This weekend has been unofficially dubbed ‘Jessica Jones weekend’ with people around the world binge-watching the amazing new Marvel series on Netflix, and only coming up for air sporadically to exclaim how amazing it is. I was one of them, and with red eyes and still in awe I’m going to tell you just why you should be adding Jessica Jones to your list of shows to watch.
1. Krysten Ritter and David Tennant knock the ball out of the park
Much of the praise of the series has gone to the excellent performances by Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, and by David Tennant as the villain Kilgrave. And they are shockingly good.
Krysten Ritter is well known for the characters she played in Breaking Bad, Veronica Mars and Don’t Trust the B, and her ability to move from comedy to drama but still keep a sense of individuality and uniqueness about her is commendable. I always found her to be a particularly talented and likeable actress onscreen, but in the role of Jessica Jones she truly shone.
Jessica is a character that is deeply flawed, wounded, empowered, strong, funny, impassioned, and a lesser actress would not be able to depict all these layers of her simultaneously and separately, but Ritter proved that she had the range in which to bring this across. She made Jessica real, she made her become someone we all recognize, someone we can relate to, empathize with. Jessica Jones is not just a supernatural heroine that we idolize because of a power she was gifted with – she’s our friend, our neighbour, our sister, anyone that we know who has been through great trauma and survived it.
David Tennant, on the other hand, totally abandoned his family-friend Doctor Who role and brought out the big guns as he portrayed the terrifying villain Kilgrave. In a performance that challenges even Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Tennant’s entire being was enough to make your skin crawl – from his voice, to his demeanor, to the way he smiled, even how he spoke, he made you fear him as well. His erratic moments from anger to excitement to elation, he convinced you that he was quite a bit unhinged. Even his superpower – mind control – is something fearful as what most people fear is losing control and that’s exactly what he does to them.
2. The story line is simple and gets right to the point
Unlike it’s predecessor Daredevil, and many other series, from the get go, Jessica Jones sets up the plot that the entire season is based upon, and then fills in the backstory and details as it goes along.
Jessica wants to catch Kilgrave and prove that he uses his powers to control others and this is the crux what drives the entire season. We learn more about what Kilgrave did to Jessica, and there are many standoffs between him and her, playing an elongated game of cat and mouse, and then there are the side cases that Jessica takes on as a private investigator, and the plotlines involving Jessica’s relationships with Luke and Trish. Notwithstanding the side plots with the secondary characters, such as Trish and Will’s relationship, Trish’s relationship with her mother, Jeri and Wendy’s divorce etc.
3. The most terrifying villain in the MCU
As I mentioned above, with regards to David Tennant’s performance, Kilgrave is truly frightening. Not because of his looks – because let’s be honest David Tennant is adorable, or even his strength but because of his superpower and the lengths that he’s willing to go through to get what he wants.
Loki was scary as he controlled and deceived people. Alexander Pierce from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Grant Ward from Agents of SHIELD and Wilson Fisk from Daredevil are also great villains who are normal humans, with just questionable morals. But in my opinion, Kilgrave takes the cake, he’s nefarious, he uses his ‘powers’ in order to get what he wants, he’s sadistic, and he treats people like objects or collateral. And there’s something truly scary about losing one’s will, people taking things from us without our consent, which is why rape is such an evil, it’s not about sex it’s about taking someone’s control away. This loss of control and will is something that all humans face, and David Tennant just made it all the more realistic for us.
Just like they did with Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, they tried to make us understand the villain, showing us how Kilgrave got his powers, what he dealt with as a child, his own struggles, but I enjoy the fact that they did not use that as an excuse to redeem them. He was evil, the mistakes he made was his choice and he would eventually have to pay for it. Just like we feared that they were trying to explain away the faults of Grant Ward in Agents of SHIELD to a bad childhood, in here Jessica simply writes off his attempt to search for pity by saying that crappy parents were not an excuse to act the way that he has. It gave the villain layers but did not shelve his responsibility or take away from his general villainy.
