Netflix’s Jessica Jones debuts bringing some girl power to the Marvel Television Universe
With her Wednesday Addams-like china doll features, Krysten Ritter isn’t a natural choice for a typical superhero show. If there are superpowers within her, then it’s in her ability to kill with a withering look or cut deeply with a perfectly acerbic barb. Yet, here she is, starring in Jessica Jones, Netflix’s adaptation of the cult favorite comic book series Alias which introduced the titular character. But Jessica Jones isn’t really your average superhero. Jessica Jones isn’t really your average superhero show.
Perfectly paired with Netflix’s earlier success Daredevil, Jones gradually unveils its antiheroine in a astutely calibrated neo-noir atmosphere. Here, the thrills are more reserved, more cerebral, than with Daredevil, but the biggest benefit is that Jones is largely an unknown quantity for the average viewer. The series creators and star Ritter make a mint out of that fact, shaping the series to become one of the bigger and most pleasant surprises of the 2015 television year.
We begin the show getting to know the everyday life of Jessica Jones, private investigator. Haunted by mysterious visions of a man hued in purple, Jones relies on many bottles of booze and her ever-waning faith in humanity to hermetically seal herself inside her own world. When a desperate set of out-of-towners hire her to investigate the disappearance of their daughter, Jones is gradually pulled back into humanity, much to her chagrin. The investigation eventually brings her within striking distance of her nemesis Kilgrave (David Tennant), the purple-hued man who has the ability to control the actions of those around him. His past with Jones drives her fear and desire to remain distance from friends and family. Based on subsequent events, it’s clear he is a demon she must tackle.
The first two episodes of Jones highlight the brilliantly effective noir setting created by director S.J. Clarkson with near period-perfect dialogue penned by series creator Melissa Rosenberg. As with Daredevil, the series is a feast for the eyes with brilliant cinematography finding as much beauty in the shadows as it does in occasional bursts of color.
The real hero here, though, is star Krysten Ritter who imbues Jessica Jones with a remarkable sense of resignation – initially. She’s resigned to a solitude life. She’s resigned to a miserable world. She’s resigned to abandoning the thought of helping her fellow man, particularly given her superhuman strength. But Ritter makes her gradual shift from antihero to straight-up hero a believable event. Ritter’s natural sarcasm and biting intelligence are her greatest assets (aside from her natural beauty), and she serves them up as the main course here.
This isn’t Jessica Jones, the helpless woman. This is Jessica Jones, the damaged warrior on a path back to the fight. Granted, I’ve only seen two episodes, but Ritter’s tough-minded performance is clearly the best thing she’s ever done. If she keeps this up, then it could be difficult for the Television Academy to ignore her.
Jessica Jones is also dotted with several vibrant supporting characters including Carrie-Ann Moss as supportive attorney Jery Hogarth, Rachel Taylor as persistent best friend Trish “Patsy” Walker, and, most importantly, Mike Colter as Luke Cage, who *spoiler alert* possesses similar attributes as Jessica and will rate his own upcoming Netflix television series. The biggest question at this stage is will David Tennant’s thus-far unseen performance as villain Kilgrave dominate the proceedings as much as Vincent D’Onofrio did in Daredevil. Villains tend to chew the scenery. It would be a shame to upset the balance achieved thus far.
Further solidifying Netflix as a house of high-quality programming, Jessica Jones is an extremely pleasant surprise. There was a sense in early teasers and later trailers that the combination of Ritter’s natural sarcasm and the noir vibe of the source material would be a good match. I just had no idea how perfectly the material would blend. Sorry The Man in the High Castle. You’re going to have to wait.
I simply cannot wait to finish Ms. Jones.