Small Screen Review: “Jessica Jones”

 

jjIn a comparison between the two giants of comic book entertainment, I’ve seen it stated that DC presents stories of gods and demigods – myths for modern time – while Marvel presents stories of human beings who happen to have powers. If any recent storyline presents that latter concept well it has to be the Netflix series, “Jessica Jones.”

In fact, “Jessica Jones” is a very human story. Super-powered beings are integral to the tale, but initially the powers seem to be incidental to the characters. It takes some time for any powers to be used in earnest and in all honesty I think it does the series well. By using a slow burn, we get time to learn about the players in this tale. The powers don’t distract us from who these people are and what’s going on at the first.

Krysten Ritter plays the title character. She is a private investigator working in Hell’s Kitchen (a familiar location for those who saw “Daredevil”) in a dingy little office that is also her apartment. Ritter is a waif of a person, which contrasts well with her character’s super strength and attitude. Occasionally she does a job or two for attorney Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss). A nice, wholesome Midwestern couple approaches Jones in the first episode. She was recommended to them and they need Jones to help them find their missing daughter, Hope.

Jessica takes the case, but quickly finds that elements of the case feel all too familiar. Hope has been taken by a man from Jessica’s past, Kilgrave (played by David Tennant of Doctor Who fame). Kilgrave is a rather chilling antagonist as he has mind control. Tennant plays this well. Kilgrave tosses out commands casually, with barely a thought. He’s sociopathic and narcissistic, but yet the show avoids making these traits cartoonish. By the end of the first episode, Hope, compelled to kill her parents, is looking at murder charges, and Jessica is faces a decision: flee from this man or face him.

The choices in this series: to keep it fairly human and to avoid comic book caricature is important. The show is truly about dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Jones was manipulated, controlled, and essentially raped by Kilgrave. Like a typical narcissist, Kilgrave cannot admit his own culpability, even knowing he has complete control over his victims. Jones must overcome her fear and her guilt over what has happened in the past and what happens now as Kilgrave pursues her in his own twisted way. So though this series takes place in a comic book universe, it does not have a comic book feel to it. This is a redemption tale for Jones, and for that it is very satisfying.

There are no wasted characters in “Jessica Jones.” Eka Darville plays Malcolm Ducasse, Jones junkie neighbor who at first appears to be comic relief, but soon proves to be important to the story. The plot is consistently like that. Someone who seems like a throwaway character turns out to be integral to our story. The side dramas are minimal and generally become part of the main story. It makes these incidental stories very satisfying. When we ask, “Why do we have to go through Hogarth’s messy divorce?” the show dutifully answers.

Something I also appreciate is that the pacing isn’t frenetic. They give you time to think about the story and characters. If this were a typical superhero story, it might come off as forced, but the PTSD theme demands a more thoughtful approach, I would think. Not everyone likes a story at this pace, but I find it refreshing as it is done well.

“Jessica Jones” is a Netflix exclusive. Like its cousin “Daredevil,” it is darker and more graphic than other comic-inspired shows have been. Jessica is not quite as bloody, though it has a few very startling scenes toward the end. Still, if that doesn’t bother you, I highly recommend this series. The story and characters are strong, and I found the ending satisfying.

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  1. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    I watched the series in two binge sittings … I will probably watch it again.   Not a big comic book fan but did read some comics when I was younger.   Not a big fan of blood and gore … but that’s what the fast-forward button is for.   And yes there were times I was disappointed enough — multiple times — to need to remind myself  “it’s a TV show” (of sorts).   I totally missed the bad-a**ed female thing;  she read to me like any triple-A personality type …  it’s presents the same in both males and females alike.

    Why will I watch it again? I keep thinking there is more there than I caught the first time.  I enjoy seeing the writer/directors play with the human struggles that deal with contradictory wants, needs, fears, and weaknesses.  I thought the actor’s portrayal of Kilgrave was so chilling because it was so spot-on.  Like many, he had just about everything, but he only really wanted the one thing he could not have.  I think JJ wanted to believe Kilgrave was redeemable, because it would mean she was too.

    • #61
  2. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Judith: Glad to see you around, I hope you will start your podcast again. I love reports from abroad. On the note of Kilgrave’s time limit I think from a story perspective you need limits on powers. The danger of comics is that powers expand and grow and (fully realizing the irony of this statement) things just become unbelievable. You need to give characters strict limits to allow for a logical story construction and give the audience a sense of stability in a fantastical universe.

    What always struck me about Kilgrave is that if he tells you to drive him around what keeps you from killing him and driving his dead body? If you wish to oppose him can one not adopt the attitude of a disgruntled genie, being strictly literal and free in all other respects?

    Best not contemplate things too much again the suspension of disbelief is key to the enjoyment of comic books. One has to buy into the conceits of the world presented.

    • #62
  3. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    TempTime: but that’s what the fast-forward button is for

    Yes.  If only Netflix would get it’s act together AND ADD ONE, LIKE AMAZON’S VIDEO PLAYER HAS HAD FOR-FRAKKIN-EVER!!!.

    • #63
  4. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Valiuth: What always struck me about Kilgrave is that if he tells you to drive him around what keeps you from killing him and driving his dead body?

    Hmm.  Is his power to make you obey his text or his meaning?

    • #64
  5. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Owen Findy:

    Valiuth: What always struck me about Kilgrave is that if he tells you to drive him around what keeps you from killing him and driving his dead body?