4. Great understanding of female friendships
One of the things that usually bother me about many series is that the female relationships just seem a bit off, they discuss things that most female friendships would hardly think to talk about (I have never ever spoken about nail polish with any of my friends) or they just don’t seem to understand the dynamic of them. But I think the fact that Jessica Jones was helmed by a woman is shown here.
Jessica’s friendship with Trish Walker (who becomes the superhero Hellcat in the comics) is brought across so well onscreen. They are two distinctly different characters but yet they are fluidly friends, sisters, supporters. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and they seem to accept them and use it to their advantage. It’s so refreshing to see a friendship given the right amount of attention and esteem, and I think it echoes Matt and Foggy’s relationship from Daredevil beautifully.
5. Representation of POC characters and LGBT relationships done well
Diversity is one of the most important factors in television today and Jessica Jones brings that across extremely well. In the comics, Jessica is in a interracial relationship with Luke Cage, the unbreakable superhero who will be getting his own series next year, and this is the same relationship they use in the series. Mike Colter plays Luke Cage perfectly, I cannot even think of a better suited actor to play him, and the chemistry between him and Krysten Ritter are off the charts. Other than Luke, POC characters include Malcolm – Jessica’s friend and neighbour, Reva – Luke’s ex wife, Detective Clemens and many other characters.
With regards to the LGBT relationships, it’s such an integrating part of the show that it does not feel like an event like it does in many other series. Jeri Hogarth, the lawyer who Jessica works for as an investigator has been gender swapped from the comic book series, but she’s still the cheating philanderer as her male counterpart. She’s married to Wendy but cheating on her with her assistant, Pam. The reason for her cheating had nothing to do with her sexuality, it’s the same problems you see in hetrosexual relationships all the time – infidelity, temptation. Jessica Jones does well in depicting that this is what LGBT relationships are like – just like every other relationship.
6. Countless references to the MCU
From the references to the Avengers, and their attack on New York – there is an entire episode that deals with people’s reactions to the aftermath of that alien attack (possible set ups for Captain America: Civil War) – to a crossover with Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and her casually offering to give Matt Murdock a call for help, the series is full of casual references to the other series and films. It helps to cement itself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and shows that even though this is dealing on the small scale of just Jessica vs. Kilgrave, while Daredevil was Matt vs. Fisk, and Luke Cage will have his own demon to fight etc, they are still part of a larger universe that will come together with the joint series, The Defenders.
7. Does not shy away from controversial topics
Jessica Jones is rightfully an adult show based on an adult comic book series and the amount of controversial topics that are addressed on the show are numerous. Within the first 13 episodes there were references to abortion, drug use, eating disorders, alcohol addiction, perhaps incest?, and none of this was treated flippantly, in each moment we felt the brevity of the situation and it was dealt with accordingly.
One of the biggest themes of the series has been rape. Metaphorically Kilgrave’s powers is rape – of the mind, of one’s will. He takes away control, he forces people to do what they usually wouldn’t. But he literally raped Jessica, as well as other female characters, by taking away their right to choose and making them have sex with him.
Kilgrave’s mindset is also very distinctively one of an abuser, he denies everything, he tries to make things better by saying that he loves Jessica or he was doing it for her, he attempts to blame the victim. In a society where women are constantly being blamed for their rape, the Jessica/Kilgrave allegory is poignant, it truly shows how ridiculous victim shaming is, and it is an important message that needs to be shown, how simple it is for men not only to wreck women with abuse, but also how easy it is to make it seem as if it was all the woman’s fault.
Jessica Jones is an excellent show, with strong writing, directing, acting and important social messages, it is a show that needs to be seen in 2015, one that needs to be discussed. With such a ray of positive remarks about it from both critics and the audience, as well as a good setup for a season 2, we are just crossing our fingers that Netflix renews this great new series.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is currently streaming on Netflix