Jessica Jones, the second Netflix series leading up to The Defenders premiered on Friday, November 20th, starring Krysten Ritter as a super-powered private detective with a penchant for drinking whiskey, swearing, barging in without asking, and wearing the same jeans, boots, and leather jacket throughout the thirteen episodes.
She’s complicated and she’s not alone. She’s rounded out with a slew of side characters with their own complications and what may be Marvel’s most compelling and scariest villain.
That’s right. David Tennant, who might be yours and is my favorite iteration of the Doctor from Doctor Who take Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man and makes your skin crawl with his mind controlling powers. He’s a killer, a rapist, and under it all he believes he’s the nice guy with impeccable taste. Like any good villain, he believes he’s doing the ring thing but what makes Tennant’s Killgrave interesting is that he’s clueless to what right and wrong are. He’s been using his powers for so long he’s only figured out now as an adult that getting what you want all the time isn’t as satisfying as earning it. He’s a petulant child in a man’s body who can control minds. This has made him a complete and utter monster.
Luke Cage, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of. When is the Luke Cage series premiering? Not until after Daredevil season two? Jesus, I can’t wait that long. Mike Colter’s Cage complements Jessica Jones’ brash, blunt and snarky attitude with a quiet stoicism. While Jessica says exactly what she wants when she wants to Luke says so much with his body language that he can be careful with his word choice. I need that Luke Cage series now.
Luke Cage and Jessica Jones romance, relationship, fling or whatever you want to call it played well. You want it to happen. You want to find out if you’re in the know about his character if this takes place before Cage gets his powers or after. Then when you find out he does, you want Cage and Jones to get together but it gets complicated. These complications are part of the story without overtaking Jessica’s plot. Their relationship is part of Jessica’s life. That part of her life does not consume the entire story. It remains just a part and the series is better off for it.
Jessica’s line, speaking about her powers, about not hiding them but not advertising them either perfectly sums up the approach to powers in this street level. There’s no complicated retelling of her backstory. We just get bits and pieces of it as the story moves forward which is how exposition should be delivered. Over food, Jessica says she got her powers in an accident and Luke explains he got it in an experiment. Done and done. Killgrave’s origins are used as a motivating factor for his behavior, but he’s not constantly bringing it up.
The cast is filled out by Trish “Patsy” Walker, Jeri Hogarth, Will Simpson, Hope Schlottman, and Malcolm Ducasse all going through their own stories that spread out to introduce minor characters and wind up interconnected with Jessica’s. Not every character makes out of this first season alive. Jessica Jones has a high body and two deaths, in particular, are incredibly troubling, choice wise.
Do you remember Ben Urich in Daredevil’s first season? One of the best non-superhero characters in the Marvel Universe played by the brilliant actor Vondie Curtis-Hall and they killed him off. A waste and one of the biggest missteps of Daredevil’s first season. As a result, it is a bit strange that Jessica Jones has a similarly grizzled old black man, a detective this time, killed off for not a fucking good reason whatsoever. Played by Clarke Peters, whose character Lester Freamon on The Wire was one of the best, should have been a mainstay, just like Ben Urich, but is used as a plot device to further Will Simpson’s subplot involving a different kind of morality in regards to how Killgrave should be handled. Again, what a fucking waste.
Speaking of more waste, why does Marvel kill off all of its villains? Is it trying to tell us in the “real world” the only choice when dealing with these kinds of characters is death? That’s ridiculous. Obadiah Stane, Laufey, Whiplash, Red Skull, Malekith, Baron Von Strucker, Yellowjacket, Ronan the Accuser, Dr. Arnim Zola, Ultron, Alexander Pierce, John Garret, Daniel Whitehall, Jiaying, and now Zebediah Stane have all been killed off. For a company trying to build a cinematic universe that’s going to last for years killing off all your villains isn’t going to work well moving forward.
That being said, I’ll take season one of Daredevil and Jessica Jones over The Avengers: Age of Ultron any day. Jessica Jones is a mish-mash of the superhero genre, detective noir, and horror. It has mental health issues, relationship issues, knock-down drag-out fight scenes, women’s issues, drug issues, alcoholism, superheroes, supervillains, superpowers, sex, love, and most importantly of all complex characters and stories. What are you doing reading this? Go watch it now.