Thursday, September 7, 2017

Jessica Jones Season One review

    Jessica Jones is a character I have a familiarity with before the television series back when it was called Alias and just picked a kind of atrocious bit of timing. Really, because Jennifer Garner would have been a much better Jessica Jones than Elektra. Be that as it may, Krysten Ritter does an excellent job bringing her interpretation of the character to life even if she's not quite the same character as the one in the comics. I have some issues with the series, overall, but it ranks very highly and is probably my second favorite of the Netflix MCU after Daredevil.

    The differences from Alias are ones I'm going to comment on, though, because that's really the only thing I can contribute which hasn't been dissected to death by hundreds of blogs. Also, a discussion of how I think the show lamed itself by being a bit too obsessed with the Purple Man plot despite how much emotional drama this carried. In the original comic series, Jessica Jones is a retired superhero named Jewel who wasn't very good at the role. After trying very hard to make a difference (but not), she ends up exposing her identity to help a child then gets kidnapped by the Purple Man to be his slave for months. Months which nobody even notices she's gone.

The funny thing is the Purple Man was a C-Lister until this point.
    Eventually, the Purple Man gets bored and sends her to attack the Avengers where she nearly dies since no one ever bothered to file her as a superhero. Jessica's detective cases tend to be the kind of superhero related ones which fade through the cracks like a missing "mutant" girl (actually a runaway lesbian), a Rick Jones impersonator, and a missing Spider Woman. All of these generally exposing the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe from the ground perspective. Her character eventually marries Luke Cage after she gets pregnant by him and they settle into a fun, if boring, domestic partnership.

    Krysten Ritter's Jessica Jones suffers a bit from the fact she never has an idealistic period of her life. After her parents die in a car wreck that gives her superpowers, Netflix's Jessica Jones enters a permanent funk of cynicism and anger she never gets out of. It's a funk which gets worse when she is horrifyingly captured by Zebediah Kilgrave (The Purple Man played by David Tennant) then forced to be his slave (who acts like his girlfriend) for months. Jessica breaks free on her own but not until after she's killed someone on his command.

Krysten Ritter does an excellent "haunted heroine."
    At the risk of discussing a triggering topic (but you can't NOT discuss it when discussing Netflix's Jessica Jones), there's a major difference between the comic book Jessica Jones and the Netflix one. The first one used the Purple Man's control to talk about rape without actually subjecting her to sexual assault since comic books don't have a very good track record with that sort of thing. Jessica was forced to watch the Purple Man enslave others for sex and play act as his girlfriend but he never touched her while the canonical Jessica was forced to have sex with him the entire time.

    This is, fundamentally, about the different expectations of medium and it will take a far more mature essay by someone other than me to dissect its implications. Basically, though, comic books are for teenagers and adults remembering their teenage years while Netflix's television series tend to be for adults. The fact TV Jessica is mind-controlled into being Kilgrave is enough of a "cushion" to talk about the subject without verging on the exploitative. Which basically is both the show's strength and weakness.

Kilgrave and Jack Napier are among the few men who can pull off a purple coat.
    The strength of the show is dealing with Jessica Jones' trauma and moving beyond it as much as she can as well as confronting her attacker. Kilgrave is an immensely talented enemy as he exploits his mind-control powers with a Light Yagami finesse. He has "rules" which limit him that get explored fully while also encouraging him to be incredibly clever with them. The show really feels a lot more like Death Note than Alias, except it's about Kilgrave's power than the titular book.

    Unfortunately, the biggest weakness is Kilgrave can't quite carry the entire season on his back and the story stretches too long. It's not a dealbreaker because of a very unexpected character's appearance (at least unexpected outside of Daredevil) who I really think was done well. However, I do think the story would have benefited from a couple of episodes where Jessica Jones deals with other cases like the ones in the comic. One of the funniest scenes in the story is where she deals with a pair of bigots who want to kill her for her superpowers except they're really bad at it.

I see no reason to make fun of Jewel's outfit.
    Discussing David Tennant's acting, I have to say they did a tremendous job with him. He manages to take all of the goofy charming ladies man qualities he had with the Tenth Doctor then twist them in such a way as to make him repulsive. There's a sense that Kilgrave, if he hadn't his powers, probably would have grown up to an immensely successful con man or salesman but he doesn't have to get anything without his powers so he doesn't. His childishness is just close enough to being funny that I think he might have made an excellent Riddler (or still could--someone call DC to talk about that) or more traditionally goofy Joker.

