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Saturday, 5 December 2015

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones.

I wasn't a tremendous fan of Daredevil, at least not at first, with the show really only growing on me in its latter half, so I wasn't exactly rushing to watch Jessica Jones. After all, 'Marvel does a low budget Netflix affair' doesn't exactly sound like a good time to me. What eventually prompted me to watch it was the accursed American holiday 'Thanksgivery', which meant that for a week, nothing that I usually watched was on and I had to fill the time with things I hadn't been watching. First it was Gotham, then it was Jessica Jones, and then I ended the week with Elementary, which was actually so dull that I couldn't get myself to pay attention.

Set in New York, Jessica Jones follows the eponymous super-strong private investigator when a case involving a young woman, Hope Schlottman, brings her into contact with a man she thought was dead: Kilgrave, who has the power to compel anyone to obey his commands. As Jessica sets out to obtain proof of Kilgrave's powers and stop him, Kilgrave also sets out to torment Jessica, intending to seek revenge on her for leaving him to die.

I actually started liking this series as soon as I started watching, and it was only near the end, when the pressure kind of built to the point where the show couldn't sustain itself and was collapsing under its own weight that I actually started going off it a little. Only a little, I should point out: I enjoyed the series from start to finish, it's just that I was enjoying it less as it reached its close, and it probably could have done with being one to three episodes shorter.

Jessica, as played by Krysten Ritter.

I called out Daredevil for its terrible night-time cinematography, and Jessica Jones cinematography and lighting in its night scenes isn't much better, but it gets around this by not having many scenes at night at all, instead having its action predominantly take place in the daytime, which is a small change, but one that represents a significant improvement, since unlike in Daredevil, I can see what's going on.

It's also a lot more grounded in the Marvel universe than Daredevil is: Characters make references to the events of The Avengers and to individual Avengers, there's at least one reference to Daredevil, and when talking about the need to prove that Kilgrave exists, the problem is always cited as less 'it's impossible that someone like that could exist' and more 'if we don't have proof, and a way to prove that someone's been Kilgraved, anyone could commit a crime and claim that he made them do it.'

Structurally, though, Jessica Jones is quite similar to Daredevil: They're both fairly grounded crime shows with low-level superpowers (to one degree or another) added in, and both of their plotlines are in the 'pressure cooker' style, where the main character grows increasing isolated and obsessive as the odds stack higher against them, the stakes grow bigger, and they continue not to make any headway against a single impossible to defeat foe.

Kilgrave doesn't have purple skin as he does in the comics, but instead just wears
a lot of purple.

But Jessica Jones does it better: Kilgrave's power set means that even from early on in the series, she comes off as genuinely alone in her struggle, and the show only hammers that in further as her allies die, abandon her, or betray her. Jones herself is charismatic but abrasive, constantly rejecting help whenever she can, and while that gets a little tiring towards the end, it makes sense as a logical reaction to someone trying to deal with Kilgrave.

Which leads neatly onto the next point: Jessica Jones knows what it is and what themes it wants to work with. Specifically, it's a show about recovering from abuse. Numerous characters are recovering from abuse in their own specific ways, and Kilgrave is presented as a classic abuser, employing age-old tactics of emotional abuse against Jessica, on top of his repeated and constant violations of other people's bodies and minds. It's a theme that the show doesn't bother dancing around, instead laying it out in the barest and most brutal terms possible at every opportunity, and I can respect that.

Jessica and Trish, talking earnestly.

On top of that, the show is a fairly well paced affair, with a nice balance of action and slower scenes, and a writing team with a genuine talent for building tension. It's a great series, and it will be interesting to see if the two remaining Defenders series (Luke Cage and Iron Fist) can live up to the standard that it's set. No second series has been confirmed, to my knowledge, but I'll be very surprised if it doesn't get one, and the show deliberately leaves itself open for another series, with a shadowy organisation dwelling in the background, supervillain Nuke still obsessed with hurting Jessica, and the slim possibility that Kilgrave's still alive.

He had his neck broken, but the series very frequently compares him to a cockroach and implies that he has astonishing survival abilities, and the comics version of Purple Man has a healing factor of a sort, so there's that.

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