The next report card is for season 1 of Marvel's Netflix television series Jessica Jones.
Marvel's Jessica Jones
November 20, 2015
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), David Tennant (Kilgrave), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Rachael Taylor (Trish Walker), Erin Moriarty (Hope Shlottman), Eka Darville (Malcolm), Wil Traval (Will Simpson), and Carrie-Anne Moss (Jeryn Hogarth).
There are three characters on this show that I was really into, but sadly only three: Jessica Jones, Kilgrave, and Luke Cage. They make up a triumvirate who balance each other out in a lot of interesting ways. On one side of this complex love triangle is Luke Cage, who is quiet, reserved, big, strong, and seemingly has a heart of gold—probably the best example of a moral compass as far as characters go. On the other side is Kilgrave, who is a more loud, flamboyant, wiry coward frequently referred to as The Devil (rather than his comic book namesake The Purple Man—a disappointment that nobody called him that).
In the middle of these two is Jessica, who is definitely heroic like Luke but has a dark side like Kilgrave. She's a snarky pain in the ass whom I know I'd hate to be around, yet she does the right thing time and time again. If you thought Tony Stark was stretching the limits of how much of a jerk a superhero can be, watch out for Jessica. She earns her hero cred, though, and just as much as she's an interesting foil to Luke Cage, I'm looking forward to seeing how she works with Daredevil later on down the line.
The other characters, however, are where this show falls by the wayside. At best, they're tolerable for a short amount of time, but nearly all of them are useless. In fact, I can't help but feel like the majority of them serve no purpose for the season other than to pad out episodes because the story was too thin to make 13 hours of content.
For example, what's the deal with the incest twins? Ruben was a sacrificial lamb that we didn't get to like enough to be sad to see die, as these two were presented as oddballs. His sister Robyn is a total annoyance who eats screen time just complaining. Did we need to follow that thread? Would we have lost anything to the story if neither of them existed?
Did we also need to devote so much time to Jeri Hogarth's divorce if it was all going to end up being a wash? Pam has no character other than being "Jeri's new fling" and both Jeri and her ex are just bitchy to each other. How much time was dedicated to Hogarth asking Jessica to get more dirt on Wendy all for this to end with it not mattering at all?
That's a recurring theme—that stories are dropped for an episode or two, drag on too long, and have too weak of a resolution.
Malcolm is a drug addict who gets over his addiction pretty damn fast, doesn't he? After that, he just stands around and looks worried. I can't even remember the older cop's name who is just a trope, being killed before his retirement. Then there's Will, who started off boring, became interesting, and then was tossed aside abruptly, making him amount to not much more than a distraction.
Trish Walker is a decent sidekick but doesn't match up to Foggy Nelson levels in comparison to the Daredevil franchise. My only real complaint about her is that her backstory is ridiculous and continues the trend of being superfluous. She's got spunk and I'm glad she survives, as I hope to see more of her, but not more of her bickering with her mom or any more references to the strange careers she's had, which I couldn't care less about.
And then there's Hope. This is a character who could have been much more useful, but while she kicks off the show's purpose in a lot of ways, she spends a lot of time sitting off on the sidelines doing nothing. It's a shame, as her story had untapped potential that may have smoothed the pacing a bit more with a rewrite.
The two standouts here are Krysten Ritter and David Tennant.
The character of Jessica Jones is such a bitch and very abrasive, so in the hands of the wrong writers, directors, and actress, she could have easily become an unlikable protagonist, but Ritter pulls it off. Instead of hating her and rooting for the villains, I wanted to see her happy.
