Creator: Melissa Rosenberg
Stars: Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Rachael Taylor, Wil Traval
Genres: Action, Detective, Drama, Neo-noir, Superhero
Premiere: November 20th, 2015
Best part: The dynamic performances.
Worst part: Not enough Luke Cage.
In 2015, the Marvel Cinematic Universe juggernaut showed no sign of slowing down. The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man were fun, edge-of-your-seat thrill-rides performing on their own whilst setting up future installments. In addition, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD gained traction, responded valiantly to the events of the aforementioned blockbusters, and gained a bigger audience. However, the best Marvel properties belonged to Netflix, proving just how far the online streaming service has come this year.
Daredevil Season 1 expertly combined The Dark Knight Trilogy‘s ‘dark and gritty’ crime-thriller style/vision with tension-inducing chills and subdued performances. As The Wire meets Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the series became a binge-watcher’s dream for 13 straight hours. Its follow-up, Jessica Jones, took many significant leaps of faith. The show, pulling an obscure character out of the shadows, sets up its unique tone and establishes itself in the darker New York/MCU world.
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a private investigator with a cynical edge and lust for vengeance. Infidelity and harmful actions are good for business, accentuating her status as one of few effective freelance PI offices left in Manhattan. After putting an end to her superhero career, she leaves her powers to roughing up thugs and lowlifes coming through her door at Alias Investigations. Witnessing university hopeful Hope Shlottmann (Erin Moriarty) murder her own parents, Jones is convinced her supervillainous arch nemesis/ex-boyfriend, Kilgrave (David Tennant), has returned to destroy her.
This mash-up of detective, neo-noir, superhero, and psychological-thriller tropes is one of 2015’s most transformative shows. Developed effectively by Melissa Rosenberg, the series provides a fresh, inspired take on drama narrative and socially relevant themes on screen. The first three episodes (AKA Ladies Night, AKA Crush Syndrome, AKA It’s Called Whiskey), in particular, apply neo-noir’s sickening atmosphere and aesthetic to its arresting character study elements. The show highlights each detail of Jones’ investigation, efficiently setting up the pieces before knocking them down spectacularly.
Jessica Jones, predictably labelled ‘feminist’ by people who don’t know any better, provides balanced versions of both genders. Unlike many superhero films/series’ etc., the female characters are given depth beyond their abilities. Jones is a survivor, brought to her knees by everything and everyone throughout her life. The lead is the series’ best asset – a well-rounded being succumbing to temptation (booze, sex etc.) and emotional connections realistically. On the other side of the conflict, Kilgrave is the MCU’s most enthralling antagonist. As an obsessive ex-boyfriend type, he preys on Jones’ issues (post traumatic stress disorder, assault etc.) with fearsome tenacity. Diverting from the urban, predator-prey dynamic of preceding episodes, AKA You’re A Winner! peels back the layers of Jones and Kilgrave’s pasts.
The supporting characters, throughout the confronting, visceral run, succinctly off-set Jones’ sickening, ever-increasing aura. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is a well-natured, charming character with scores to settle of his own. Sadly, however, after several gruelling twists and turns, the character takes an extended hiatus. Jones’ friend/sidekick Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is a force of personality, utilising her sarcastic wit and personal quarrels to significant effect. Her on-again/off-again dynamic with Will Simpson (Wil Traval) sizzles during the show’s more intimate moments. Carrie Ann Moss gives a strong turn as the lesbian attorney stuck in Jones’ circle of hell.
Despite the exhaustive number of episodes, Jessica Jones is a detective-thriller and superhero-action smackdown in equal measure. Despite the focus on darkness, violence, and heavy subject matter, the show’s performances, tone, and intricate attention to detail establish its merits as a stand-alone series and extension of the MCU.
Verdict: ‘Dark and gritty’ done right.