Lucy - UK I like to watch shows that have intricate plots and great characters including dramas, thrillers, mysteries, crime dramas, superhero capers & those with sci-fi/fantasy settings. I love reviewing shows and discussing lists on sidereel too!
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Jessica Jones was a joy to watch, full of great character development, fantastic female character dynamics, challenging issues and gritty realism I have not seen for a long time in a tv drama. It manages to be a superhero drama, film noire centric, case/police procedural and thriller simultaneously. As rotten tomatoes perfectly puts it “Jessica Jones is… a TV detective drama about loneliness, control, and how a human soul recovers from violation”. We learn very little about Jessica’s past until later episodes, but the glimpse and truth that leaks out makes for a heart breaking backstory, tragic and angsty in almost equal measure, but most importantly, justifies Jessica’s present day actions. After being held hostage, raped and controlled for over a year, it’s no wonder Jessica is suffering from PTSD, alcoholism and a devil-may-care attitude.
It’s her relationships with other characters, her friends that bring out the ‘old’ (pre-Kilgrave) Jessica, and with Trish, Luke (and occasionally) Malcolm she jokes and actually “from time to time gives a damn” as she puts it herself. Her relationship with Trish is deep and very sisterly, although Jess doesn’t always show it, she will do anything to keep Trish safe, and Trish wants nothing more than to save the world with Jess by her side. I loved how their back story was told in flashbacks through the series, hopefully more of that will be shown in season 2.
The story lines focus around the themes of control, recovery from trauma, female friendships and agency/responsibility all beautifully shot in a gritty NEw York, film noir style with plenty of detective legwork and police procedural tropes thrown in. The guardian has a brilliant article about how Jessica Jones explores issues of rape, agency and confrontation with rapists/trauma and I agree with its main argument: philosophically it is unheard of for women in tv to confront their rapists, challenge their views and provide them with evidence that they did not give consent, and that’s what Jessica Jones does, kudos to you Marvel!
For the most part, the 13 episode series is character driven and the cast is fantastic and mostly female, a real rarity in tv and film. All the women are well rounded characters and perhaps more importantly, women with power. Jessica has her own P.I. business as well as superpowers, Trish was a famous child star but now hosts a popular radio show and Hogarth is a cut throat lawyer. Even minor female characters are presented as powerful, Robyn is maternally aggressive and dedicated carer to her brother Ruben, Claire Temple is a well established nurse and Wendy is enjoying a successful carer as a doctor. Even Trish’s abusive mother has her own successful carer and is certainly a sought after women. It’s great to see so many different kinds of strength in these women and for them to often work together for a common goal, without being too obviously written in.
Luke Cage remains mysterious for the most part of the series, but his obvious affection for Jessica and his intriguing back story make for compelling future viewing. Malcolm is a supportive neighbour to Jessica and I enjoyed how he worked his way out of a hole and made it up to Jessica, including being there in the final scene saying “how can we help”, a powerful moment showing that although not much has changed, Jessica has at least 1 friend she can rely on day to day.
Simpson and Kilgrave are not your typical ‘bad guys’. Simpson starts off as your typical police officer with the law being very black and white to him. But after his experiences with Kilgrave, his ‘savier/vigilante’ personality type resurfaces and he chooses to opt back into a top secret army programme where he can maximise his abilities using drugs. However, these drugs don’t give him the ability to think clearly/morally and he kills and destroys whilst using them (possibly to become the series 2 main villain, also possible become Nuke from the comic books?). His relationship with Trish is also interesting, but ultimately she puts Jessica ahead of him and pushes him out of her life, perhaps onto a more dangerous path.
