TV Review: ‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones’
The seemingly unending rolling out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on Netflix, following up the amazing Daredevil with another street level hero of the underdog, Jessica Jones. Adapted from the ‘Alias’ comic series the protagonist is a super strong, super agile Jones, working as a private eye in Hell’s Kitchen. Amid drinking herself into a stupor and making the acquaintance of bar man/fellow super power Luke Cage, Jessica has to contend with the return of Kevin Kilgrave. Known as ‘The Purple Man’ in comics, Kilgrave has the ability to make people do whatever he says, an ability he puts to horrifying use.
Jessica Jones walks a double edged sword in that it’s following up the hype train created by Daredevil, but has to face the inevitable comparison. Sadly, it isn’t quite as good as that series but that doesn’t mean it can’t stand on its own.
Right of the bat Jessica Jones does a great job of giving us Marvel’s first leading lady, something that the internet has been quick to point out is long overdue. Jessica, played admirably by Krysten Ritter (from Breaking Bad and Veronica Mars) is a tough as nails classic noir protagonist who isn’t hampered by female heroes cliches, nor is she playing catch-up with the male characters. Positioning her against The Purple Man, a rapist in both the physical and psychological sense, makes her great hero for the modern age. Kilgrave makes for a frightening villain, being able to turn anyone’s will against to his own need.
The story is, for the most part, well crafted. It adheres to a classic noir setting and plot with complex characters who can surprise you at any turn. The most interesting chapters are those that pit Jones and her allies against Kilgrave directly with the imaginative use of his powers and the ways they try to fight against him proving to be highlights of the show’s writing. At times during the inevitable binge watch feels like there’s some padding to stretch the adventure out to 13 episodes, with some of the side characters having only a tangental impact on the main conflict, such as Will ‘Nuke’ Simpson’s ongoing story thread.
Ritter does well carrying the leading role, but she tends to be overshadowed Mike Colter as Luke Cage whenever he joins the action. This is an especially big draw card for comic fans, Cage being one of the more popular but less recognised members of The Avengers. Colter looks like the character has walked straight off the page and on to the screen, and the actor has a commanding presence. This bodes well for his upcoming solo series. David Tennent was the biggest casting decisions for the role of Kilgrave. The former, immensely popular Doctor on Doctor Who was considered a good choice for the villain and many viewers were looking forward to his turn as a terrifying villain. Sadly he hasn’t moved far from his approach to how he played the Doctor, an already iconic role. This is unlike his show Broadchurch where he proved he was capable of distancing himself from that career making turn to powerful effect. As an avid Doctor Who watcher it was hard to see Kilgrave as something other than a loveable scamp instead of a force of evil during his early scenes.
On occasion the action scenes don’t manage to match the high production values of the show. Most of the practical effects look believable but some of Jones’ super strong attacks don’t carry the weight of one of Captain America’s punches. Often this is down to seems in the editing, where we’d see Jones throw a punch before cutting to an enemy hitting a wall without really seeing the hit connect.
Overall this is a great series, much better than most of what television has to offer. It’s a genuinely dark and engaging modern noir with a super hero twist. Along with Daredevil it’s a welcome addition to the MCU. Looking forward to the Defenders coming together as a team in the future.