Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the first four episodes of Jessica Jones–“AKA Ladies Night,” “AKA Crush Syndrome,” “AKA It’s Called Whiskey,” and “AKA 99 Friends.” If you haven’t watched them yet, turn back and leave Hell’s Kitchen now.
Watching Marvel’s Jessica Jones is like taking a long drag on a cigarette. That’s a compliment. It’s slow, intimate, and incredibly satisfying. I mean, I’ve only smoked about ten cigarettes in my entire life, but I stand by the comparison. The series arrived on Netflix on November 20, and so far, it’s living up to the anticipation. It’s not like anything else Marvel has done—no, not even Daredevil. Jessica Jones is a hard story to digest. It’s raw, violent, salty, and twisted. While those factors are rough, they make the supernatural drama/psychological noir compelling and meaningful. You acutely experience Jessica’s pain and terror.
The pacing over the first four episodes isn’t speedy. The gradual build is tantalizing. It wouldn’t work for every story, but here, it serves to turn up the intensity to a bazillion and make Kilgrave absolutely terrifying. Though we saw clips of Jessica’s past with Kilgrave and the experiences that left her wrecked and traumatized, the series doesn’t hold your hand. There’s no going back for extensive flashbacks and information dumps. The framework is there and you have to piece it together.
And let’s talk about Jessica. Krysten Ritter was apparently born to play this character. She brings such range to Jessica’s moods. Whether she’s being protective, enjoying some enthusiastic superhero sex, or trying to shake herself out of being afraid, Ritter nails the nuance. She carries and communicates Jessica’s burdens. We’re on a journey with Jessica. She could have run away, but instead, she made the decision to fight. She’s opening old wounds and inflicting constant pain on herself to hunt Kilgrave, and you can see it on her face. Her determination is admirable. Her other traits? Well, I’m not sure she’s supposed to be likable, but I’m a fan.
Jessica is a hot mess. She occasionally contradicted herself, too. For example, she talked about how Kilgrave making people into puppets and using them was awful, but in the same scene, she told Hogarth she wanted to use the members of the support group. It’s not the same, and I’m not comparing her to Kilgrave but…
Someone who does have traits in common with Kilgrave is Hogarth. She’s an intimidating character who’s been painted as cruel, and though her roles as Jessica’s sometimes employer and Hope’s attorney are important, I suspect she has a bigger part to play. She saw Kilgrave’s ability as a gift that could be used for good, and the sentiment said a lot about her personality. She’s dangerous.
This is a fine time to mention how Jessica Jones is winning at not only having plenty of female characters in the series but showcasing wildly different types of women and their relationships with each other. It’s realistic, and it’s so goddamn delightful to see a range depicted.
Speaking of awesome women, how about Trish Walker? Rachael Taylor has been the standout surprise for me in Jessica Jones. The way she plays Trish–you know she’s been through hell. The character is whip smart and sort of standoffish yet warm. I positively loved the scene between her and Simpson talking through her reinforced door and how she kept her hand on the gun as they continued the discussion in her home. She wanted a connection, but she kept her guard up. So many shows would have had her open the door as soon as Simpson arrived with a box and had her instantly trust him. I don’t know the comic book histories of these characters, so I don’t know about Patsy Walker. Bits and pieces are unfolding naturally in the show, and I’ll keep learning about the character that way.
Fear and control are big themes in Jessica Jones—both controlling your fear and Kilgrave’s powers to control. Kilgrave’s powers can affect anyone, and his reach makes the character scary. They’re handling Kilgrave in a similar way to what they did with Kingpin on Daredevil. We got to know him by the reactions others had to him and by seeing the result of his handiwork with Hope. He’s heartless, he seemingly has no conscience, and he’s difficult to stop. By the time we finally came face to face with him, we’re frightened. David Tennant is astoundingly chilling in the role. He has a quiet sort of intensity and is calm in a way only someone who is used to having everyone do what he wants can be. Knowing that makes the flashback scene of him yelling after Jessica that much more striking.
One more thought about the first four episodes: The case of Audrey Eastman was tremendous for a few reasons. It was the strongest connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet in the series and showed someone who wasn’t thankful for the Avengers saving the city. Audrey can’t be the only one who has those feelings, and if an average citizen—albeit, a wealthy one—can track “gifted” people down, what could the government or a vengeful organization do? Also, Audrey’s attack gave Jessica a reason to lose her shit. Jessica often holds her powers back even if she’s not exactly hiding them and here, she let loose. It’s perhaps my favorite scene at this point because it was such a close look at the State of Jessica.
So far, Jessica Jones is speaking my language. Some of the dialogue has been clunky, and I’m not a fan of the presence of Jessica’s odd duck neighbors Robyn and Ruben. They keep popping up, and I don’t see a reason for it. Maybe it will be explained, but for now they’re the off-key note in an otherwise lovely tune.
- “Sweet Christmas.” – Luke
- “I don’t get asked out on second dates.” – Jessica
- “Being a hero puts a target on your back.” – Luke
- “You take your goddamn pain and live with it.” – Jessica
I want to know what you think about Jessica Jones. Are you freaked out by David Tennant’s Kilgrave? Have you developed a sudden taste for Wild Turkey? Talk to me in the comments or come chat with me on Twitter.