I absolutely loved Netflix’s previous Marvel offering Daredevil, so it was with great anticipation that I waited for Netflix’s second Marvel series, Jessica Jones. When it was released I loaded up the episodes, snacks in hand, completely ready to be blown away. Thirteen hours and a few breaks later… I was unsure what to think.
Jessica Jones is a superhero turned angry, bitter and damaged Private Investigator, turned away from any notion of being Hell’s Kitchen’s saviour by the trauma she was put through by Kilgrave – Marvel’s Purple Man – who has the disturbing ability to control minds. As the titular superhero, Krysten Ritter is perfect. She nails the anti-heroine trope with well-aimed eye rolls whilst still being able to show the cracks of vulnerability in her character. The choice of David Tennant for Kilgrave was particularly inspired, as Tennant’s ability to bring an element of sympathy to a character that would otherwise be completely repulsive says a lot. In the scenes he is in Tennant dominates, wonderfully depraved, manic and terrifying. His British accent also adds an extra edge.
Jessica’s PTSD from her encounters with Kilgrave is shown early on in the show, just the imaginings of his accent whispering in her ear is enough to shake Jessica to the core, one of the show’s most disturbing moments. It raises some important points about the long lasting effects of assault and when Jessica is finally in front of Kilgrave, staring her worst nightmare in the face, she’s quick to explicitly describe what he did to her. The word ‘rape’ is not shied away from, which is refreshing to see. The effects of sexual assault are explored without the assault ever being shown on screen. Seeing Jessica throw the bad guys around, slamming them into walls, gives me an odd sense of empowerment, not used to seeing female characters show their strength so physically. Is this what it’s like for men when they watch Superman?
The Noir tone of the show brings a darkness with it, which attempts to balance out dialogue which can sometimes veer towards the ridiculous. Some of Jessica’s bitten sarcastic comments and wisecracks are jarring and can feel forced at times, an attempt to lighten the mood after Kilgrave has done something spectacularly terrible. If we’re talking faults, the series could also do with some better fleshed out B plots, as Jessica’s fixation on defeating Kilgrave drags out over the episodes, and becomes somewhat claustrophobic at points. Fair warning, there’s a lot of gore, but almost to the point that you start rolling your eyes at it instead. At times it’s like Jessica Jones can’t decide just what sort of show it wants to be. Its source material, with its scientific experiment gone wrong villain in Kilgrave, lends itself to a pulpy, slightly silly comic book style. But the themes it deals with and the way it deals with them, especially in Jessica’s inspiring female friendship with Trish, lend themselves to a much darker tone. The show seesaws between the two and seems to lose its way because of it. The subtlety that was shown in the early episodes regarding Kilgrave’s effect on Jessica was lost as the series went on, and she seemed all too able to push her fears aside to be the Strong Female Character we’ve seen before.
It’s still a great season, and more than anything I am glad the world gets to see a female superhero like Jessica Jones, dealing with similar issues to everyday women, with a realistic attitude. It’s an important show with some great acting, cinematography and characters, but could perhaps do with a little refinement.