Season One, Episodes One & Two – “AKA Ladies Night”, “AKA Crush Syndrome”
By Molly Jane Kremer. The quality and success of Netflix’s Daredevil series – already a dark step past what most would have considered the comfort zone of live-action Marvel – opened up our hearts to the realization that the bright-eyed MCU could also convincingly get down and dirty with more street-level characters. But Jessica Jones? That’s a little more questionable: she’s certainly one of the newest characters Marvel’s allowed to graduate from the comics to the screen without a decades-long history. She’s also, well… a she. And we all know what happened the last time a Marvel lady got her own feature.
No need for worry, folks. Jessica Jones takes the grittiness of Daredevil and then takes few more steps into the noirish murk, while retaining focus on smart writing, on-point characterization, and loads of suspense. The comic series it’s based on (Alias, lovingly penned and gorgeously penciled by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, respectively), was one of the most “adult” series Marvel ever released, and not only because of language and content, but for its sophisticated character study within the grimy world underneath the superheroics. Jessica herself is one of the most compellingly multi-dimensional superheroes to ever grace the four-colored page. Netflix realized the flawed perfection of that character and retained the potency of her sequential form.
But where Daredevil was still an action-packed superhero show, grim and gritty though it was, Jessica Jones has toned down the violence for stylized character development and prolonged psychological drama and suspense. So far, it’s doing great.
WHAT WORKED: Krysten Ritter as our eponymous heroine is nothing short of fantastic, especially for anyone with a passing knowledge of the character’s previous iteration. Ritter’s sarcasm and acerbity (almost trademark at this point) flows perfectly into Jessica’s, and the low-key, slow-burn sexuality she exudes is straight out of the comic. (Though the show has decided on a more fast-paced reveal of her past and its terrors.)
Daredevil felt the need to namecheck (almost slyly but not quite) the Avengers and their climactic cinematic battle a few times within its first episode. Here in its first two installments, Jessica Jones sees no mention of anything yet introduced in Marvel film or television, leaving it standing on its own perfectly fine. If they had decided to go in the direction of the comics, focusing on various cases before they got to Jess’s big bad, this separation wouldn’t have been so pleasant. (And I’ll be honest, I’m still crossing my fingers to see Chris Evans pop up.)
WHAT DIDN’T: In an apparent need for a single overarching villain to menace the entire series, Jessica Jones has disregarded nearly thirty issues of casework separate from Jessica’s experiences with the Purple Man. They’ve gone straight for the most traumatic and horrific bits of the comic, dissecting parts from other storylines only to reassemble them into this one. Since this season looks to be all Kilgrave, all the time, maybe some of the more Marvel-Universe-centric plots can be explored in future seasons (if they’re not all gutted for spare parts in this one).
Daredevil had a diversity problem—mostly white male characters made up the show’s cast, and the few Asian and Hispanic ones were treated rather offensively. Jessica Jones fares a tad better, but now it’s just mostly white ladies… plus Mike Colter. There is slightly better representation herein, in that Carrie-Anne Moss’s Jeryn Hogarth is a lesbian, and that in having a larger amount of women characters who are interesting and well-rounded is never a bad thing, but Marvel needs to work on its preponderance of snowy-white casts, and stat.
Episode One – “New York may be the city that never sleeps, but it sure does sleep around.” – Jessica, who observes and photographs a good percentage of it.
“I don’t flirt, I say what I want.” – Jessica. Attagirl.
“Smile.” – Kilgrave and Hope. (Hope after doing a very bad thing under Kilgrave’s thrall.) Nothing like hearing that word coming from a character who mind-controls and victimizes women.
Episode Two – “Lady, you’re a very perceptive asshole.” – Jessica, to one of her super weird upstairs neighbors (who I’m pretty sure I love).
“Looks like you’re a mascot for a macabre club.” – Jeryn Hogarth, in an amazing coat, to her new client.
“You can’t fix me. I’m unbreakable.” – Luke Cage, inciting palpable swoonage after he proves just how hard those abs are by taking a circular saw to them… and leaving it broken and smoking.
