With the holidays in the United States, there is a tradition of finishing a big meal and transitioning into some deep couch sitting as you watch some football. As of November 20th, though, you also had the option of watching some finely crafted Marvel Entertainment in the form of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. While you feasted on turkey, you could then binge on this darker and more noir-esque offering of a comic book-based show. If nothing else, you could watch David Tennant give one of the creepiest and nastiest villains in the Marvel universe a life on screen (seriously, it’s magnificent).
After binge-watching the show myself over the past week, I can honestly say that Jessica Jones, while not as polished as its predecessor, Marvel’s Daredevil, it is definitely worth some deep couch-sitting time.
The show centers on Jessica Jones, played by Kristen Ritter, as she struggles with PTSD, a drinking problem, and how to go about using her gifts. She’s haunted by the memory of her time under the evil influence of Zebediah Kilgrave aka The Purple Man (Tennant), who is gifted with mind control abilities through his voice. After finally escaping him, Jessica tries to start her life over, but is constantly reminded of the horrors and terrors endured while she was under his control. She starts up a private investigation firm where she gets freelance assignments from scumbag lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne-Moss), who feeds her leads. Jones then capitalizes a little on her powers of strength to help her score evidence for her clients. Ultimately, the PI is found by Kilgrave once again and after a series of horrible murders that leave a trail of innocent victims, Jessica decides to take a stand against her tormentor and his reign of horror. Along the way, she will get help from her foster sister and even another enhanced individual, a bar owner named Luke Cage (Mike Coulter), who has indestructible skin. Sweet Christmas!
The show is a based on some very dark source material, which is hard to imagine in today’s PG-13-oriented Disney-owned Marvel universe. There was sex, heavy use of adult language, and plenty of senseless gore and violence. We saw with Daredevil that Marvel wanted to deliver that same PG-13 universe even with a medium like Netflix where there were no rules or restrictions. Writer Melissa Rosenberg (as in Dexter series and Twilight movies) is able to focus the show not on the abilities of Jones or even the flash and CGI shenanigans like you see in Avengers and instead gives us a glimpse into PTSD and Jones’ struggle with her own demons. In fact, you see more stunt work and CGI work going on in any given week for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. No, Jessica Jones is more cerebral and works best categorized as “psychological thriller” rather than strictly “comic book adaptation.” Kilgrave through the first two acts (let’s ballpark it through episode 7 or 8) will have you squirming in your seat as his power compels people to do horrible things. No Marvel live-action property has come close to the evil and lack of remorse and power of a bad guy like this. Not even Loki.
But notice I said through the first two acts. My only hang up with this show was the fact that in the latter parts of the series, the story kind of unravels from the tight cohesiveness you see in the first half. Almost like Rosenberg was trying desperately to extend the action and put a nice little bow on the whole thing, but needed 3 more episodes before the ending. There’s an arc featuring Hogarth and all of her divorce drama from her wife that ultimately plays out like a “Jar Jar” (eluding to George Lucas’ inclusion of a WTF character) moment. I found myself wondering why were we meant to see all this stuff about Hogarth’s lesbian love triangle at one point as it just wasn’t meshing with the main plot. A second plot quietly and discretely gives us another sort of surprise Marvel villain intro that does end up having a good pay off. Still, there are moments where you find yourself saying “Oh come on, that’s too easy.” Most of those moments are in the third act. Speaking of crappy Phantom Menace-inspired moments, there’s even a “midi-chlorian”-esque plot line that had me squirming in my seat for all the wrong reasons.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones proves if nothing else that Marvel is becoming more and more adept at blending genres to give new life to comic book sourced material. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is as much a good “spy thriller” as it is a comic book movie. Jessica Jones is much the same, a wonderful “psychological thriller” in a Twilight Zone or even X-Files kind of way. The best way I can put it is that with Netflix’s first Marvel entity in Daredevil, I was suggesting to sign up for Netflix if nothing else to watch it. With Jessica Jones, I’m saying that if you already have Netflix, it’s a great binge-watch…just not one that I would sign up for Netflix just to see.
Catch the entire series of Marvel’s Jessica Jones available now for streaming on Netflix.