I’m just going to put this out there – I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or the MCU for short).
I especially love the world that it offers; from larger then life superheroes and green rage monsters taking down aliens, all the way down to a blind vigilante beating up thugs, The MCU has become a living, breathing universe that, while unrestricted by the confines of reality, offers us a fantastical yet believable world where colour and fun can co-exist with grit. This was something that dawned upon me as I was going through my binge of Marvel’s Jessica Jones (God bless Netflix and their full season at a time policy) that, like the previous Netflix/Marvel collaboration (Daredevil) is a look into the life of one of Marvel’s street-level heroes and also, perhaps one of Marvel’s most obscure.
I’ll be honest, being the comic-book fan that I am, I had little to no idea about who Jessica Jones really was. All I knew about her character was that she used to be a Superhero who, after experiencing a trauma of some sort, decided to give up her life as a hero and became a Private Investigator instead. Little did I know about how dark her story really is, and that is especially true of this show as well, which stays true to her comic-book persona as far as possible. Make no mistake, Jessica Jones is dark; perhaps even more dark than Daredevil (and that show featured a character decapitating another character with a car door) but unlike, say, shows like Arrow or Gotham (That’s not a dig on DC shows by the way, I like The Flash quite a bit) the darkness here never feels forced, it’s always earned and it actually contributes to establishing the identity of this show as a noir detective story first and a superhero story second. Powers are important in this story, yes, but never at the expense of the story and I can understand if that might put off some viewers. For me, personally though, I loved every second of it. (Well, mostly every second atleast. this, like almost every other show bar Fargo and Breaking Bad, is not flawless of course)
The show primarily revolves around Jessica Jones and her arch nemesis, The despicable Kilgrave (If the name sounds corny, don’t worry, they actually address that in the show) who has perhaps one of the most terrifying powers that any despicable psychopath could have – Mind control. Now, if you’ve not seen the show yet, I can understand if you just rolled your eyes at that, but trust me, you might have seen Mind control in movies before, but never like this. Here, we see how Kilgrave, through his powers, actually affects his victims in a manner that’s both intrusive and traumatising. He makes people slit their own throats, He makes them throw boiling hot coffee on their own faces and in one instance, he makes someone kill their own loved ones. That’s just scratching the surface though, because here, we actually get to see these people go through the after effects and the consequences of what Kilgrave makes them do in a form of PTSD. I mean, think about it, mind control or not, how do you come back from killing your loved ones? This is the kind of stuff that this show addresses by putting the survivors front and centre. Jessica is one of these survivors and her interactions with Kilgrave form some of the best moments on television.
I’m not going to go into the plot in detail as I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything but trust me when I say this, This show is subversive, unexpected and at times, almost terrifying in it’s portrayal of broken people and the people who made them that way. (and yes, it’s extremely violent as well. Also, sex scenes…lots of sex scenes)
Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has done a tremendous job in adapting this show from the comic-books that it’s based on. While certain character motivations/origins have been changes, the overall aesthetic and feel of the show mimics that of the comic-book and seeing that the comic-book run was excellent (I binge-read the whole thing right after the last episode of the show), that’s a good thing.
Krysten Ritter, perhaps most famous for playing Jesse Pinkman’s ill-fated girlfriend in Breaking Bad, plays Jessica Jones and she does a marvellous job at it (No pun intended). Her Jessica is a hard-drinking, foul mouthed, strong, yet vulnerable bad ass who’s extremely likeable and given that that’s a hard balance to pull off, Ritter does it wonderfully well. I hadn’t mentioned this before but Luke Cage, the hero with skins as hard as steel, is present here as well. Played to perfection by Mike Colter, he’s a character that proves to be integral to the story of Jessica Jones and the way that the writers have incorporated him into this story is a marvel of writing (again, no pun intended) but I won’t go into how much he affects this story as I want you to experience it first hand. I will say this though, I loved how they incorporated his catchphrase “Sweet Christmas” here. Last but not the least, comes, quite arguably, the MVP of this show – David Tennant, famous for his run as the eponymous Doctor in Dr. Who, as the villain Kilgrave (“Purple Man” in the comics, and no, unlike the comics, he isn’t purple in this show, although they do come quite close). Tennant’s portrayal of Kilgrave is perhaps the best interpretation of a Comic-Book villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker (Yes, I went there). Everytime he was on screen, I found myself transfixed and engrossed. Horrified by what he does, sure, but never less than amazed. He’s an evil, maniacal, irredeemable psychopath that Tennant plays wonderfully well and it says something about the writing and the acting when you actually begrudgingly start feeling pangs of sympathy for the antagonist. What does it say? , I hear you asking…Well, it says that the writing and acting is bloody damn brilliant. There are a couple of side characters in the show as well that serve integral to the plot but again, not going into much detail about them. Also, look out for a character from Daredevil that makes their appearance here.
On a technical level, the show is beautiful to look at – With a lot of purple and black hues that lend the proceedings both a thematic and visual weight and further contributes to it’s noir-ish sensibilities. The direction is great, with a lot of unique angles and shots that serve as a visual feast for cinephiles everywhere. I especially love the use of the purple lighting to indicate Kilgrave’s presence. The music is more Jazz based which, given the show’s aforementioned noir sensibilities, totally fits it’s overall tone.
My only actual gripe with the show is with regards to some of the show’s supporting characters and the pacing in a few of the episodes. Some characters felt completely out of place and unnecessary while
some had, in my opinion, unsatisfactory endings (One directly reminded me of Ben Urich from Daredevil) and the pacing in some episodes could have been improved. Thing is though, all those are, as you must have guessed, me nitpicking because this show, as a superhero character driven noir, is excellent.
After this and Daredevil, I look forward with bated breath to further Netflix/Marvel collaborations. The upcoming ones are Luke Cage, Daredevil S2, Iron Fist and their team-up show “The Defenders”. To think that we live in a world where we can get such high quality adaptations of comic-book characters as well as high quality cinematic blockbusters based on them (Civil War !), I reckon it’s a great time to be a comic-book fan.