Episode One – When Jessica and Luke meet for the first time, it’s when she’s lingering outside his bar, drinking by the window; and after she’s witnessed him take home a lady-patron (and taken hi-res zoomed-in photos of it from the building over, since apparently Jess is a bit of a creeper). But their chemistry is undeniable, from the first instant. They have a flirtatious antagonism that’s incredibly appealing, and the sex scene following their meet-cute is prettttty hot (I never would have guessed for that to actually be a thing, a hot sex scene in a Marvel property… all Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter’s fault).
Episode Two – Even though he only shows up about five minutes before the credits roll (and is thankfully not actually purple) Kilgrave’s first full appearance on screen is just as awful as you’d imagine: he walks into a family’s home with the power of his words, relegating the children to a closet before sitting down for the parents to serve him their dinner. His previous actions, revealed throughout these first two episodes, sketch out a truly horrific sociopath, and David Tennant plays him smoothly, and quietly frightening. After this series, the Tenth Doctor might not be your favorite anymore.
EPISODE’S MVP: Jessica Jones. This show is less about the ensemble than Daredevil, and more focused on its titular character, giving Krysten Ritter ample time and opportunity to shine so very brightly even within such a dark script. Given Jessica’s alcoholism and wicked case of PTSD, Ritter is forced to look and act constantly stressed, but she makes that fear—and her intense determination to work through it—tangible. She gives a sharp wit to Jessica’s many sardonic quips, but keeps her more dramatic scenes grounded and affecting. Ritter was wonderfully cast and makes Jessica immensely watchable and likable, whilst being kind of a shitheel—just as she should be.
– The “Special Thanks” card in the end credits is massive, and includes comics greats both new and old: David Mack (cover artist on Alias), Roy Thomas, George Tuska and Archie Goodwin (co-creators of Mr. Cage), John Romita, Ruth Atkinson (creator of Patsy, or uh, Trish Walker), Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Stan Lee, Joe Orlando, Greg Rucka, and Marco Checchetto. Strangely missing are Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, although they both get a namecheck during the opening credits instead, Bendis’ absence in the Special Thanks may be due to contractual obligations while working on Powers, another show based on one of his creations.
– One of the show’s opening scenes mirrors that of the first issue in the Alias comic series: Jessica throws a violent and disgruntled customer through the door, an event that—in the show as well as the comic—ends up having ramifications later on.
– Carrie-Anne Moss plays a gender-switched version of attorney Jeryn Hogarth, who (in the comics) was actually introduced as the family lawyer for wealthy Danny Rand: none other than the Immortal Iron Fist. Only time will tell if she will retain that position in the Iron Fist series that’s due out… eventually?
– So Jess apparently has weird neighbors who like keeping their blinds open and doing weird shit in front of their windows. And then Jess takes pics…? Hooookay then. That’s a little twisted.
– Weird little fanboy Malcolm, a regular from the comics, makes an appearance; but without the added context of being what amounts to an over-enthusiastic comic book superhero nerd, he’s instead just some rando weirdo neighbor who shows up.
– Reva Connors is in fact Luke’s former girlfriend in Marvel-616 continuity too, and she passed away in the comics as well as in this show.
– So Jess took those pics of Luke and his paramour, and, for some weird reason, fully investigated Luke’s lady before boldly telling Luke she was hired to do so by the lady’s hubs… But she only did it for fun. That is creepy, girl.
– Luke’s eyeroll when aforementioned hubs breaks a bottle over his head? Absolutely priceless.
– The entire fight scene, when the cuckolded husband brings his “rugby buddies” to purportedly beat up Luke is exceedingly fun to watch. It’s pretty much the only action-filled interlude within the first two episodes, and its fun not only watching these dumb dudes get pummeled (some by a girl, no less) but seeing Jessica and Luke both realize that neither is exactly… normal.
– The furniture shifts and squeaks in Jessica’s office; it feels lived in, little less glossily set-piece fake than most other Marvel offerings (including Daredevil).
– From the looks of it, Patsy—yes, sorry, I know, it’s Trish!—Walker is taking hard core self-defense classes, leaving her covering up her bruised arms at work. Hellcat, here we come! Here’s hoping we see her with a devilishly handsome boyfriend named Daimon next…