I'm not a fan of the Doctor Who franchise, so I didn't go into this with any particular bias for David Tennant beforehand, and I'm glad to say that he won me over from the very beginning. He's figured out a way to take a character who could be a monster and make him relatable just as Ritter did with Jessica. There are times where I pity him and wish to see him rehabilitated. The best part of the whole season, in my opinion, was the episode revolving around him learning how to be a hero instead of using his powers for evil. Kilgrave is one of the few villains from the Marvel Cinematic Universe who I feel lives up to the hype. He's twisted and extremely menacing, so I felt the tension and feared for everyone's safety. I'd put him on par with Wilson Fisk from Daredevil, if not above him.
Gender-bending Jeryn Hogarth was an interesting choice, but I get it. I like Carrie-Anne Moss in the role even if I don't think the writers made the character strong enough to properly utilize her. Hopefully, when we see her again, she'll have a better story.
I do like Mike Colter as Luke Cage, but I also have to acknowledge that I don't think he's doing anything special with the role that nobody else could have done. He embodies what I know about the character from the comics, so I'm cool with him going forward. The same goes with Rachael Taylor for Trish Walker, whom I'm admittedly not as familiar with as far as characterization, but I'm up for seeing more of her down the line as I liked her on-screen pairing with Krysten Ritter and bought into their friendship/sisterhood just as much as I believed Ritter's romance with Colter.
Everybody else? Meh.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): B
No complaints to me on this regard. It feels like this is in the same universe as Daredevil, so the continuity was maintained, which I'm happy about. Nothing negative stood out to me that looked fake or cheap.
MUSIC & SOUND: B
Most of the music went unnoticed to me, but I like the opening theme quite a bit. With Daredevil, I got sick and tired of hearing it over and over again, yet this one is more relaxed and enjoyable. It's also quite different from what the other themes for the MCU have been, and it suits the style of this noir detective tale perfectly.
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): B+
ACTION: I'm not sure how I should look at this, actually. On one hand, it's a superhero property, so action is one of its primary functions. However, this is not supposed to be something like The Avengers. It's a detective story, which is more about investigation than punches. I won't be too harsh, but I do have to say that it leaves much to be desired. Daredevil had that hallway fight sequence, but this doesn't have anything memorable. The fight with Luke was probably the best part, but most of the season was just watching Jessica break off a lock with her bare hands or casually jumping in or out of frame instead of flying. Those two things happened so often that I lost track while trying to keep count, and I wasn't impressed any time I saw it.
COMEDY: Is it wrong that I laughed quite a bit at what Kilgrave said and did? Am I messed up? Oh well. Considering the source material, comedy was never going to be the focal point, as the subject matter is just far too dark to make a laugh riot out of it. I did still laugh at times, though, so that's good.
ROMANCE: Rather than romance, this show is about sex, and while it's no porno, it's raunchier than I expected. It's actually rather nice to see this as a change of pace, as lust tends to be edited out of relationships in film and television. Jessica and Luke, for instance, love to fuck and get down and dirty when they're up for it, and it isn't masked in any kind of hokey "clutching the bed sheets in slow motion" fashion we're used to. Not much is off limits, as almost everything is either shown or implied, but I'm very thankful that one thing that was omitted was any rape scenes, as that would have just felt uncomfortable to watch.
FINAL GRADE: B
It may seem like I have a lot of negative to say, but in the end, I do recommend the show. Rather than genuinely disliking the things I criticized above, I more so feel a sense of disappointment, as I wanted this to be as good or better than Daredevil, but it just doesn't match up. The main story is incredibly interesting and the core trio of characters are a delight, but it's just the extra stuff that gets in the way.
Reducing Malcolm's role, abandoning Jeri's divorce angle, shortening Trish's backstory to only the elements that help establish Jessica's origin, completely eliminating the twins and not dragging out Hope's story as long would have helped trim the fat with probably half of the content. Theoretically, if those are 6.5 episodes freed up, that time could have been spent dedicated to expanding on Luke Cage, who I think might also not have 13 full episodes' worth of content.
While I can't help but feel that this dropped in quality from what came before it, I still do suggest Marvel fans check it out. It's something different and there are some great things that are worth struggling through the bad to experience.