    Hmm. Is his power to make you obey his text or his meaning?

    His words, but this is not as easy to do as Valiuth suggests.

    Kilgrave makes you WANT to do what ever he says.  It’s not simply that you are compelled to do it, you want to do it.  When you hear him say “Drive me to X place”, you don’t interpret it as coming from a man who intends to do you harm.

    Furthermore, it very easy for him to simply stop you from killing him with a word (See Luke’s failed attempt).  When he told those children to get in the closet, their mother was outraged though he had already given her other commands.  “They’ll be fine” made her genuinely believe that everything was fine.

    • #65
  6. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Owen Findy: Yes. If only Netflix would get it’s act together AND ADD ONE, LIKE AMAZON’S VIDEO PLAYER HAS HAD FOR-FRAKKIN-EVER!!!.

    That and a pause button in the middle of the screen on mobile versions!

    • #66
  7. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: on mobile versions!

    Yeah, I failed to make that distinction….

    • #67
  8. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Frank Soto: Kilgrave makes you WANT to do what ever he says. It’s not simply that you are compelled to do it, you want to do.

    Right.  I’d forgotten that subtlety, too.  I guarantee that if I cared about this topic as much as my very life, I could muster as much lawyerly nuance as everyone else here.  I know I could.

    • #68
  9. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Owen Findy:

    TempTime: but that’s what the fast-forward button is for

    Yes. If only Netflix would get it’s act together AND ADD ONE, LIKE AMAZON’S VIDEO PLAYER HAS HAD FOR-FRAKKIN-EVER!!!.

    Oh, I guess I should have mentioned.  I watch Netflix via Roku on my TV (older tv) and have a Universal Remote that controls all things electronic; for some reason I guess I thought everyone did the same. Oops.

    • #69
  10. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Valiuth: On the note of Kilgrave’s time limit I think from a story perspective you need limits on powers. The danger of comics is that powers expand and grow and (fully realizing the irony of this statement) things just become unbelievable. You need to give characters strict limits to allow for a logical story construction and give the audience a sense of stability in a fantastical universe.

    This got me thinking about Jessica, more than Kilgrave.

    So, she’s got super strength.  She can be hurt, though (although it looks like she has some sort of healing factor).  She knows there is a bad guy out there that is gunning for her, and fears the outcome of the confrontation.  She knows there are other supers out there that she may have to fight–Luke being vectored in on her was a surprise, but shouldn’t have been considered impossible.

    In her place, wouldn’t you study a little jiu-jitsu?  Maybe some Muay Thai?  Get your Wing Chun on a little bit?

    • #70
  11. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    TempTime: I watch Netflix via Roku on my TV (older tv) and have a Universal Remote that controls all things electronic

    I watch a not-insubstantial amount, lying on my back, looking at my iPhone.

    • #71
  12. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Boss Mongo: Wait, what? So, super-soldier dude couldn’t make a distance shot? Doesn’t know a guy nearby that can’t make a distance shot? He got hold of some SpecOps paisons pretty easy when he needed to, if I recall.

    I think this was answered: until very late in the series, Jessica (foolishly) wanted to keep Kilgrave alive so she could use his confessions to save Hope. By the time she gave up on this (because Hope committed suicide), no one had the resources or skills to take him out and Jessica new she was immune to Kilgrave.

    • #72
  13. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Boss Mongo: Wait, what? So, super-soldier dude couldn’t make a distance shot? Doesn’t know a guy nearby that can’t make a distance shot? He got hold of some SpecOps paisons pretty easy when he needed to, if I recall.

    I think this was answered: until very late in the series, Jessica (foolishly) wanted to keep Kilgrave alive so she could use his confessions to save Hope. By the time she gave up on this (because Hope committed suicide), no one had the resources or skills to take him out and Jessica new she was immune to Kilgrave.

    Tom, you’re right.  Frank Soto already knocked the snot out of me for this.

    I think I missed some of the plot subtleties once Kilgrave met my “okay, this guy needs to get euthanized right now” criteria.  It took Jessica longer to get there than me (and took Hope taking extreme action to get there), and I think I was jumbled up and transferring my assessment of the situation onto the show.  My bad, no ifs, ands, or buts.  I screwed it up.

    But still, Kilgrave needed to assume room temperature in the most expeditious way possible.

    • #73
  14. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Boss Mongo: I think I missed some of the plot subtleties once Kilgrave met my “okay, this guy needs to get euthanized right now” criteria. It took Jessica longer to get there than me (and took Hope taking extreme action to get there), and I think I was jumbled up and transferring my assessment of the situation onto the show. My bad, no ifs, ands, or buts. I screwed it up.

    If it makes you feel any better, I was in the same situation before Frank set us to right. ;)

    Boss Mongo: But still, Kilgrave needed to assume room temperature in the most expeditious way possible.

    Hear, hear.

    • #74
  15. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Judith Levy: …Remember the unlucky kid who came out of the club behind Kilgrave toward the end of the series, whom Kilgrave orders to cross the street and stand facing the fence — forever? That was one of the most chilling, unsettling moments in the whole series for me — until I thought wait a minute, isn’t this order going to wear off?…

    Kilgrave himself points out that the order isn’t a death sentence because it will wear off.

    • #75
  16. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Whiskey Sam: …That was a theory, but it was never proven….

    It was his parent’s explanation for what had happened.  They gave him the virus, and it cured his illness, but led to the power as a side effect.

    • #76
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