Review - Jessica Jones (Netflix), Season 1

Jessica Jones (2015), TV-MA, 13 Episodes - November 20th saw the release of Jessica Jones, the second collaboration from Marvel and Netflix.  Similarly to the Daredevil series released back in April, this Netflix Original is set in a section of New York known as Hell's Kitchen, is comprised of thirteen episodes, and is connected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

As the title states, the series follows Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), a woman who developed powers after a childhood accident: super strength and the ability to fly, or as she calls it 'jumping real high...and then falling'.  She's attempted the super hero gig in the past but it didn't work out the way she had imagined so she started her own P.I firm, Alias Investigations.  She's a bit of a loner and keeps the few friends and loved ones she has at arms length because of the danger she feels that she attracts danger.  Of course, events from her past have caused her to feel that way and a major through-line of the series is the revelation of those events as she works a missing-persons-turned-homicide case.  That case begins with the search for Hope Shlottman (Erin Moriarty), the daughter of a Kansas couple who have come to New York hoping to reclaim her.  As Jessica looks into the case, she uncovers clues that point in the direction of a man named Kilgrave (David Tennant), a man who has the ability to compel people to do whatever he tells them to.  Jessica is able to track down Hope and return her to her parents, but as they leave Jessica's building Hope shoots and kills them both in the elevator.  Jessica has experienced Kilgrave's control in the past and recognizes immediately that Hope was still under his influence.  Her initial reaction is to run, to get as far away from Kilgrave as possible.  Then she realizes that if she doesn't put an end to Kilgrave's manipulative ways, only more people will be hurt by his blatant disregard for others.

The cast, as has come to be expected from a Marvel Studios project, is excellent.  Krysten Ritter perfectly embodies the strong, sarcastic, hard drinking, independent woman who cares deeply for those in her (very) limited inner circle that put the Brian Michael Bendis/Michael Gaydos created comic Alias on the map back in 2001.  I don't think David Tennant has ever been anything but spectacular in whatever he's done and his take on Kilgrave is no different.  The story that Bendis/Gaydos did in the comics really elevated Kilgrave (known in the comics as the Purple Man) from a D-list villain to someone truly twisted to be reckoned with.  Tennant's portrayal takes that even one step farther.  He doesn't just have the power to control those around him, he is obsessive and has no regard for the collateral damage created by his efforts to regain control of Jessica.  The rest of the cast is populated by a number of characters that will ring a bell to those familiar with the comics: Luke Cage (Mike Colter) - who will get his own Netflix series sometime in 2016, Jeryn 'Jeri' Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), Patsy 'Trish' Walker (Rachael Taylor), and Det. Oscar Clemons (Clarke Peters).

There are a number of ties to the greater MCU such as comments about aliens invading the city, 'the green guy', 'the flag waiver' and the inclusion of characters and locations that previously appeared in the Daredevil series (Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple, Royce Johnson's Sgt. Brett Mahoney, Metro-General Hospital).  However, Jessica Jones stands on its own very well. Prior knowledge of the MCU is not necessary.  Where Daredevil brought the previously 'shiny' MCU down to the darker world of street level crime, Jessica Jones takes things even further towards 'reality'.  There are no super hero costumes (save for a couple kids running through a park), no aliens, and no mystical elements.  Jessica Jones is about as 'real world' as we will probably see in the MCU and further proves that just about any kind of story/genre can fit within this massive on screen universe that Marvel Studios has created.

Jessica Jones is rated TV-MA - just as Daredevil was before it - but includes much more language and sexuality than its Netflix predecessor.  This is very reminiscent of the Alias comic on which it is based, which was the first title in Marvel's 'MAX' line, created for mature readers.

The series successfully introduces a number of new characters, and sets the table for future MCU/Netflix series like Luke Cage and Iron Fist.  Eventually, these individual series are supposed to link together in team-up series called The Defenders.  It will be very interesting to see how that plays out, joining heroes with differing sets of morals.  

Overall, I very much enjoyed Jessica Jones.  I do feel that the pacing of the series was just a little erratic as things seemed to drag out a bit mid way through.  However, that may have just been something that I perceived as I plowed through all thirteen episodes in a day in a half.  I very well may have just been getting tired.  Jessica Jones is a great crime/noir series and features a number of strong women, hopefully paving the way for similar female-led projects.  Fans of the comic or the MCU will really enjoy this series, and for those who have been leery of the ever-increasing number of super hero based films and shows, it provides a good happy-medium: a crime based psychological thriller with some super hero elements but nothing over the top.  There has already been some talk by show-runner Melissa Rosenberg about a potential second season and that's definitely something that I'd love to see.











*****SPOILERS*****

- For those interested interested in the comic book beginnings of Jessica Jones, the primary source material for this series is from Alias (2001), written by Brian Michael Bendis and with art from Michael Gaydos.  The series ran for 28 issues (the last five of which include the Kilgrave story) and can be found in one all-encompassing Omnibus hardcover or two 'Ultimate Collection' trade paperbacks.

