Now, I know what some of you might be thinking. Peter, why are you writing about a show that premiered last fall? Why not review the more recent Daredevil Season 2? WHY?!? Because Jessica Jones is better. That’s why. Daredevil is fantastic and I loved the second season, and may even had a more enjoyable experience viewing Daredevil, but I want to write about Jessica Jones more. It is simply a deeper and thematically richer experience. And as badass as Daredevil is when fighting the Punisher and how much I loved, LOVED, Elektra on the recent season, it still doesn’t beat my experience watching Jessica Jones when it premiered several months ago.
I am a fan of most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, but I haven’t seen Agents of Shield and I do want to see Peggy Carter, I just haven’t made the time yet. I am a big fan of Daredevil, as stated above, and am loving the style and tone of the Netflix shows so far. Having said that, Jessica Jones might just be my favorite thing that Marvel has produced for its cinematic universe. I loved this show for being so bold and adult and intriguing. It is a fantastic show and everyone should go see it, but, like the first season of Daredevil, is not without its flaws. Without further ado, here are five things that I liked, and two things I disliked about Jessica Jones Season 1 (be aware of some MINOR SPOILERS in the following paragraphs).
5 Things That I Adored and Loved, 1 Thing I Found Disappointing, and 1 Thing I Hated about Jessica Jones
- It’s an Incredibly Adult Show
This show does not skirt away from rape, murder, gory images, child abuse, drug addiction, sex, race, drugs, alcoholism, abortion, and PTSD. This is not a show for kids or the weak-minded and weak-stomached. As violent and brutal as Daredevil is, it does not compare to the grim situations that Jessica Jones presents. I loved this season, and the main reason why was how honest and realistic it treated all of these tough subject matters. It does not judge the character who has an abortion. It does not use rape as shock value, the sex is prominent and not hidden (although it seems like the only two things the Netflix shows can’t do is show full nudity and say the word “fuck”, but everything else is a-ok), and the violence is shocking and brutal. The world surrounding Jessica Jones is brutal and unforgiving, and at the center of it is a layered performance of its central character who’s life is drowning in all of these depressing and adult situations.
- Krysten Ritter
Krysten Ritter makes this show. I have enjoyed her as an actress ever since I saw her in She’s Out of My League and then in Breaking Bad. I always enjoyed her sardonic personality, which is perfect for Jessica. Ritter is asked to portray a range of emotions and situations on this show, and she handles each scene with consistent intelligence and humanity. Ritter is great in this role and has great chemistry with her co-stars. She is totally believable as this down-and-dirty PI who has a good heart, but has lost her spirit and motivation to help out those really in need due to the trauma and violence she has experienced. Ritter deserved a great role such as this and I can’t wait to see her return as Jessica Jones, hopefully sooner rather than later.
- The Themes
This show deserves to be lauded for the maturity and honesty in which it explores its themes of control, personal choice, rape culture, and PTSD. Jessica is a character who has experienced severe trauma at the hands of Kilgrave and I love how the show explores her pain and fear head on. It does not skirt the issue of rape; the writers come right out and have the characters flat out call Kilgrave a rapist. For a show that is produced by Marvel, known for their more family friendly action movies, and let’s not forget that Marvel is owned by Disney, it surprised me how dark and depraved the show can be, for which I was so grateful. The themes make this show truly groundbreaking. And the honesty and tact the writers and performers have while handling these heavy themes make this series great. It does not exploit the idea of rape for shock value, it uses it to allow the audience to understand how painful and serious Kilgrave’s crimes are. Whenever he possesses someone, I couldn’t help but fear him and the possibilities.
- The Villain
Kilgrave is downright terrifying at times. David Tenant is fantastic bringing the Purple Man to life. He is wickedly charming and funny in the role, while oozing creepiness and perversion. But most importantly, he is human. As the season unfolds, you learn more about Kilgrave’s history and emotions that bring a great deal of complexity to his character. But whenever the audience may become too sympathetic, Tenant’s performance as this sociopath or a character’s reminder that he is, without denial, a rapist and murderer, makes Kilgrave vile again. Kilgrave is one of the MCU’s better villains, which I know isn’t saying much because the only other good villain is Loki, but he is wonderfully created and realized on this show. I was excited every time he was on screen because the character was so unpredictable and I had this paranoia of never knowing which character was under his control. Kilgrave is a great villain and Tenant gives a soaring performance that matches the brilliance of Ritter.
- The character relationships
TV shows can be boring or frustrating when characters are unlikeable. Shows fail when the relationships between the characters feel forced or unnatural. Thankfully the relationships in Jessica Jones are pitch perfect. From the love interest Luke Cage to the best friend Trish, each relationship feels real and the dialogue between the characters flow naturally. I loved the friendship between Trish and Jessica. There was an understanding and so many knowing looks to each other that can be only be found in the bond between two women who are practically sisters. Jessica and Luke had a great romance. They never proclaimed their love for each other, but both realized something was there between the two characters, and their sex and dialogue and wants and needs were believable. It also helps when the actors’ chemistry is so palpable. Really, the biggest compliment I can give a superhero show is that it felt believable. From the dialogue to the themes to the characters, I believed every minute of it and was always invested, until the pacing lost some momentum near the end.
- The Final Three Episodes Lost the Show’s Amazing Momentum
The show lost a lot of its great pacing and skillful set-up after a climactic standoff between Kilgrave and Jessica in Episode 9. The middle of the season was the show’s peak, which is unfortunate, because the show is so strong up until the last few episodes. And it’s not to say that the ending is terrible, it’s not, I really enjoyed the final few moments of the show, its just that the show had some odd writing and storytelling choices that felt out of sync with the energy and grit of the previous episodes. It felt like a 10 or 11 episode series that got stretched out to make 13. There was simply a lot of filler that at times felt redundant or extraneous, which was disappointing, but not as awful as the last item on this list.
Seriously, what was up with Robyn in the latter half of the season? The most annoying character on the show shouldn’t have had that much screen time. She felt so out of place. The tone and dialogue associated with Robyn was totally inconsistent with the rest of the characters and presentation of the series. Admittedly, Robyn was funny and a little interesting at the beginning of the series. I liked her relationship with her brother and how Ruben made really good banana bread, but after something happens involving Ruben, there was no real reason to keep focusing on Robyn. And I really hated the character when she convinced a certain group of people to do something to Jessica, it felt so out of place and rushed and jarring (also, how did she know to find them there?) that everything that happened in consequence to that scene lost all of its power and importance. It’s so unfortunate that a poorly written character has so much screen time, particularly in the final parts of the season when the show is filled with other, better, multi-dimensional characters.
Jessica Jones is a fantastic show that deals with serious real world themes in a mature and honest manner. It has great, believable characters and personal drama. The stakes are always high due to a fully realized villain. The noir feel and tone of the show works marvelously (no pun intended). This show is amazing, and I hope many people enjoyed it as much as I did. And now that I recently finished the second season of Daredevil and am excited for Luke Cage this fall, I think I will revisit Jessica Jones and enjoy it once more.