In October 2013, Marvel Studios announced the preparation of four drama series and a miniseries totaling sixty episodes for release through Netflix. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist were announced as the properties to find life on the small screen. Marvel’s Daredevil released this past April to popular acclaim, centering around the dark and detailed story of superhero, Matt Murdock. This past Friday, Netflix released the second of its four series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones in the hopes of meeting, if not exceeding, Daredevil’s popularity with audiences.
This show doesn’t just hit the mark. It surpasses expectations.
Krysten Ritter stars as the title character, a hard-drinking former heroine with super-strength and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from her captivity as the mental and physical slave of Kilgrave, played to villainous perfection by David Tennant. Haunted by the acts Kilgrave inflicted upon her, she was forced to commit herself and now strives to rebuild her life through helping others as the owner and sole employee of Alias Investigations. When Kilgrave returns one year after his presumed demise, it falls on Jessica to not only prove that his mind-control abilities exist, but that she must save the city before he crushs all resistance with a mere word. In addition to the star power from Ritter and Tennant, Erin Moriarty, Rachael Taylor, Mike Colter, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, and Wil Traval also star.
Episodes 1 – 3:
We meet Jessica Jones, a private investigator called in by the parents of Hope Shlottman to find their missing daughter. Meanwhile, as she keeps tabs on bar owner Luke Cage with whom she shares a connection, her frequent client, Jeri Hogarth, asks Jessica to deliver a subpoena to a sleazy businessman. She soon learns that Hope has been taken by Kilgrave, the same man who once controlled her with his voice. Jessica and Luke become lovers as Hope’s life falls apart around her. Jessica becomes determined to prove Kilgrave’s existence and exonerate hope. She also grows closer to Luke as they discover each other’s abilities. Trish Walker, Jessica’s foster-sister, provokes Kilgrave on her radio show with dangerous consequences.
Best moment: Jessica learns Kilgrave’s weakness and plans to expose it. The show really allows her to show off her sleuthing skills and doesn’t throw in plot devices to help her out.
Episodes 4 – 6:
Sent by Kilgrave to kill Trish, NYPD police officer, Will Simpson ends up bonding with his target. Jessica and Will devise a plan and place to stop Kilgrave. Unfortunately, the plan falls apart when Kilgrave outwits them. Jessica learns that her neighbor, Malcolm, is spying on her for Kilgrave. She agrees to send Kilgrave pictures of herself to set Malcolm free. Luke comes to Jessica for help to find the missing brother of someone who has a lead on his wife’s death. Jessica reveals that she is the person who killed Luke’s wife, leading to a confrontation that shatters their new found closeness.
Best moment: Jessica confesses to Luke that she killed his wife. This scene was hard to watch because you can feel the agony through the screen. Ritter and Colter grab hold of your heartstrings and don’t let go.
Episodes 7 – 9:
Kilgrave murders Jessica’s neighbor, Reuben, leading to a cover-up that pushes Jessica to the brink of her sanity. Meanwhile, Hogarth’s affair with her secretary, Pam, is exposed and threatens her career and future. When Jessica tries to sacrifice herself to stop Kilgrave, the villain once again thwarts her, leaving her no choice but to give in to his demands. When Kilgrave lets his guard down, Jessica strikes, neutralizing him and even saving him from Will, who has decided to take matters into his own hands.
Jessica tries to force a confession from Kilgrave, but even without his powers, he proves unpredictable. She enlists his parents to get under Kilgrave’s skin, but they inadvertently aid in his escape while giving Jessica valuable information.
Best moments: Jessica learns that Kilgrave can no longer control her. He also turns a precinct full of cops into the ultimate hostages!
Episodes 10 – 12:
Hogarth’s deal with Kilgrave backfires in the worst possible way. Reuben’s sister, Robyn, learns the truth about his death and seeks revenge against Jessica at the worst possible time. Will goes over the edge, leading Trish to risk her life to stop him. Luke returns as a pawn in Kilgrave’s scheme to crush Jessica emotionally and mentally. She then confronts Kilgrave once more, with dire consequences for Hope. Kilgrave uses Luke to kill Jessica, forcing the heroine into the fight of her life. A deeper connection between Will and Jessica is revealed as she realizes that she must kill Kilgrave to end things once and for all.
Best moment: Hope sacrifices herself to push Jessica into ending Kilgrave. Kilgrave’s powers are amplified, leading to a terrifying scene at the hospital.
Luke is unconscious and cared for by Claire Temple, who also helped Daredevil. Jessica gears up for her final battle with Kilgrave with some help from Trish, who finds information on the people responsible for Jessica’s powers. Jessica deals with Kilgrave once and for all, but now must deal with the fallout and her new reputation as a hero. Malcolm helps her pick up the pieces. Hogarth is a broken woman. And Luke Cage vanishes.
Best moments: Every scene with David Tennant. The banter between Jessica and Claire. Trish finding a bit of a heroine in herself.
This series was dark, gritty, sexual and graphic. Several times I found myself checking to make sure that I was still watching a Marvel Comics property. The graphic sex scenes may turn off some viewers, but anyone who has ever read a Jessica Jones comic under Marvel’s MAX imprint knows that this show isn’t one to watch with your children. I enjoyed the darker series tone. I was also drawn in by Ritter’s portrayal of Jessica Jones. I was one of the people who thought she was a poor casting choice, but she nailed it. Whether fighting groups of thugs, taunting Kilgrave for being a coward, or trying to keep herself from falling apart in her abuser’s presence, Ritter sold Jessica’s fear, self-loathing, and desire to be a hero while using snark and sarcasm as her sword and shield.
Tennant’s Kilgrave was simply haunting. He doesn’t make his first full appearance until episode five, but he’s introduced in Jessica’s tortured memories and daydreams. He controlled her for nearly a year of her life and the damage is still fresh. Kilgrave cares about no one’s feelings or desires, except his own. His story is tragic, but illustrates the contrast between himself and Jessica. Horrible things were done to each of them, but Jessica fights to be a better person despite her trauma. Kilgrave allowed his trauma to turn him into an unrepentant monster.
Luke Cage was only a recurring character, but Colter played every scene he was in with quiet intensity. I found it interesting to watch him be the cool head to Jessica’s hot temper. Luke clearly has secrets. We only learn that he’s a widow in Jessica’s story and that he has an unbreakable skin. Look for Luke’s series to show us his journey and where he goes from here.
Taylor’s Trish Walker was added to the show when Marvel decided to use Carol Danvers in a feature film, but the character feels like she was part of the plan the entire time. The sisterly relationship between her and Jessica gives both characters depth. The relationship starts out strained due to Jessica’s trauma, but Trish fights for her friend even without powers. Here’s hoping that we get a Hellcat series in a future MCU phase.
The Good: Developed characters. Dark tone. Solid plot. Excellent fight scenes.
The Bad: The final episode was a little anticlimactic, even with Kilgrave’s death. The IGH plot felt thrown in toward the end, though it’s a clear set-up for a second season.
The Verdict: Stop reading this and go watch Jessica Jones! It’s worth the binge, plus a second viewing for everything you missed the first time.