The Netflix original series “Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” which overtly deals with dark and unsettling themes such as abuse, victim blaming and psychological trauma, has become the comic book franchise’s riskiest production to date.
The show, which premiered Friday, is based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ comic book “Alias” and is one of Marvel’s most compelling cinematic projects. Its titular character, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a private investigator who makes a living off of people who suspect their spouses are cheating on them.
The first few episodes in the series have a heavy neo-noir atmosphere typical of detective stories. As the series approaches its climax, the detective story feel gives way to a quicker-paced action-drama, but the show is at its strongest when it pays tribute to its noir roots. The dark and suspenseful atmosphere emphasizes the psychological consequences of the main villain’s abusive actions, leading to some of the scariest moments in the series.
After a devastating encounter with Kilgrave, the show’s villain, sometime in her past, the beginning of the series shows Jones trying to nurse her severe post-traumatic stress disorder through alcohol and social isolation. Initially, Jones believes Kilgrave died in a bus crash, but a case about a missing girl leads her back into her tormentor’s path.
Kilgrave — a name Jones pokes fun at when she asks, “Was Murdercorpse already taken?” — is a psychopathic, super-powered individual who can influence people’s behavior, compelling them to follow his every verbal command. Portrayed by David Tennant, Kilgrave is arguably the most terrifying villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kilgrave orders people to kill others or themselves, and they helplessly obey, but he arrogantly claims he has never actually killed anybody. He mocks Jones, who is haunted by a murder Kilgrave forced her to commit, asking if she can say the same.
Ritter brilliantly brings the main character to life, imbuing Jones with snarkiness and quick wit while weaving Jones’ brokenness and self-destructive tendencies into her unapologetic demeanor.
Besides Kilgrave’s terrifying ability, the show’s supernatural component is downplayed. Jones doesn’t dwell too much on her supernatural abilities, and the show doesn’t either. When she is asked how many more people “like her” exist, Jones replies, “How many more what — private eyes?” While Jones often utilizes her super strength and super jump, she is most impressive when she shows off her savvy P.I. skills to outsmart Kilgrave.
After the critically acclaimed series “Marvel’s Daredevil” premiered earlier this year, the second Marvel-Netflix team-up has big shoes to fill. “Jessica Jones” not only meets expectations but surpasses them, introducing a very personal and creepy layer to the violence in the show.
Whereas “Daredevil” excels in maintaining a well paced crime narrative with quick action scenes, the most intense battles in “Jessica Jones” play out in its characters’ heads. The show doesn’t pull its punches. It never tries to hide rape or abortion behind euphemisms or implications and instead deals with socially relevant themes candidly.
Ultimately, “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” is accessible as stand-alone quality TV programming. Unlike other Marvel productions that draw more heavily from their comic book origins and their links to the Marvel Cinematic Universe such as “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and “The Avengers,” “Jessica Jones” doesn’t cater exclusively to comic book fans. Instead, it can easily appeal to viewers who don’t care much for the comic book hook, comprising a well crafted series through which fresh audiences to partake in some superhero fun.
Title: “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”
Number of Episodes: 13
Episode Running Time: 46-55 minutes