'Marvel's Jessica Jones' Season 1

★ ★ ★ ★ ½

This, ladies and gentlemen, may be the greatest Marvel creation yet.

Daredevil’s arrival opened up a whole world of possibilities for Marvel to explore that feature darker, more mature storylines and a realistic approach that contrasts the family friendly movies and ABC shows. That being said, as soon as Daredevil began incorporating the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and ninjas), the framework and realism drifted away. The same can’t be said for Jessica Jones, which expertly creates a world in which having superpowers — and living on a planet that was just attacked by aliens — doesn’t feel too farfetched.

While the Marvel movies are populated with male superheroes (much to the dismay of many fans), heroes like Peggy Carter, Mockingbird, Quake, and now Jessica Jones have all found solace on shows that give them far more time to grow as people — and more time for writers to develop them. The same can’t be said for Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, to whom fans say the movies haven't devoted enough time. Both Agent Carter and Jessica Jones share a feminist tone that’s not explicitly stated (unlike Supergirl, which tries to remind you every few minutes), but more situational — something important to series just coming into their own.

Jessica Jones Season 1

Krysten Ritter (known for her roles in Breaking Bad and Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23) does a fantastic job portraying Jessica Jones. One might even say it's the pinnacle of Ritter's career so far. No stranger to portraying damaged, alluring, and powerful women, she balances Jessica’s tough demeanor — a result of the trauma Kilgrave caused her — without compromising Jessica’s desire to help others and do the right thing.

The sheer fact that Jessica’s character had to go through the things she did, going as far as killing Luke’s wife, are all great background for a character who could be haunted by Kilgrave for years to come. On the flip side, Agent Carter was haunted by Captain America’s supposed death (Captain America, coincidentally, was involved with Jessica Jones' first case in the comics), but it was hinted that she was able to move on. The same can’t be said for Jessica, whose PTSD will be a motif throughout her run.

Agent Carter (originally intended for a limited run) surpassed expectations by giving viewers a compelling series teaming with clever writing that accentuated its already charismatic cast. The same goes for Jessica Jones (despite being aimed at more mature audiences) thanks to its neo-noir story and look, investigative sequences, and very likable cast. Jessica Jones doesn’t shy away from Marvel’s darkest corners, shedding light on material teaming with interesting twists and turns.

Kilgrave is a fine example of that. Mind control and hypnosis aren’t uncommon in the Marvel universe, but Jessica Jones was the first to turn its usage into something disturbingly realistic. From the strategic handling of his powers to completing momentary whims, Kilgrave didn’t have an endgame in mind: no pursuit of world domination, no Hydra affiliation, nor any thoughts on defeating the Avengers. Instead, Kilgrave is a rapist: a type of criminal that hits far closer to home than any Marvel villain so far.

Jessica Jones Season 1

The supporting cast in Jessica Jones are all very strong characters who help show each and every side of Jessica’s personality. Carrie-Anne Moss expertly plays Jeri Hogarth; Eka Darville, who plays Jessica’s drug addicted neighbor Malcolm, is a sympathetic character whose relationship with Kilgrave makes him a good recovering addict/Kilgrave victim; Wil Traval, most likely a Captain America villain named Nuke, does a good job of contrasting Will Simpson’s instability with his likability when stable. Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage, has (and should have) chemistry with Krysten Ritter. Both actors play off of each other to portray two very different ways of being damaged. Jessica Jones doesn’t waste time revealing Luke Cage’s powers and building up his famous relationship with Jessica. Their relationship grows even more complicated when we learn that Kilgrave forced Jessica to kill Luke’s wife — a secret that was interesting to see come into play and strain their inevitable love for one another. Thankfully, Mike Colter is capable of bringing life to a character whose series is next to come out.

Erin Moriarty does a fantastic job playing Hope, showing every ounce of pain Kilgrave caused her in probably the worst use of his powers. Moriarty has an incredible range and shows a great understanding of her emotions as Hope struggles with the loss of her parents and, eventually, comes to terms with her own death. It’s even more interesting to see her scenes with Jessica given how fraught their relationship is despite all of the support Jessica gives her. It really makes you want to know what Jessica was like after she escaped from Kilgrave, and how she treated Trish.

Trish (who'll eventually become Hellcat) is the polar opposite of Jessica, but is the perfect best friend to contrast Jessica’s darker personality. Trish is actually emotionally and physically weaker than Jessica, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what’s right. In fact, some of her best scenes deal with the aftermath of Kilgrave’s attacks on her — specifically, the time she tells her to put a bullet in her head. It makes you see just how strong Jessica is to have handled herself as well as she did. Her relationship with her mother, on the other hand, is a very odd addition to the show and a far lighter one at that. The juxtaposition isn't at Robyn levels, but her mother still manages to feel a little out of place within the overall tone of the show.

Jessica Jones Season 1

There aren’t many flaws in this season, but the few that do exist are noticeable, like Robyn, or Hogarth’s divorce drama. While Robyn is an entertaining character on the side, as soon as her presence is increased, it becomes clear that her cartoonish weirdness throws off the show’s excellent pacing. The Hogarth drama has the same effect when it becomes clear that it could have been handled in fewer scenes.

Those minuscule faults aside, Jessica Jones adds a sophisticated sense of maturity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing up some very touching, often disturbing, subjects. It’s commendable for Marvel to venture into this territory and demonstrates just how successful a superhero television series can actually be and that it doesn’t just have to be "fun" and "family-friendly". Following up Daredevil, Jessica Jones is a standalone series that outdoes its predecessor by creating a unique world where having super powers feels super normal.

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UnknownfearContributor
Dec 6, 2015 2:15PM EST

I'd give it 4 Stars. I preferred Daredevil.
Jessica Jones is a good, perhaps very good series that reminded me a lot of a Live-Action "Death Note" -- intense psychological drama based on outwitting the badguys rather than beating them up Avengers style. This can make for truly smart, intense Television. That being said -- my problem with the show lies with Jessica Jones herself. Clearly they were going for a damaged lead, however other than the fact that she's been through many hardships and is still kicking, Jessica Jones is not a strong lead character. For starters, she doesn't like herself. Whenever she makes a decision, she regrets it and her self-deprication isn't humorous, its unbecoming. Many a fantastic TV show exist based on the abilities of the main character. Jessica Jones exists based on the abilities of Kilgrave. Jessica Jones herself is more or less the eyes you experience Kilgrave through. Without Kilgrave, it would be a generic PI show about a self-hating woman with negligable superpowers that you almost can't tell even exist. The show does a remarkable job entertaining us for having a lead character that doesn't add anything, but I feel like Jessica Jones could have been even better were she to be more likeable, make better decisions, accept her decisions, have a better superpower, actually use her superpowers, or any combination of those. Other than that, I agree with you and I liked the show a lot.

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