Jessica Jones – Terrifying and Terrific


The Netflix series goes into darker territory than any super-hero or comic-related franchise has before. It’s terrifying while also being terrific.

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This was tough to get through binge watching. The series is excellent; don’t get me wrong. Great acting and great writing abound, but, the tone of the show can be quite depressing and the bright moments were few. I had to wrap up each night’s viewing with a comedy to “cleanse my palette” from the strong aftertaste of bitterness and sorrow that pervades the show.

That said, Marvel’s Jessica Jones is another rousing success for Marvel and Netflix. The show is worthy of several awards. I love controlled use of color; Jessica Jones one-ups Daredevil in that department.

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Five Things to Love

  1. The acting
  2. Dealing with issues without preaching
  3. Great female characters
  4. Psychological thriller of the highest magnitude
  5. Epic villain

 

The Acting

Krysten Ritter is a huge revelation as Jessica Jones. Ritter must have been fatigued from this role. She really squeezes every ounce out of a masterful script. I completely believed her downward spiral into despair and self-loathing, her paralyzing fear, and her hair-trigger angry eruptions. Then, she progresses to dogged determination, immense perserverance and the love she has for her adopted sister. I felt every emotion from her, which made for several exhausting evenings as a viewer.

David Tennant strikes the perfect notes with equal parts terror and disgust, but just when you think you can’t hate him any more, he reveals a side that causes the viewer to edge towards sympathy.

Rachel Taylor’s first scene with Ritter was awkward. Possibly, this was directed as such. If so, it didn’t come off as intentional. After this first scene, her character grew and her acting performance improved with the expanded role. By series end, she was the only character that hadn’t been deconstructed. I found myself rooting for her by the end, making her peril most palpable for me.

Fantastic supporting roles delivered from Eka Darville, Wil Traval, Rosario Dawson and especially Erin Moriarity. As Hope Schlottman, she echoed Ritter’s performance with varying emotions. Her terror at hearing Kilgrave’s voice was heart-rending.

Dealing with social issues without preaching

Jessica Jones traverses waters infrequently navigated by most pop culture: PTSD, rape, domestic violence, abortion, manipulative and controlling relationships. The show does so without preaching, without passing judgement.

Jessica, the survivors group, and Hope all emote their trauma; they make us believe their PTSD in a way that’s never been demonstrated on film. They didn’t have to show us what happened in order for us to experience the helplessness, terror, self-loathing that comes with the territory.

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Hope Schlottman, another of the many broken lives left in Kilgrave’s wake

The show delves into multiple relationships steeped in lies, manipulation, and control, from Kilgrave’s relationships, to Jeri’s triangle, to Trish and Will with different degrees of control.

Great female characters

One aspect lacking in this modern, Golden Age of Heroic Cinema are strong female characters. Jessica Jones has strong and dynamic female characters in spades.

Not only do we get the amazing lead character with a ton of baggage and a wonderful back story steeped in guilt, but we also get two strong women as supporting characters: the eminently likable Patricia Walker and the esteemable but often unlikable Jeri Hogarth.

Both of these characters possess comic book origins. Jeryn Hogarth debuted in Iron Fist #6 (August 1976, John Byrne and Chris Claremont) and was also a central part of Heroes for Hire starring Luke Cage and Iron Fist. In the comics, Jeryn was male lawyer. In the Jessica Jones series, Jeryn “Jeri” Hogarth is a female lawyer with a “win at all costs” mentality that brings Jessica’s hellraiser attitude into her sphere.

Patricia Walker first debuted in Miss America #2 (November 1944) as Patsy Walker before getting her own comic series. She was pre-Marvel Timely’s most successful female character, appearing in Miss America, Teen Comics, Girls’ Life, Patsy Walker, Patsy and Her Pals, Patsy and Hedy and the single issue of A Date with Patsy. Patsy Walker was published from 1945 to 1965, making it one of Marvel’s most successful titles. Patsy and Her Pals ran from 1953 to 1967. In 1965, Patsy appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #3. Steve Englehart brought her into the Beast’s life in  Amazing Adventures before she appeared in the Avengers #141 and then in #144 as Hellcat. She then went on to be a key part of the Defenders from 1977 until the end of the first volume.

In Jessica Jones, Patricia “Trish” Walker is the host of the popular “Trish Talk” talk show and former childhood star named Patsy. She even has a fan accost her to sign a Patsy Walker #1 comic.

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Patsy Walker #1 (1945) by pre-Marvel Timely Comics

After these signature characters, Jessica Jones still provides Jeri’s separated wife, Dr. Wendy, and her mistress/secretary, Pam, the innocent prisoner, Hope, as well as the surprisingly talented Elizabeth Cappuccino, who plays the role of Young Jessica.

“Psychological thriller of the highest magnitude”

Jessica Jones has the appearance of a detective/mystery series, but at its heart, the show reveals itself to be a psychological thriller of the highest magnitude. At times, it even crosses over into horror.

There are several uncomfortable scenes of torture, both psychological and physical. At times, these scenes are difficult to watch. The acting and writing brings out the sheer terror of the victims. The building tension creates anticipated terror as riveting as the most monstrous thrillers.

When roles are reversed, it was especially troubling. I had a hard time getting through these few episodes, needing a light-hearted comedy to lift my mood.

The roller coaster ride for character arcs like Will Simpson and Hope Schlottman felt real, as if I knew these people and wanted to help them through their troubles.

Epic villain

David Tennant protrayed one of the most powerful villains of all time in Kilgrave. Not only was his mental domination effectively displayed, but the various tasks he commanded his mind controlled minions to do and the layers of precaution he took were masterful.

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At the same time, Kilgrave was also one of the most petty, selfish and base villains we’ve witnessed. He goes through all these machinations just because Jessica is the one that got away. He desparately wants to manipulate her in any way he can now that she is free.

Though he was an amazing villain, I hope he does not return. If there is a Jessica Season Two, I’d like to see a new foe created for that season. I think the ending to Season One was quite emphatic and should remain that way.

In the second part to this review of Jessica Jones, we’ll look at Five Things to Dislike about the show (after all, it was terrific but not perfect) and then wrap it up with a look at some Commonly Heard Complaints about the show that we’ll rebut here.

Here’s a preview of the topics:

Five Things to Dislike

  1. The finale
  2. The fight scenes
  3. Uneven display of Jessica’s strength
  4. Luke’s thread in the last two episodes
  5. Robyn is the most unlikeable character – ever

Commonly Heard Complaints

  1. Departure from the comic series
  2. The fight scenes
  3. The abrupt evolutions of Will Simpson
  4. Too slow moving

 

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