- There are a number of scenes mimicking those in Bendis/Gaydos' comic such as when Jessica throws an unruly client through her door's window, saying "And then there's the matter of your bill" and a shot of Luke's back as he is sitting on the edge of the bed.

- I was slightly disappointed that they killed off Kilgrave at the end of the series because he was such an imposing villain.  That being said, I'm not sure that there would have been another satisfactory way to end the story arc shown in this series.  It also leads to some potentially intriguing story lines moving forward.  Jessica 'saved the day', but she did so by killing someone.  What is the fall out of that?

- When we first see Luke Cage, he's wearing his classic yellow shirt from the comics.

- I really enjoyed Mike Colter as Luke Cage and am very much looking forward to the Luke Cage series being released in 2016 (after a second season of Daredevil).  They did a great job of giving us just enough to flesh out Luke for this series while still leaving a great deal of room to explore the character in his own series.

- It may have been a throw-away line, but when Jessica makes a comment about being able to tell that "so-and-so was here" from the impression in the bar, Luke corrects her by saying "Actually it was Melvin" - this could be a reference to Melvin Potter from the Daredevil series, the man who made DD's costume and who became The Gladiator in the comics.

- Jeryn 'Jeri' Hogarth is a man in the comics and has ties to Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) as his lawyer/financial adviser.  Iron Fist is slated to be the fourth Marvel/Netflix collaboration sometime after 2016's Luke Cage.

- The revelation of Kilgrave was treated similarly to that of Wilson Fisk in the Daredevil series.  We do not see Kilgrave's face until just before the end of the second episode.  Even then it is just a glimpse through a window.  He doesn't appear fully on screen until episode three.

- They worked in Luke Cage's comic book catch phrase 'Sweet Christmas!' twice.  The first after he and Jessica have sex.

- As mentioned previously, there are a number of Avengers references: comments about the city being attacked, buildings being destroyed, and children running around in Avengers costumes.  There's even a clipping of one of Ben Urich's headlines from The New York Bulletin (previously seen in Daredevil) pinned to a board in the police station.

- While no characters go into action in a super hero costume, there is a fun flashback scene in episode five in which Trish shows Jessica a costume that she has designed for her.  She's also thought up a code name for her: Jewel (as Jessica was once known in her past in the comics).  Jessica's response: "the only place someone is wearing that is trick or treating or some kinky role playing scenario" quickly followed by "Jewel is a stripper's name!"

- When Luke tries to hire Jessica as a P.I. she recommends 'a top notch private investigator' named Angela del Toro.  This is a reference to a character Brian Michael Bendis introduced in his run on Daredevil in the comics.  She is also known as a super hero by the name of White Tiger.

- In episode seven we see Sgt. Mahoney in the 15th Precinct station (previously seen in Daredevil).  We also get the standard MCU Stan Lee cameo via a photo above a desk in one of the cubicles in the station - the same photo seen behind the front station desk in Daredevil.

- Episode nine reveals that Will Simpson is Nuke!  Or at least an analog for the character.  In the comics Nuke's real name was Frank Simpson and he is a part of a military 'super soldier' program of sorts that utilizes, red, white, and blue pills.

- In the final episode, we get to see Rosario Dawson reprise her role of Claire Temple from Daredevil when Jessica takes Luke to the hospital after shooting him point blank.  She tells Jessica "you don't scare me...you're not my first".  She also mentions having a friend 'like Jessica' who could help her (Daredevil), but Jessica declines.

- Patsy 'Trish' Walker is actually one of Marvel comics' oldest characters.  She first appeared in an old romance comic (Miss America Magazine #2 - November 1944) published by Timely Comics (Marvel's predecessor).  She eventually became Hellcat in The Avengers #144 (February 1976).
Her backstory in this series as a child star/model fits nicely as an analog of her comic book history.  We also see Trish taking krav maga classes and holding her own in a couple of fight sequences, potentially setting the table for her becoming Hellcat as she did in the comics.

- In the Bendis/Gaydos run on Alias, the role of Jessica's best friend was actually filled by Carol Danvers.  At the time, Carol was also known as Ms. Marvel.  These days she is known as Captain Marvel in the comics and is slated to have her own film set in the MCU sometime in 2019 and has yet to be cast. For that reason she was replaced in this series by Trish.

- Luke's deceased wife is named Reva Conners (Parisa Fitz-Henley).  In the comics Reva Conners was also a love interest of his at one point.

- Despite having read the series in which he appeared, I didn't catch this connection myself (thank you internet), but Clarke Peters' Det. Oscar Clemons is from Greg Rucka's 2011 run on The Punisher.

- In the comics, Jessica has a neighbor named Malcolm who repeatedly asks her if he can work for her.  In this series she has a neighbor named Malcolm (Eka Darville) who has a very different story, but ends up similarly being an ally.

- The old man who helps Luke around the bar makes a crack to Jessica: "you love him, you want him back, you're going to have his baby".  In the comics Jessica does have Luke's child and they eventually get married.

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