Jessica Jones, the latest Marvel Comics addition to the Netflix universe is truly marvelous, but not in the way you might think. This isn’t a television offering about a low-grade Black Widow from the Avengers films. No, this is a step forward in live-action super beings. For the first time we get to see what would happen if a superhero was presented in more than one dimension.
Jessica Jones is, dare I say it, the most fully-formed superhero drama in TV history.
Yes, I realize every fan of The Flash is preparing to spam me into oblivion right now, but hang on a moment, please? Keep an open mind and scroll through the list below. The life you save will hopefully be mine.
1) Jessica Jones is real. No, you can’t actually locate her using Google Earth, fanboys. But Krysten Ritter has given us a heroine who is a human being first and a not-so-caped-crusader second. I’m going to elaborate in a moment, but know this: if Heath Ledger were still with us, well, let’s just say that I’d pay good money to witness a sit-down between him and Ritter.
She doesn’t just portray Jessica, she absorbs the rich emotions in the script and she transmits them for our benefit. I can’t imagine Ritter slept easy after shooting her character’s first unbelievably-tense confrontation with the show’s Big Mega-Bad, mind controlling, Zebediah Kilgrave. Like its Netflix predecessor, Daredevil, Jessica Jones is a grim ‘n gritty comic book on the small screen.
2) Jessica has sex. This is the detail that has generated the biggest buzz about this show. Many of the points to follow stem from this detail, hence its early inclusion. So far, we’ve only seen sexual intercourse hinted at, inferred or barely shown at all in the live-action Marvel Universe. Jessica Jones changes all that.
She has super powered nasty, no-holds-barred sex with Luke Cage.
She is raped, psychologically and through others, by Kilgrave.
She is defined by these experiences and the audience is right there with her. The sex isn’t just set dressing, it’s an invaluable plot point that the entire show hinges on. This isn’t Game of Thrones, kids. This is “real” sex, with all its many consequences.
3) PTSD is as much a part of the show as the actors themselves. Krysten Ritter’s Jones is a rape survivor; if you don’t pick up on that fact you’ll be hopelessly lost. This isn’t a shell-shocked Tony Stark in Iron Man 3; this is what happens when a person is violated so deeply they truly never recover. Her imprisonment and subsequent torture by Kilgrave drives her entire existence. From the moment she regains her freedom, her mission is to stop him once and for all.
4) Viewers have already formed a real connection with a fictional character. Let’s face it, we all love The Avengers flicks and their many ancillary spin-off films, but when was the last time they truly touched your heart? The first Captain America film had some noteworthy moments, but watching Jessica struggle to hold herself together after being raped touched off some painful moments for me on a personal level, and believe it or not, that is the greatest compliment I can pay the show’s scribes and crew.
5) We finally get to see a hero face a real challenge. For most of us, battling a gang of thugs would be pretty cool if we had impervious skin and super strength. But paying the bills? Not so much. Jessica becomes a private eye to pay the rent, not save the world one case at a time. She’ll step up when circumstances demand it, but the rest of the time she’s living paycheck to paycheck, with the wolf not just at the door but breathing down her neck.
6) Luke Cage. He’s not Power Man in this series. (Maybe when his own Netflix series debuts? Or maybe not.) But regardless of what he calls himself, Cage is THE MAN. Period.
Mike Colter gives us a Luke who hasn’t decided to be a Hero For Hire yet but he’s a good man (of few words) nonetheless. And Luke Cage is indispensable to the Jessica Jones mythos, as he’s Jessica’s perfect match, in and out of the bedroom.
7) Rachael Taylor as Patricia “Trish” Walker. According to the show’s creators: “A former model and child star known as ‘Patsy’ who is Jones’ adoptive sister and best friend.” Hardcore nerds such as myself will recognize this character as the future (we can only pray) Hellcat.
How nerdtastic is that?
Little known fact: Carol Danvers was Jessica’s best friend when the series was first being developed but the movie universe snatched her up for a Ms. Marvel film – which may or may not happen. Personally, as a kid of the Seventies who grew up reading every single Defenders comic Marvel produced, I never imagined I’d see a live-action Patsy Walker or for that matter, a Defenders series. Then again, if you’d told me we’d all be using Star Trek communicators to talk to each other someday, I’d have asked you for a hit of whatever you were smoking.
And speaking of the original “non-team”…
8) All roads lead to the Defenders crossover miniseries. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the upcoming individual Iron Fist and Luke Cage series will culminate with the aforementioned Defenders series where bad guys’ heads will no doubt get bashed in glorious and inventive ways.
9) Jessica Jones is true to its “funny book” roots. Sorry, but my late father-in-law always referred to comics as “funny books” and so this is my way of honoring him. At any rate, this series has done a helluva job adapting a hard-boiled, noir comic, going so far as to lift lines right from the source material. The result is a series that leaves us eternally grateful that we can binge-watch it rather than having to wait a week for our next fix.
And finally, the last reason you should be watching Jessica Jones…
10) This is not your roommate’s Doctor Who. He may not be the Purple Man but David Tennant‘s Kilgrave is as brilliantly depraved as his Tenth Doctor was superbly righteous. The comic book version of Kilgrave has never truly been an A-List villain – except in the Jessica Jones comic, Alias – but make no mistake, Tennant has made this mysterious man who can control anyone with his voice into a charming but completely twisted character who sits at the core of Jessica’s heroic journey.
Everything in the series revolves around Kilgrave’s maniacal obsession with Jessica; her relationship with Luke, her friendships, her world view, her entire life is colored by the trauma this monster inflicted upon her.
No offense to Krysten Ritter, but if you remove Kilgrave (and to a lesser extent, Luke Cage) from the mix and Jessica Jones wouldn’t be worth your time. But he’s here and so the series rocks harder than Benjamin J. Grimm at a Metallica concert. So get over to Netflix and binge-watch Jessica Jones. Do it now.
See you on the streets of Pulp Nation, kids…