April 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Geek Review: Jessica Jones


Disney owns a lot of stuff right now.  It freaked me out a wee little bit last year when I stopped at a Disney Store last Christmas and was reminded they now have Star Wars, Marvel Comics, and the Muppets.

Point is, we here at Gabbing Geek have inadvertently ignored one of those properties because another one just put out a new movie.

Anyway, here’s some thoughts on the new Netflix series Jessica Jones.  SPOILERS after the cut.

TOM:  Jessica Jones always struck me as an odd choice for a TV series.  Not a bad one, mind you, just an odd one.  Jessica isn’t really a superhero; she’s a private detective.  Her original series, the one that helped launch the now defunct Marvel Max line for mature readers and brought crime and espionage independent comic writer Brian Michael Bendis to Marvel, existed on the outskirts of the Marvel universe.  She’d run into superheroes and villains from time to time (Carol Danvers was her best friend, she dated Scott Lang for a period, etc.), but she didn’t really have a rogue’s gallery of her own.  Even the Purple Man was more of a Daredevil foe than anything else.

But it turns out Marvel did this one right.  Though not perfect, I would argue it came out better than Daredevil, and I really liked Daredevil.  Daredevil played almost like an origin story, where Matt Murdock struggled to find his place in the neighborhood and bring down a crime lord.  Jessica Jones didn’t really do that.  She was already an established character, and the origin of her powers was only hinted at.  She even summed it up with a single word when asked:  “Accident.”

What made Jessica Jones different was the themes being played with here.  Jessica is a rape victim with extreme PTSD.  It makes her moody, antisocial, and a heavy drinker.  The series actually does a very good job of depicting what that does to a person.  It also helps that much of Kilgrave’s lines about whether or not he raped Jessica are actual things real rapists have been known to say.

The series also has an ongoing theme of how the powerful treat the powerless, and it isn’t always men doing it.  Kilgrave is the obvious example here, but he isn’t the only one.  Officer Simpson, a cop and a commando or something, even when he isn’t taking the red pills, tends to make things worse instead of better when he tries to play the White Knight.  And on the female side, Jeri Hogarth, a male lawyer associated with Iron Fist in the comics, really treats just about everyone in a cold, manipulative manner.  You’d want her in court with you, but not anywhere else.  Arguably, even Trish’s mother falls into this category.

And a final thing going on is the power of female friendship.  The bond between Jessica and Trish is rather well-done.  These two have been together forever and have each other’s backs without question.  I’ll be surprised if Trish ever goes full Hellcat, but so far the two have the tightest emotional bond I’ve seen in any Marvel product.  This is a friendship that’s lasted far longer than needs to be said, and both Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor make it work.

As for standouts, Ritter was fantastic.  I think everyone expected her to be as soon as the casting was announced.  The closest I came to a gripe was, having read the original series, I actually thought she looked too young, which was odd.  David Tennet also made a chilling Kilgrave.  By turns petulant and confused, Kilgrave honestly didn’t see what he was doing as wrong.  Asking how people get by without having people do whatever they want was a character-defining moment, and he was undoubtedly creepy.  So much so I did a double-take when visiting a toy store recently and seeing a lifesize cardboard cutout of him as Doctor Who knocked me for a loop.

A special mention on Mike Colter’s Luke Cage…I am really looking forward to his solo series after this.  He was a cool guy that seems like the sort of person you’d want to have watch your back, and even as a straight guy, I have to say he was one handsome man.  Even the fight choreography brought out a key characteristic in the difference between him and Jessica.  Jessica wades in swinging wildly in any scuffle.  Cage just walks around, almost looking bored, without the slightest bit of excitement to his movements.

The series wasn’t perfect.  Jeri’s divorce seemed a distraction, even if it did add up to something later.  Ruben and his weird sister didn’t seem to have a purpose.  And it really doesn’t pay to be a middle aged black man on a Marvel Netflix series.

All things being equal, I’ll give this one  a eight and a half out of ten creepy Kilgrave orders.

Jimmy:   With Watson still missing somewhere in the Serengeti after a white water rafting expedition that went horribly wrong, Jenny spending all her time since Halloween looking for clues on the existence of The Great Pumpkin, which she insists is real; and Ryan…well, we love Ryan.  Needless to say, with the head geeks mostly indisposed, a certain geek property hasn’t gotten its share of love around here.  Jessica Jones.

Thanks to the success of Daredevil, Jessica Jones had a lot of hype leading up to its release.  When even Ms. Impossible, who knows nothing about most geek properties, asked when we would be watching it, you know something is up.  But was it possible for Marvel to take an almost completely unknown character and introduce her to the mainstream and reach the lofty heights set by Daredevil?  In a word: yes.

Full disclosure, I’ve never read Alias, the comic that the series is based on.  I’m also only partially through the first season of Breaking Bad so Krysten Ritter has only just shown up, so I don’t know much about her either.  In some ways this allowed me to view the series as a blank slate which is not something I can often do with these Marvel properties.

To cut right to the chase, Jessica Jones is awesome.  The story is unique and enthralling.  The characters are interesting and the acting is top notch.  It tows the company line and has a few winks and nods to Daredevil and the rest of the MCU, but nothing that appears heavy handed except for maybe the appearance of Rosario Dawson, but she seems to be the new Coulson of the Netflix universe.

Getting the majority of the screen time of course is Ritter as Jones.  I can’t compare her to the Jessica Jones in Alias since I’ve never read it as I mentioned, but she appears to nail the part.  She is definitely believable as a former superhero that now plays PI and would much rather drink than where a spandex jewel embossed suit.  But you know these super hero types…you can take the suit off the hero but you can’t take the hero out of the suit.  Or something like that,;I just needed to set up this Watson approved segue and since he’s not here…

And speaking of taking the suit off the hero…before you sit down to watch this with your kids, be forewarned…there is A LOT of sex in the show.  No nudity, but bed breaking, wall smashing…I can’t believe this is Marvel boot knocking every time you turn around.  It tails (hehe) off a bit in the second half of the season, but was a bit of a surprise in the first half.

There isn’t as much time for relationships as the second half focuses more on the hunting of the mind control villain Kilgrave.  Dr. Who is another property I have no history with, so David Tennant was an unknown to me, but like Ritter, he nails it.  It can be tough to pull off a mind controller without any “effects”.  There’s no “hand to the temple” concentrating.  No wavy lines appearing between him and his victims.  No looks of constipation as he strains his brain to make others do the unthinkable.  Just simple commands without breaking stride.

With regards to the lack of effects, the biggest weakness of the show is when they do try to show Jessica use her powers.  Which is not often, but does comesoff as hacky or cheap.  This show could easily have been reworked somewhat so that she had no powers at all.  But she uses them sparingly and the narrative pushes most of the action, so it’s not too distracting.

I think if you enjoyed Daredevil, you will enjoy Jessica Jones.  They are very similar in style and pacing and probably both could have been edited down to about 11 episodes from 13.  But you never want to stop watching.  It is darker than Daredevil in many aspects, easily the darkest thing that Marvel has ever done.  A psychological thriller that just happens to have some indestructible people as some of its main characters.
Score: I’ll give Jessica Jones 8.5 broken doors out of 10.  I think it is just a shade below Daredevil overall which is probably a 9.  Both are awesome and if you are looking for something to do over the holiday season and you haven’t seen either yet, they are a great way to binge for 26 hours.