Marvel’s Jessica Jones is quite possibly the best entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. The series’ first season is liberally sprinkled with the kind of plot and dialogue you might find in the best work of Dashiell Hammett or Philip Chandler – and seasoned with the kind of problematic superheroic action of a Stan Lee (though the actual use of powers is not as overt, for the most part, as with Netflix’s Daredevil series).
Jones is a former superhero (it ended badly for her) who has taken to working as a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen. She is touchy, tough, paranoid and suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. She can’t stop herself from trying to help innocents who are in trouble, but she hides those impulses under snark, cynicism and a bottle of Wild Turkey (or some other equally vile concoction). If there was a poster person for Damaged Goods Hero, she would be on it.
A missing persons case leads Jones (Krysten Ritter) onto a path that eventually ensnares her one true friend, Patricia ‘Trish’ Walker (Rachael Taylor, Charlie’s Angels, 666 Park Avenue) and potential boyfriend Luke Cage (Mike Colter, The Following, The Good Wife) – not to mention her lawyer, Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix, Fido) and a number of her neighbors in the rundown building where she rents an office/apartment.
As the series progresses, we learn more and more about Jones’ past – her brief attempt at being a superhero; her succumbing to the mind control of Kilgrave (David Tennant, Doctor Who, Broadchurch); how she and Trish became friends; how she comes to connect with local bar owner Luke Cage – and the why of her PTSS and seeking refuge in alcohol.
It’s worth noting that the first season doesn’t end happily ever for everyone – that missing persons case, for example, comes a calamitous conclusion…
If you’re looking for superheroics, you’ll get more than a few moments of super-powered action, but we are not talking Daredevil level mayhem. No, with the exception of Kilgrave’s constant use of his mind control ability, the powers are apportioned out carefully (a broken bed is one of the funnier moments).
It’s worth noting that, although Luke Cage plays a fairly large part in the series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones never feels like it’s setting up the upcoming Luke Cage series. That’s because Cage and Jones had a relationship in the AKA Jessica Jones comics (which I’m sure also played a part in Marvel-Netflix plan for expanding Marvel’s television presence). The connection between Cage and Jones is not what it first appears to be, and that becomes a defining series of events for both characters.
If you’ve watched Breaking Bad and Don’t Trust the B—- in apartment 23, then you know that Ritter can play snark and handle any humor and drama that might be required of her. What you will see in Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the way she takes things to a whole new level, leaking Jones’ pain and rage out in slowly increasing waves until she reaches the point where the character could either snap, or choose not to.
Tennant is not a revelation as Kilgrave. Between his work on Doctor Who, Broadchurch and an inspired take on Hamlet, he has shown that he has a very deep and wide range – and with Kilgrave, he gets to be funny, scary, poignant and always, always creepy.
The real revelation is Rachael Taylor. Until Marvel’s Jessica Jones, she’d not been given anything really challenging to do and now, we get to see her in a whole new light.
As Trish Walker, Taylor plays a high-powered radio talk show host who has survived being a child star managed by an abusive stage mom (Rebecca De Mornay, Hatfields and McCoys). As Jones’ friend, she becomes a logical target for Kilgrave, who seems to be out to mess with Jones’ head before doing much worse.
Taylor makes the character pop – even getting a few moments to tease the character’s comics character, Hellcat.
Even lesser characters – like the twins, Reuben (Kieran Mulcare) and Robyn (Colby Minifie), or Jones’ junkie neighbor, Malcolm (Eka Darville, The Originals, Empire) – feel like they have lives that carry one when they’re not onscreen. And don’t get me started on Jones’ lawyer, Jeri Hogarth – a character whom sharks give professional courtesy…
Plus Daredevil’s Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) makes a small, pivotal appearance.
Created for television by Melissa Rosenberg, Marvel’s Jessica Jones takes bits of Chandler, Hammett and Lee (as Brian Michael Bendis did for the comic) and fused them into a fresh, hard-boiled world right down to the Dutch angles and venetian blinds.
No Marvel fan should miss Marvel’s Jessica Jones – nor should any real fan of noir (prose or film).
Final Grade: A+