Kilgrave is a twisted, narcissist who uses his power to get not only material possessions but people’s emotional property and physical being too. He doesn’t just tell people what to do, he tells them how to feel whilst doing it, which is perhaps the most chilling part of his ability - the people controlled aren’t able to stop showing how their supposed to be feeling - as if trapped behind glass - but appear to show Kilgrave what he wants, even if it is not a true representation of what they are feeling. This makes it hard for Kilgrave to know, love or trust anyone and this as well as parental abandonment sends him spiralling into selfishness and greed. his side of the story is given some light, and he certainly is given plenty of time to talk, but his use of abilities come first, which stands him apart from Jessica who is happier lying low, and his greed overpowers his willingness to use his powers for good.
The finale sets up next season well (What has happened to Luke and Simpson? Where did Jessica’s powers come from? What will Hogarth do about her lover’s quandary?) whilst also confronting Kilgrave and the expansion of his power. Jessica has been avoiding killing Kilgrave throughout the season so he can be used as evidence to get people off of serving sentences for several crimes. However, once her main reason for sparing Kilgrave dies, Jessica gives a damn and decides that she can’t let the world get hurt by him any more, tricking Kilgrave at his own game and twisting his neck. It’s a dramatic scene, but the aftermath hits home more, as Jessica neither celebrates nor leaves, she returns to her daily life, only slightly more relieved of her burdens than before - a powerful reminder than PTSD and trauma are more complex than revenge or protecting others and it’s wonderful that these issues are given the respect they deserve and are not simplified for the sake of plot :)
Although Jessica Jones is set in the Marvel universe (and more specifically the same time/place as Daredevil) it doesn’t feel like a superhero caper. Jessica’s strongest assest is how NORMAL she is, she forgets to charge her phone, forgets to buy loo roll, doesn’t bother with pyjamas, only has 3 differnt outfits eats badly but knows better, all of which we the audience can relate too! It’s great to see such a normal female protagonist that isn’t fashion conscience or in a different dress each scene. Jessica’s battles are mainly psychological and when she is solving cases, she puts her P.I. skills and fists into practise rather than relying on her ‘super powers’ (jumping and super strength), which makes her feel relatable and definitely the most human protagonist Marvel has.
The cinematography is beautiful throughout. The title sequence is a watercolour masterpiece and the dark, grey tonal palette of most sets remind you that Jessica’s world is still very grey and downtrodden. The purple accents in scenes all nicely link to Kilgrave’s favourite colour and evoke the cold bitterness of down town New York as well as the sufferers of Kilgrave’s mind control. The fight choreography is just as good as it was in Daredevil, albeit with more gutsy punch ups than martial arts techniques, but still emotionsally driven and varied. Jessica’s flat takes quite the beating but each time it’s with different people and has a different emotional driving force behind it, keeping it fresh and tense.
Overall I was very impressed with Jessica Jones in terms of dealing well and portraying sensitive themes, utilising a range of powerful female characters, having male characters that weren’t one dimensional, not relying on superhuman abilities and having psychological struggles as the main adversary in a well acted and written detective action drama. I most eagerly await season 2 and the next Marvel outing on Netflix - their tv world building and narratives are some of the strongest I have watched in a long time.
I’m tempted to give your 13 reasons why you shouldn’t watch this show. The whole thing was a hard watch but it can have 2 stars for the following 2 points: it is getting people to talk more about adolescent mental health (always a good thing) and Katherine Langford’s excellent acting, which I hope will land her any role of her choosing in the future.
The show starts with the usual high school drama, and incoporates the source material well to show the story unfolding. However, they add unnecessary ‘drama’ and ‘tension’ between the supporting characters which really doesn’t work and feels forced. Everyone telling Clay to “listen to the tapes” instead of actually telling him things is really annoying for the viewer and drastically unrealistic.
In terms of mental health the show is making a statement, but it ultimately gives an unclear message, wrapped up in high school politics and dramatises scenes that viewers should not see (scenes of assault and suicide), especially if they are in vulnerable or crisis themselves.
I appreaciate the show trying to promote more discussion about bullying, assault and mental health, but don’t agree with this show spreading mental health awareness or being a ‘must watch’ to explain mental health. It’s triggering and poorly executed at key moments, which will not help those who need it most.
