Before I sat down with Jessica Jones I had to do some homework. I’d never read Alias, the comic that the character originated in. I hadn’t followed any of the books that she’d shown up in before. Hell, I only vaguely knew who her boyfriend, Luke Cage, was. Jessica Jones was an unknown entity, but after looking up more about her, I grew to like the character and set-up before I even popped the first episode on. In the comics, Jessica is a failed superhero who’s really strong, can fly, but is terrible at it, and heals a bit faster than most. She ran with the Avengers, is good friends with the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, went to the same school as Spider-Man, and has lead a unique life. A bad stint with a relatively unknown villain who goes by the Purple Man in the comics ruined that, though, and soured her on the superhero life. From there she dives head first into a self-destructive spiral that lands her with her own freelance detective job. She’s suffering from PTSD, is extremely foul-mouthed and foul-tempered, loves to drink and have sex, and she’s not putting up with anyone’s crap on any given day. So how do they manage to translate this into a TV series without the Avengers backstory, a lack of access to the mutant characters she’s friends with, and still make this feel like not only a Marvel show, but that it’s tied into the MCU? Very carefully, and really well actually.
The show starts off with Jessica already running Alias Investigations. In fact the opening shot of her putting a client through the window of her office is straight out of the comics. From there, though, the show is more based on the character, themes, and a few side stories than any particular issue. There’s quite a bit of swearing in this, but Jessica is a bit less foul-mouthed than she was in her comics. The showrunners decided to focus more on the last volume of Alias for the show, which focuses on Kilgrave – AKA The Purple Man – and Jessica dealing with her issues with him. Jessica thinks he’s dead and has been for about a year. That’s when her new clients come in wanting to hire Jessica to look for her daughter. They can’t really pin down who referred them to her, but she decides to take the case. As she looks into Hope’s case, though, things start to fall into place, and Jessica realizes that Kilgrave may actually be alive. This is confirmed when Jessica finds Hope, and she gets ready to run as she’s sure Kilgrave is coming for her. When circumstances turn bad for Hope , thanks to Kilgrave and his desire to twist the knife, Jessica realizes she can’t run forever and decides that she needs to stop Kilgrave once and for all.
The first season deals mainly with this one case, although Jessica takes a few side ones here and there as she does still need money, and, sometimes favors. She spends most of her time working, trying to clear Hope and prove Kilgrave not only exists, but that his abilities are real. Kilgrave has the ability to get anyone near him to do exactly what he tells them to do. This doesn’t sound all that terrifying until you realize he could walk up to Bruce Banner and have him go all Hulk on anything he wanted, and the Hulk wouldn’t stop until the instructions were carried out. Kind of what Scarlet Witch did in Avengers: Age of Ultron, only far more directed. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these kinds of abilities are extremely rare, and in this more real-world setting where the Inhumans are just starting to show up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this prospect is extremely terrifying. What makes Kilgrave even more monstrous is not that he wants to destroy the world, or have unimaginable power, he just wants what he wants when he wants it and to hell with anyone in his way.
Jessica isn’t entirely alone in this as she ends up dating another person with powers in Luke Cage, albeit briefly. She’s good friends with Trish Walker, a former child star turned radio host who she grew up with, and who is actually Hellcat in the comics, however this would be pre-Hellcat in the MCU. And she has an uneasy relationship with Jeri Hogarth, a powerful defense attorney who kicks work Jessica’s way because she’s effective. The show isn’t entirely about Jessica, though, as we get into Trish’s past, as well as her current life, as it gets interfered with due to Jessica’s investigations into Kilgrave. We also get into Jeri’s life a bit as it most definitely winds through Jessica’s, not only because she hires Jessica, but because Jessica gets her to defend Hope.
The season itself is really dark. If you have any kind of past with abuse or rape or even dealing with PTSD, you should probably be prepared to take a few breaks. While they deal with all of the above in a realistic and completely tonally correct fashion, especially pertaining to Jessica and Trish, it can be a bit rough. Like I said, though, they deal with it exceptionally well, probably better than any show or film I’ve seen tackle the topics. There is a dark humor to the show as well that helps to bring the misery that everyone’s going through up a bit. And while this is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and ties into the Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this is definitely more along the lines of Daredevil, but even then this ends up being more of a crime noire show than an action piece. That being said, the fight sequences and action sequences are really well done when they come up.
Daredevil kind of lost its way a bit, meandering in the mid-season before picking up the ball again with where they wanted to go. Jessica Jones feels a bit more planned out. Sure, there’s some stalling in the storytelling, but it’s more chalked up to characters with issues making extremely poor decisions and having to deal with them rather than the writers having lost direction with the story. It’s a grim, dark, and extremely personal story, but at the same time it feels very much like it fits in with the rest of the established MCU. It helps that a lot of the same locations from Daredevil show up here. The same police station, one of the policemen from the Daredevil show, and a few other places here and there. The references to what happened in the first Avengers movie are alluded to again here, and a few snide and funny references are made to the more well known members of the team. It’s little Easter Eggs are amusing if you know the comics or watched the films, but nothing is over the top or distracting while you watch.
The acting in the show is right up there. Krysten Ritter is fantastic in the role and just oozes the ‘I don’t give a shit, I need a drink’ feel that Jessica would have throughout all of this. Mike Colter is a great choice for Luke Cage as he has this intensity to the character that works on a lot of levels throughout the season. Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeri is perfect casting. She nails the tough as hell, extremely cold and efficient defense lawyer amazingly well. Rachael Taylor is good as Trish, and I like the arc she has. I think I’ll like Trish a bit more where they seem to be going with her, but the best scenes are with Trish and Jessica playing off each other. Eka Darville as Jessica’s druggie neighbor is probably the most underrated out of the cast. He manages to pull off sympathetic and strangely competent throughout the season and you really feel for what he’s going through. The stand out for this, though, is David Tennant as Kilgrave. He manages to channel that kind of carefree and overpowering demeanor he had playing the 10th Doctor on Doctor Who, and completely and totally turns it creepy as hell. When he needs to be, though, he’s also sympathetic and charming, and that’s also very much in line with Kilgrave’s character. It’s a great all around cast for the most part, and they do a great job with this.
While most of the story line gets taken care of in this, there are definite allusions to where the next season of Jessica Jones could go with the characters. Hell one of the characters is a direct reference to another Daredevil bad guy and his backstory, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn up again in either Jessica Jones season two, or a season further down the line in Daredevil as they could easily adapt another Daredevil comic story to the show. It’s an overall great season that tackles some really deep themes and character developments you’d never get on the big screen in the Marvel universe, but works insanely well as a TV series. I know there are those that would disagree with me, but Jessica Jones first season is actually stronger storytelling, and more compelling to watch, than Daredevil. They’re both great and engaging, but Jessica just had this little something that Daredevil didn’t quite have that kicked it up a bit. Either way, I enjoyed the hell out of both of them and if you have Netflix and like Marvel, or even detective noire, you need to have this in your queue.