Spending Turkey Day binging on Netflix? Having watched all thirteen episodes of Jessica Jones, I’m here to influence your decision with a spoiler-free review!
Netflix and Marvel have done it again, knocking it out of the park with another high-quality show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — one with a complex, flawed heroine that tackles dark, heavy subject matter. While I can’t tell you if the show is better than Daredevil (haven’t made up my mind, honestly), I can without a doubt tell you that it’s at the same level of quality.
It certainly retains the dark and serious tone. Jessica Jones, however, makes space for more dark humor than Daredevil, especially with Jessica’s sarcastic, no bullshit attitude in every scene. Some of that dark humor even comes from Kilgrave’s sadistic commands.
The show’s strongest mechanics are its psychological aspects. Where Daredevil aimed for physical violence and gore, Jessica Jones aims straight for your psyche. Have no fear: there is still plenty of violence to go with all that psychological torture. The creep factor in Kilgrave’s mind-controlling threat and the darkness he leaves in his wake both leave an uneasy impact on the viewer. The show makes sure you get a clear look at the aftermath of Kilgrave’s influence over his victims, and it provides for some compelling scenes throughout the thirteen-episode run.
At this point, I have to call Kilgrave my favorite MCU villain, even beating out Daredevil’s Kingpin. David Tennant is brilliant, and you can just tell how much fun he has portraying Kilgrave — Doctor Who fans may never look at him the same way. Like Kingpin in Daredevil, Kilgrave gets a very slow build: you feel his presence, but you don’t really get to see him until later on in the show. His voice alone is enough to give you chills. Around the season’s halfway mark, the show starts digging into what makes him, him. There’s some great insight into the Purple Man’s past.
After all this praise, it’s only fair to throw my first negative observation onto the table. Daredevil was applauded for its fantastic fight sequences, but Jessica Jones sadly lacks the same excellence. Most of the scenes are awkward, something I attribute to the odd editing and poor sound design. That said, two fights in the finale are quite compelling.
While its fight scenes aren’t too hot, Jessica Jones’ character moments are done better than Daredevil’s, providing some real emotion and intimacy. Fueling this fire is the show’s stellar dialogue — the end of Episode 6 blew me away.
You didn’t think I forgot Jessica herself, did you? There’s no denying that Krysten Ritter does an amazing job pulling off the sarcasm, but she also manages to encapsulate how damaged Jessica really is. It took a few episodes to see any truly defining scenes, but they are there. Jessica buries her pain under her attitude, so a lot has to happen before you see that damaged soul rise above the surface, even for the slightest amount of time. When that damaged Jones does show her face, Krysten plays it to a perfect degree.
Oh, and she does totally have superpowers — even if Jessica Jones doesn’t act like a super hero show. Jessica’s powers often take a backseat, as the show focuses way more on stories, and what drives each character. That’s not to say powers are out of the picture, as the definition of heroism is often questioned — it’s one of Jessica’s struggles throughout the show. Is she a good person? Can she be a hero after everything she’s done?
I mean, just look at that filth.
This show introduces us to not one, but two Defenders — we finally meet Luke Cage! Mike Colter does a great job playing the role with an almost unnerving calm at all times, but you’d best be afraid when he loses that peace: fans of his comics will feel giddy when his powers are revealed. Not once does he feel out of place, and he always has a clear reason behind his actions. Cage certainly hides a heavy past, though the show only dips into that a little, leaving the full backstory for his solo outing next year.
Why introduce Luke Cage here, you ask? That’s easy: to start the foundations of Luke and Jessica’s relationship. This is a core aspect of both characters’ comic series. Thankfully, none of it feels forced. In fact, not only does their relationship feel natural, but it is also one of my favorite parts of the show. The chemistry is remarkable, and all but oozed off of them in certain scenes. I look forward to their future together.
Characters may be the strongest part of the show, but that doesn’t mean each one is strong. Robyn, a tenant in Jessica’s apartment, is just awful and poorly written — it’s outright aggravating to see her given plot lines toward the end of the season. And I need to mention Wil Traval’s Will Simpson. While there’s nothing wrong with his portrayal, his character development in the second half of the show takes a rather sudden turn that left me scratching my head. Hogarth’s secretary also makes zero impact.
There’s a real “closeness” with this cast.
Beyond these blemishes, many supporting characters are great. Rachel Taylor as Patsy Walker is fantastic, and she simply steals scenes as Jessica’s best friend. Erin Moriarty is heartbreaking as Hope, and her performance stays strong throughout the whole show. Eka Darville plays a tragic character in Malcolm, whom the show slowly builds up in the first part of the season. Finally, Carrie-Anne Moss is great as Jeryn Hogarth, a ruthless lawyer with a strange working partnership with Jessica. Each of these characters gets a story, and a moment to shine. Unless you’re Robyn.
Jessica Jones pushes the boundaries of the Netflix/Marvel relationship, and it’s able to build momentum until the very last scene, never leaving you bored. The show never shies away from its dark subject matter, tackling it without hesitation. While it’s not the superhero brawler that Daredevil was, Jessica Jones stands as a unique, quality entry in the MCU.
Review by contributor Russ Milheim. If you liked it, you should probably follow him on Twitter.