    Honestly, I actually prefer Patsy Walker (Hellcat! I know this!) as played by Rachael Taylor to Jessica Jones herself. Her idealism really is a great contrast to Jessica's 24 hour bad attitude. I'm a huge fan of cynical, sarcastic, and noir themed characters but it's an odd contrast in the Marvel universe. I also felt the contrast of Jessica Jones' past idyllic self to her future one was an exceptionally good one. Watching Patsy Walker in her lone fight in the show was also impressive, making me think she could handle her own lead role.

As much as I love her as a shark lawyer, I would totally have loved to see her as the Wasp.
    Frank Simpson (played by Wil Traval) is also one that I think should have gotten more focus. I don't want to spoil anything but I like the show's handling of him better than I did Kilgrave. Not only is it rare enough for a seasoned comic nerd like me to be surprised by a character's appearance but the way they did it was excellent. I found myself fooled into wanting to support Frank and Patsy's relationship despite how unhealthy it was. I also believed he was a genuine good guy and, honestly, he probably was but for how Kilgrave enhanced his darkest qualities. I hope to see him in future installments of the franchise.

    Really, I could talk about the supporting cast every bit as much as I could the actual plot. I may be one of the few people who loved Carrie Anne Moss' subplot, though. You'd think the divorce of Jessica's primary employer so she can marry her secretary would be a terrible weight on the story. However, it's build up all pays off in the end. I also, again, think the main story took up a bit too much time so distractions were good. Mike Colter, certainly, does a decent job introducing Luke Cage but I found the plot about Jessica and his dead wife to be unnecessary. Really, the show underuses him and his lead-in here is unnecessary to appreciate the Luke Cage show.

I like the only super-strong person in the Defenders is a woman.
    In conclusion, Jessica Jones is probably my second favorite of the Netflix Marvel series as it deals with an incredibly uncomfortable topic in an exceptional way. Unfortunately, they drag out the Kilgrave plot far too long. I would have appreciated a few more subplots to fill in the time and diversify Jessica Jones' interests a bit.


1 comment:

  1. Jessica Jones, a show that i have grown to love each time i rewatch it. Despite the fact its the first of the Netflix shows to suffer from the 'Netflix fatigue' of having too many episodes for the story and characters it told and uneven pacing.

    A few standalone episodes of JJ doing detective work would have helped i agree. Since it would have allowed for the Kilgrave stuff to be paced out better and not becoming overwhelming.

    Along with some plot contrivances and idiot balls that force the show to the 13 episode mark.

    But despite all of that, JJ deserves praise for tackling the subjects it does, with some very clear research shown of what abuse survivors go through (naming of streets is a technique therapists use to help survivors cope). That JJ is shown to have not been the greatest of people before the incident.

    Avoiding the usual perfect victim complex that many media is very guilty of when it comes to stuff like this. That and also showing deep down, jj is a very empathic person who does believe in helping people and wanting to do good. But not seeing herself as righteous in the way i feel that matt and luke do at times.

    Doesn't hurt Ritter nails all her snarky lines with perfection that makes her an enjoyable arsehole to me. Something which i reminded myself recently watching the Defenders. JJ is not the most likeable of characters, but she is the most interesting for what she has gone through and how believable her show handles most of it.

    JJ's cynicism is a different sort to the cynicism portrayed by Tony, Strange in that it ain't wealth or narcissistic focused cynicism. But from the trauma of her life. Which makes it more relatable to me and understandable. As hard as it is to watch her spiral downwards at times.

    Same with how Killgrave and Trish's mom are handled as abusers, namely the never my fault excuse they use. It's exactly the mentality so many abusers have towards their victims, and something I have seen in my own volunteer work many times. Some of them really don't believe they have done anything wrong.

    I really enjoyed Frank as well, for in many ways exploring how masculine toxicity can affect a person and what sort of person who acts like Steve without his morals and self restraint can end up becoming. That and for how he really in his own way i think care about Trish and wants to believe in the idealism she has. He's just too caught up in being a GI Joe and single-minded obsession with taking down Kilgrave along with some stuff he has going on in his head.

    Yes the subplot of Jeri and her wife and mistress has grown on me as well for how complicated it is and for the way all three actresses pull off the material. Just a shame it ended the way it did, as it felt to me such a shaggy dog feel. Doesn't help its in the episode where everything goes wrong for the sake of dragging the season out and making everything to that point feel like it was for nothing.

    As for Luke Cage stuff, personally i felt Luke had more range here than on his own show. Though i feel that's due to how LC directed and wrote Luke as a character. After Defenders i feel Luke and Iron Fist work better in being supporting roles or together and acting as foils to each other. than carrying their own shows.

    It's something i wonder if i will feel the same on about Frank after his show at the end of the year. He's a great foil to matt in Daredevil, but to carry his own show requires some balance.