Daredevil received incredible critical acclaim for its dark and gritty nature and for pushing the superhero genre beyond the frequently recycled formula regularly seen on the big screen. So how did the second of these Netflix/Marvel series fare?
When Marvel and Netflix decided to team up to make a string of comic book series, it appeared to be a match made in heaven. And after the release of the first of these series, Daredevil that perfect match was all but confirmed.
Jessica Jones has big shoes to fill after the success of Daredevil, and unlike Daredevil, it doesn’t have a particularly recognisable lead character unless you are already well educated in comic books. Whilst Daredevil has become well known even outside of comic book fans, the name Jessica Jones is not only unknown, it’s frankly forgettable. If like many others you haven’t gotten around to a marathon of the entire series in the week and a bit since the show came out, or if you are looking to see if this show is for you, this review will be completely spoiler free so you can read ahead without worrying about ruining a crucial moment in the show.
Based on Marvel’s ‘Alias’ comics, the plot of the show is a little different to your average superhero flick. This is by no means an origin story. Where the show begins, the title character Jessica Jones, played by Krysten Ritter, has already tried and failed at being a super hero. With incredible strength, the ability to jump great heights and a tongue as sharp as a knife, it is at first difficult to see how she failed. However, after a traumatic and destructive time spent with the shows main villain, the mind controlling Kilgrave (David Tennant), Jessica Jones has resigned herself to a life of poor choices and alcoholism. Now working as a Private Investigator, Jessica spends much of her time collecting proof of adultery to help her clients get a divorce. However, when the mysterious Kilgrave returns to New York and takes a new victim, Jessica’s life suddenly takes a dark and dramatic turn.
Jessica Jones takes a heart-shattering look into the true nature of mental illness. Not only does the hero of the story suffer from PTSD due to her initial run-ins with Kilgrave, she also regularly suffers from panic attacks, nightmares and flashbacks that we’ve really never seen properly tackled in a comic book piece before. The show heavily emphasises the theme of trauma and Krysten Ritter somehow manages to expertly flitter between the emotionally dead alcoholic that is shown to the outside world and the traumatised and violated woman. However, despite the focus on Jones’ mental illness, the show doesn’t portray Marvel’s first female lead as just another damsel in distress. Far from it, in fact. The first time we see Jessica alongside the unbreakable-skinned, muscle clad, Luke Cage (Mike Colter), due for his own show in 2016, Jessica not only holds her own, but visibly shocks Cage at just how strong and capable she is. Krysten Ritter is not just a strong lead, she makes the role completely her own. There is not a single moment in the 13 episode series that could be considered a “weak” Ritter moment. However, despite an all but impeccable performance by Ritter, the stage was somehow still stolen from her.
Marvel fans have a very dismal relationship with the idea of mind control. Many fans were outraged to see Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye reduced to a mindless drone for much of the first Avengers movie, and the majority of those fans were once again a little miffed to see the plot device come back again in Avengers: Age of Ultron, albeit this time with Hawkeye spared the embarrassment. So for Marvel to introduce a TV series completely revolving a villain who once again can bend the will of his victims, fans would be forgiven for being apprehensive going into the show. However, in this instance, Marvel hit the right spot in every single way imaginable. They managed to take the concept of one of our favourite heroes being forced to do the bidding of the menacing villain, and actually make it genuinely terrifying. There is a constant feeling that people are in serious danger when around Kilgrave.
David Tennant is arguably one of the finest acting talents in the UK. Having performed in numerous stage plays, starred in ITV Drama ‘Broadchurch’ and, perhaps most notably, became one of the most popular iterations of the Doctor in BBC’s iconic Sci-Fi series Doctor Who. In Jessica Jones however, he could not be further from the heroic Doctor. In fact the only thing that the two characters have in common is utter madness, although whilst the Doctor’s madness makes him fun and quirky, Kilgrave’s madness is dark and creepy beyond comparison. Kilgrave happily takes control of anyone whom he sees fit and brutally tortures them mentally, and often physically too, until he gets exactly what he wants. David Tennant, adopting the same English accent we heard in Doctor Who rather than his native Scottish accent, masterfully manages to be authoritative to the extent that one might start to believe the mind controlling madman could actually take control of you as you watch the show. Kilgrave is brutal. Unrelenting. Remorseless. He is everything you should fear in the world. David Tennant makes Kilgrave such a scary and powerful character. Despite a long list of incredible and iconic roles, Kilgrave may just be his finest acting performance to date, and whilst Marvel can be commended for a strong cast of actors, none of which disappoint, Tennant himself was an inspired and outstanding casting choice.
If you’re a fan of the fantastical, wisecracking nature of the Marvel cinematic universe, Jessica Jones may be a step a little too far. This show is dark. Very dark. It is brutal and gruesome and most certainly not for the faint of heart. However, you need to watch this show. It is utterly brilliant with a tremendous script, mind-blowing cinematography, and a whole host of fantastic actors. Jessica Jones has not only stepped up to the level of its sister show Daredevil; it has stepped up with the very best of TV, and there is no doubt that it will be commissioned for a second season, as Daredevil was. When advertising started, many people questioned who this Jessica Jones character was. Now, however, there is no doubt that very soon the world will know her name.