however.
Scarlet Witch. Given the psionic nature of her powers, this would likely be the worst-case scenario for Kilgrave.
Shared universes really mean characters have to fight in their weight class or remain unaware of or unavailable for certain foes.
I’ve only ever seen Krysten Ritter in Happy Zany kind of shows, so I did not expect how dark this show was. Took me completely by surprise. But she’s a terrific actress and did a great job. Binge-watching this show was intense.
I’m a bit mad that David Tennant can play a completely, 100% reprehensible person and still be charming. That’s just not fair (:
As for one of your low-points, the whole “Why don’t the other Avengers/X-Men/Superheroes get involved???” thing is something we have to suspend disbelief for in pretty much any standalone superhero movie. First, it would kind of ruin the drama, but I think Deadpool put it best when he said “It’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford more X-Men.”
Also, I think Jessica Jones relies on her Super Strength. Do we ever see her use a weapon?
Also, a lot easier to hit innocents (“Everyone jump in front of her!”) with a gun.
The charm is part of what makes him such a great villain.
As you say, suspension of disbelief so as not to completely ruin the story. But it’s hard not to ask the question, given the level of continuity the films and shows have.
And yes, think back. We do see her borrow and use a weapon, when necessary.
I don’t remember her using a weapon, but I’m happy to take your word for it. One of the dangers of binge-watching an entire show like that is you don’t remember every single detail (;
One thing I did like about the show is how understated superpowers were. I know, that’s weird. But it was really, really… uh. What’s the opposite of overt? Jessica wasn’t running around punching the hell out of everything all the damn time.
More than that calling in the big could be extremely dangerous since you don’t know if they’re immune or not (there’s also a time aspect as the toughest part is actually finding Kilgrave), part of the reason she tried to keep Cage away. Jessica Jones was well particularly well suited to go up against Kilgrave, it made sense for her not to pull in backup.
I really thought Jessica Jones was a fresh take on a superhero (at leave in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
The Avengers and X-Men are basically full time superheros, Daredevil has a normal career but also treats crime stopping as a second job. Jones is the closest we’ve seen to an ordinary person trying to live an ordinary life with superpowers.
It’s been a while since I watched it, but most of the above rings true. It may be time to watch it again. I recall having some concerns with how things were handled at 1-2 points but nothing specific comes to mind now.
I had some concerns about Ritter since I had only seen her in things like “Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23” but they were completely unfounded since she did a fantastic job.
Definitely onboard for S2, and I heard a while ago that they were considering a spin-off for Rachael Taylor’s character as well though I’m not sure how well that would turn out.
I was surprised at how well the show was crafted. The writing was smart and went places I never expected. The acting was wonderful. (I only knew Krysten Ritter from Veronica Mars, so this was very unexpected.) The characterizations were impressive. I love how it was uniquely different. And Killgrave… Wow. I can’t even begin to document my thoughts, there. Amazingly written and portrayed, just mind-blowing. When they started down that potential redemption path, I was awestruck. I couldn’t believe they would even attempt it. And then they didn’t. Just perfectly done…
I also don’t remember Jones picking up any weapons, other than using things to break other things, but I’ll have to go back and watch it again. Ah, shucks… ;-)
Another thing I’m going to look for is a broken window in every episode — someone had mentioned they thought there was at least one in each of them, so now I’m curious.
Regarding the gun: Jessica uses a shotgun in “Take a Bloody Number.”
Did no one here watch Breaking Bad? Pretty sure they considered her for the part because of Breaking Bad.
Wow I hadnt made that connection between her and Breaking Bad. She was awesome in that.
David Tennant did such a good job. Its sad that this character is now unavailable to the MCU.
He was made to be a bad guy.
I so totally prefer him evil!!
I’m kind of mad that he can play someone so utterly reprehensible, and still be so utterly charming.
It’s just not fair to the rest of us!
I have just watched Series 2 of Daredevil. The crossover between these two shows has been strengthened .Foggy being recruited to work with Hogarth. Claire Temple referring to fixing up Luke Cage without mentioning him by name. NYPD referring to the DA targeting Jessica Jones don’t scream watch Jessica Jones but are subtle enough to refer to the show in a meaningful way as a nice nod.