TV: Jessica Jones - Season 1


13 Episodes, 55 mins
Showrunner: Melissa Rosenberg
Starring: Krysten Ritter, David Tenant, Mike Colter
Genre: TV, Superhero, Crime
Country: USA
 
Netflix came up all aces with the first season of Daredevil but as they build towards The Defenders how does one of Marvel’s less conventional heroes stack up?
 
Adapted from the Alias comics created by Brian Michael Bendis, Jessica Jones (Ritter) is a retired superhero turned private investigator living in the remains of a life all but virtually destroyed by Kilgrave (Tenant).  Hired by a pair of frantic parents Jessica retrieves a runaway daughter only for her to murder her folks at the request of Kilgrave.  Thrust back into his cross-hairs, the gumshoe battles against memories of her abuse and his will in order to stop “The Purple Man” once and for all.
Jessica struggled with the idea of social media but loved selfies
 
This review is a long time coming.  Were we posted a blow-by-blow set of 13 for Daredevil the prospect of delving back into that level of detail made me more than a little gun-shy.  In truth, after multiple viewings Jessica Jones isn’t the kind of show that requires multiple reviews.  Where Daredevil walked the line between episodic and serial, Jessica Jones is the perfect example of serial-procedural TV.  It’s The Wire, The Killing, The Bridge (and other shows beginning with “The”) but with superheroes.  Having served her time (and perhaps she actually should) on the Twilight movies, Rosenberg returns to television; where without doubt her best work resides.
If you clean my windscreen at a red light and it's worse afterwards...
 
You could say that Jessica Jones is a thirteen hour Sam Spade movie.  A hard-talking, hard-driving gumshoe on the rocky road to redemption but it’s so much more than that.  At its heart the show is a story of relationships, abuse, and ultimately two people so dysfunctional they’re destined to be together even though they really, really shouldn’t.  Where the Marvel movies (with the exception of Loki) have suffered is not having any good antagonists, Netflix-Marvel has two of the top three in Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave.  His fixation on Jessica is powerful, and skilfully portrayed by Tenant.  Though you can never call him good, he’s not all bad.  There are times when you can understand how someone who was never really parented could have such an arrested development; couple that with his powers of influence and suddenly it all makes sense.  How many times have you told someone to “eat a bag of dicks?”, now imagine being Kilgrave and throwing that little one-liner out there.  There’s an intelligence to Tenant’s performance that’s missing from the likes of Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man).  You can also understand how he’s attracted to Jessica.  Ritter’s character is so wonderfully hardened that you may think her impervious but there are cracks there and she flashes them towards the audience subtly enough to keep you coming back.  Never fully warming to her yet at the same time knowing there’s more to her than what she’s serving up.  You buy her.  You buy her complexity more than, perhaps, any other character Marvel have given us to date.
 
Mike Colter is perfect casting as Luke Cage (aka Power Man).  He had quiet menace in The Good Wife and here he looks as though he’s been ripped from the pages of Heroes for Hire.  Luke Cage is up next from Netflix (September 2016) so with any luck we’ll get 13 episodes of Mike whipping ass, takin’ names and talkin’ smack in an Exploitation themed joyride through Harlem.
 
Knock, Knock.  Who's There.  Doctor.  Doctor Wh.. -- You're a Dick
JJ’s look is underplayed.  Rosenberg is working towards real world realism with a touch of comic book.  Like DD before it, it makes reference to “the incident” without ever really going near it and dabbles in the science of superpower origins without fully breaking down Jess or Luke’s abilities.  There are some beautifully rendered moments within these 13 hours.  The multi-cop stand-off with Jessica, Kilgrave and The Wire’s own Freedman is one.  The music hall assault, and subsequent bar scene is another but the show is never better than when it’s Ritter and a bottle of whiskey.  She broods, and mulls, and contemplates like no other.  She can do more with stillness than some performers can do with an entire script and it’s great to watch.
 
There are definite lulls in Jessica Jones in the second act that would have benefited from an episodic structure but for the most part, it’s a runaway freight train of a show skilfully performed, attentively written and beautifully directed.



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