When Netflix first debuted its trailer for the Jessica Jones series, this blog said the writers would have a dark tightrope to walk. That was Oct. 24. Now, having finally finished the series just after Christmas, it’s safe to say that Marvel once again handled a Netflix project just about as well as can be realistically expected.
Jessica Jones is a show about “control,” but it is much more than a rape survivor’s tale as some reviews imply.
- It’s about our ability to allow the past to control our future.
- It’s about the control parents have over children.
- It’s about the control siblings have over one another.
- It’s about the control we give our friends and lovers.
- It’s about addictions — to drugs, alcohol, self-loathing and more.
- It’s about free will.
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, David Tennant as Killgrave, and Mike Colter as Luke Cage deliver the goods in their respective roles. Supporting actors like Eka Darville as “Malcolm” more often than not hit the mark, and the end result is a show that nearly matches Daredevil in terms of overall quality.
Jessica Jones’ one weakness is that its cast of misfits and their problems sometimes become so over-the-top that moments played for drama seem laughably absurd. Scenes involving Wil Traval’s “Simpson” and Colby Minifie’s “Robyn” tend to be the worst offenders. Unfortunately, it looks like Simpson will probably have an important role to play in Season 2.
If Jessica Jones wants to keep the momentum going, then its writers should bring in Colter’s Luke Cage as much as possible. In many ways he was an emotional rock in Jessica Jones’ unstable world. In a sea of bizarre and troubled characters, Cage was the one guy who seemed to have a semi-healthy handle on his emotional baggage.
Jessica Jones needs one character who is consistently balanced from episode to episode, and Colter lived up to the task admirably.
In short, if you enjoyed Daredevil then you should check out Jessica Jones. It’s a dark series done well, and a welcome addition to Marvel’s Netflix library.
I liked Jessica Jones a lot, too. I strongly recommend it.
One thing I noticed about the series, however, is that it directly addresses common criticisms of butt-kicking Action Girls: petite Jessica can defeat men much bigger than her because she has enhanced strength and a healing factor. Even so, she can still be defeated by normals, especially when they attack in groups.* Trish, a normal, learns Krav Maga so that she could defend herself, but she loses the majority of the fights she gets into — at one point, she is tasered before she could even join the fight. Her one victory came from a performance-enhancing drug.
The series made its female leads effective without being paragons of perfection, while at the same time making them vulnerable without being helpless victims. You always got the sense that they could lose, that they could fail. This ensured that there was tension from start to finish.
* Also, this is one of the few superhero shows that averts the “Conservation of Ninjutsu” trope (where a single bad guy is a big threat, while groups of henchmen are easily knocked out by the hero.)
Very good points, rawlenyanzi. Certain comic book writers could learn a thing or two from watching more Marvel Netflix series. Haha.
Side note: I’m really looking forward to Luke Cage. I’m not sure who the villain will be, but if the writers give Mike Colter a good script then I’m sure he’ll run with it.
“I’m really looking forward to Luke Cage.”
You and I both. I’m confident that Marvel Studios will handle it admirably.
I’m only halfway through the series, so thank you for not revealing too many spoilers. So far, I’m mixed on the show. I really enjoy the modern noir feel of the show, and the main plot is compelling and smart. The story doesn’t rely on old tropes and plot holes like characters making stupid choices or suddenly forgetting important facts to move the plot forward.
There are problems, though. I’m only half way through, and it feels like every episode has included some insertion of some usually unnecessary, often often completely out of place sex scene. I’m no prude, but it feels peppered into the story for no other reason than that Netflix is a subscription service that allows that sort of thing, so it gets included simply because it can. To paraphrase Jurassic Park, “You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.” It feels weird to be watching a show that never sinks to using sudden onset forgetfulness to move the main plot forward, but suddenly jump cuts to a scene of a woman receiving oral sex from a man who tried to murder her one episode prior. Their previous encounter had them speaking to one another through the door of her panic room. Their motives don’t make sense other than “the story needs us to be sleeping together, so sure, why not.” Likewise, while there is a slow burn reveal that Jessica and Luke’s relationship isn’t just a chance encounter from Jessica’s point of view (and I’m really enjoying her character development from that reveal,) but from Luke’s point of view, a brooding woman walked into his bar loaded with untold amounts of baggage, and after a short conversation he dives into bed with her like a hormonal teenager. He doesn’t consider the countless ways this situation could (and realistically probably would) blow up in his face. Maybe she’s trying to make a boyfriend jealous, or she’s pregnant, or she’s looking to get pregnant, or she has an STD, or she’s a stalker… Any one of those reasons would give a reasonable character pause, but we got a jump cut because the jump cut to sex scenes are practically a character of its own on this show.
“It feels weird to be watching a show that never sinks to using sudden onset forgetfulness to move the main plot forward, but suddenly jump cuts to a scene of a woman receiving oral sex from a man who tried to murder her one episode prior.”
Haha. You’ll note that I mentioned scenes with Simpson are a good sign something ridiculous is going to happen. 😉 I’m not sure if it’s the casting or the writing with him, but I sort of wish he would just go away.
My wife and I felt the same way about some of the sex scenes. Like you said, it comes down to, “Is this really necessary, or are you doing it just to be ‘edgy’ for Netflix?”
Ditto. Beyond the sheer ‘look at what we can do!’ of the scenes, it makes Luke look irresponsible and stupid. Theres a bit of…well, lets just say wishful thinking here about a character like Luke Cage on the director’s perspective. Luke is supposed to have a few weaknesses, but he also emotionally in control and have certain standards.
The director wants it both ways, a worthy and responsible supporting character that is also a womanizer, whose body and charisma are irresistible. This seems like an idealization of poor choices rather than a real character. I’ve known a few successful womanizer’s in my life…and they tend to have a few things in common…most important being they are very very careful about the who. The other is that the woman is often fooling herself about the relationship, but is willing to go on for the sake of whatever the relationship brings her…this is often not sex alone. Eventually this becomes a slow burn of pissed off women vs. some who get it and a guy that has little time or capability for a decent relationship even with his friends or family. Guys prone to one night stands are desperate, and as irresponsible in every other aspect of their lives as their bar habits, this isn’t Luke…or really any ‘successful’ womanizer. There’s a lot of potential here for a great, interesting character, but right now I get the feeling Luke is the ‘my one night stand wasn’t me being stupid…we have reasons! and we repeat!’ vibe from the director.
In a show where many of the character’s reactions, attitudes and habits seem very realistic and understandable, the sex isn’t. It actually hurts their chemistry.
That said, Luke’s potentially a great character. I think if they explore his character from the perspective I laid out above, of a guy prone to loose relationships, and play that against his traditional friendship with Danny Rand (Iron Fist), we have potential for great character development. Here’s hoping. All in all a good show.