Hot off the presses! This could be the biggest, baddest, nerdiest JESSICA JONES review this side of the Interwebs.
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Netflix hit the bullseye with DAREDEVIL, now it takes a shot at another Marvel superhero. JESSICA JONES just launched its entire 13 episode order and is ready for your mass consumption. Fellow nerds are in for another delight. Once again Netflix keeps this comic book adaptation dark. The tone is definitely adult in nature. JONES takes the thrilling crime drama genre into film noir territory, complete with steamy sex scenes.
Based on Marvel’s mature reader line of comics, this one is definitely not safe for kids.
Krysten Ritter (BREAKING BAD) is perfectly jaded as the titular hero: a super-powered private investigator suffering from PTSD. Ritter balances the brooding elements as well as the sass. Her character, Jessica Jones, is tormented by nightmares and flashbacks involving a mysterious man named Kilgrave (sounds ominous enough). More on that later. Let’s set the stage first.
The series opens up with a noir style narration from Jones, “New York City may be the city that never sleeps… but it sure does sleep around.” These are her first words, introducing us to her world where “Cheaters are good for business.” Our hero is perched like Daredevil, except instead of searching for crimes to fight, Jones snaps photos of nefarious affairs – as jazzy noir horns help set the mood.
Jones is a tortured soul, a haunted character. Her coda is: “1. Ignore it; or 2. Do something about it.” By the end of the episode, this quote reflects beautifully in a different context. The pilot episode introduces us to several backstory elements without weighing down the story. We learn of Jones’ PTSD, drinking problem, relationship insecurities, and a tragic experience with Kilgrave a year earlier.
These real world problems really help ground JESSICA JONES in reality, making a superhero easier to relate to. Like DAREDEVIL, Hell’s Kitchen may be just a few blocks away from the downtown destroyed in AVENGERS, but the enemies are much more personal. These smaller stakes work much better, especially with this long-form serialized approach. It’s also refreshing how the show decides to reveal Jones has superpowers. There is not big explanation or origin story. Jones simply leaps way up high without a word. It’s up to the viewer to stay on board or not.
David Tennant plays the big bad baddie of JESSICA JONES for Season One. His Purple Man seems to control your will, like a hypnotic possession of sorts. Throughout the episode there are spooky little flashes where the lighting tinges violet and the spooky Kilgrave appears mysteriously whispering to Jones or licking her cheek in her sleep. We learn that she was previously under his spell a year ago, and nearly didn’t return.
When Jones isn’t being tortured by her past, she runs Alias Investigations. The first case of the series comes from desperate parents fearing their daughter, Hope, ran away to be in a cult. Piece by piece, Jones puts the case together. All signs point to Kilgrave. He’s back. She isn’t going crazy. He’s back to play games with her.
Jones has a touching scene with her sister(? or good friend?), Trish. We briefly saw her face on an advertizement for Trish Talk earlier in the episode. We learn about the tragic backstory with Kilgrave when Jones asks for money to flee the country in order to get as far away from him as she can. Trish convinces our superpowered investigator that Hope can’t fight Kilgrave. Jones says she tried before and failed. However, Trish’s belief in Jones sparks our hero to believe in herself.
Another storyline details Jones’ freelance work serving summons to difficult clients for an business executive power woman played by Carrie Anne Moss. We got hints earlier of Jones’ philosophy on relationships. She spends a lot of her time busting cheating spouses after all. It just so happens Moss’ character, Hogarth, is cheating on her wife with a young woman at the office.
This episode, Jones is sent out to serve a summons where everyone else has failed. She finds the right guy, racing the street in his sports car. She stops him and ask for directions. He’s a dick about it. So she is too. Before he can speed away, Jones picks up the rear of his car, stopping him in his tracks. The guy is shocked, “You’re one of them.” Our wise-ass hero plays it up, telling him to take the summons or she’ll melt him with her laser eyes.
Again, like DAREDEVIL, this world is getting used to superheroes after the events of THE AVENGERS movie. Unlike a show like AGENTS OF SHIELD, the writers don’t hit us over the head with on-the-nose references that feel out of place.
Meanwhile… One big storyline that will surely arc across the season is that of Luke Cage (Mike Colter) – with his own Netflix show coming soon. At first, Jones spots him while she’s on the job, taking photos while hiding out on a fire escape. She notices Cage in the window with a woman, ready to have some fun. Since we know he’s also a superhero from the comics, it makes you wonder if he was listening for crime like Daredevil before he spends some leisure time with his lady friend.
Later on, Jones stops at a bar and stares in the window. Cage exits to take out the trash (and that is not a euphemism for crime fighting), and notices our hero. It makes you wonder if she was using her PI skills to track him down, attracted by what she saw in the window? Cage invites her in, flirting, “It’s Ladies Night” – and this is his bar.
They have some excellent back and forth verbal sparring. Jones reads Cage correctly, telling him she knows how much the bar means to him because of how he treats it. The chemistry is great between them already. And it gets better.
The dialogue is playful and dangerous at times. Jones says, “I don’t flirt. I say what I want.” Cage calls her on it, “And what do you want?” Cut to: them banging the headboard of the bed against the wall. They’re really into it. Nothing R-rated, but steamy enough for a Marvel show. Cage apologizes for getting too rough. She says, “I can take it.” He says, “You can’t.” It’s kind of clever how they are both hinting at their secret superpowers without neither of them knowing about the other’s. Cage slows down, and they get more sensual.
It seems like there’s a chance for a relationship, but Jones isn’t cut out for “second dates” yet. She’s too damaged.
By the way, when she uses Cage’s bathroom, Jones finds a photo of a young woman and gets rather emotional. Especially, compared to the hard exterior we’ve seen so far. Is she upset Cage’s heart might belong to another woman, when she thought she had a chance? Does Jessica know this person? Are they dead? Can Jones feel empathy on a different (super) level? Is it Cage’s sister or former lover ? Did they use to run the bar with Cage?
A lot of questions are introduced in this storyline so far, and a lot of compelling character development. It’s something exciting to look forward to.
The episode climaxes with the saving of Hope. Jones eventually tracks down the missing girl, in between dealing with her inner demons and working on other cases. Our hero must confront her worst fears and return to the location of her nightmares: the hotel Kilgrave kept her under his spell, sapping her will.
Jones finds Hope nearly paralyzed from the Purple Man’s powers. She’s too afraid to leave the room, but Jones convinces Hope by relating to her. All seems well. It feels like a happy ending. Hope is reunited with her parents. The elevator doors are about to close— THEN: the young woman pulls out a gun from her purse. Before Jones can give chase, and descend the stairs, we hear 3 gunshots.
Wow! Now, that’s how you say hello to the world, JESSICA JONES! Right at the end, this show kicks us square in the bathing suit area. The first episode did an excellent job giving us a taste of what’s on the menu for the rest of the season. We can’t expect a safe story each episode. Jones will “fail” sometimes… but as we saw from that last shot, she won’t give up.
Stay tuned for more reviews coming soon.
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