Also Netflix, ONE SEASON IS ENOUGH, LET IT GO.
Stranger Things season 2 was an absolute blast and although it didn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the first season, it came pretty damn close. The core cast of characters, as well as some nice new additions, help to drive the story forward with new dilemmas, character development and an atmosphere that certainly is more horror-fuelled and spookier than season 1.
The plot of the season is similar to season 1, but deals more with recovery from season 1s events, developing characters, delving in the history of Hawkins Lab and Eleven’s backstory and adding yet more supernatural threats to the town of Hawkins. It treads a mostly familiar path, but keeps the pacing right, the script tight and the characters solid to ensure that you’re along for the entire ride.
The main strength of season 2 is still the group of children, who form the central cast; Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will and Eleven are still distinct in their personalities and intentions and most are developed organically as they face new challenges in Hawkins. Will had a lot more to do this season and although he was in the grips of the Mind Flyer for significant parts of the show, I felt like we got to know him more as a character, rather than a ‘missing person’, this season. Dustin and Lucas fulfil their roles of the comic relief and risk take respectfully and their families are also introduced and expanded on, giving them more depth as characters. Lucas was underused last season and I’m pleased that he was given more of the story to tell and his relationship with Max was a nice touch.
Mike had more of the focus in season 1 and takes a back seat here, which was a little disappointing (but understandable to let the other characters shine). However, Eleven comes into her own and has a whole plot driven ‘side quest’ of her own, portraying all of Eleven’s complex emotions often with just simple sentences and facial expressions. Although I enjoyed seeing Eleven explore new elements of her personality and discover more about her past, keeping her apart from the gang until the penultimate episode didn’t allow for their relationships to develop much, which was one of season 1′s highlights.
Another of season 1s successes, were the great characters of Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers. Joyce is still stuck in a ‘worry about Will’ rut (understandably so but felt a little like re-treading familiar ground) but thankfully we get to know Hopper more as a struggling adoptive Dad and secret keeper of the mysterious Hawkins lab. Out of all the characters this season, Hopper’s development and arc have been my favourite, very well written and executed!
Nancy, Jonathan and Steve all return and after a brief love triangle moment, Jonathan and Nancy establish themselves as the unrequited love fulfilled and a detective duo to boot. Steve has probably the best lines of the season and turns from ‘that popular guy’ to the world’s most loved babysitter to the kids. The partnership between him and Dustin was fantastic and their scenes were just great to watch.
New characters of Bob, Max and Billy had little to do overall but Bob was a sweet natured guy who certainly helped when the time came for it. Max was a feisty new edition and a promising team member, but at times felt like a shoe in for Eleven. Billy had little to do, apart from make Steve look a good person and make you feel sorry for Max. Even the abusive parent subplot felt like it was tacked on the end - the season could definitely have existed perfectly fine without him. (Hopefully he’ll do more in season 3).
Aside from the characters, the main difference in season 2 was the darker, more horror driven atmosphere, It certainly felt scarier and the visual effects were more dynamic and creepy this time around, upping the intensity of the show for sure. Will being attacked by the Mind Flyer was a nail-biter of a scene to watch! The Upside Down remained a great setting for the supernatural horrors to live, although I can’t help but feel that mini demo-dogs were a wee bit predictable. Surely there are more creatures about in the never-ending Upside Down?
Perhaps my own real criticism of the season though is the lack of a human villain. Dr Brenner was a cold and intense villain in season 1 and the lack of a human ‘monster’ in the show made the final battle feel a tad flat as everyone was on the same side, humans vs unknown monsters. I’m not counting Billy as a villain (he was barely there), and I suppose you could count Kali and her gang as villainous, but they ultimately posed no real threat to Hawkins.
I am certainly looking forward to season 3, after season 2s lovely ending (I cried), it will be interesting to see how they tie up the few plot strings they have left. Personally, I am hoping for new monsters (both human and supernatural), the chance for Eleven to interact more with the group and more babysitter Steve!