Jessica Jones Season 1 Review: Marvel Outdoes Itself, and the Rest Too

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With a near perfect season of television, Marvel has shockingly outdone itself. Not only is Jessica Jones the best show Marvel has produced since starting their whole universe, it’s easily the best season of a live-action superhero show in history.

Creator Melissa Rosenberg comes over from Dexter (and, weirdly, the Twilight films) to deliver a dark neo-noir that still manages to be a blast while also discussing important issues like consent and control. A big thanks to this winning combination is the hero itself, as well as the woman that plays her. Krysten Ritter is a revelation as Jessica Jones, not dissimilar from the first time we saw Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. When we meet Jessica, she’s an alcoholic that misses her concerned friend’s calls, while also suffering from PTSD. But with her blatant cynicism, which often comes through with sarcasm, the first hurdle Jessica Jones has to overcome is simply not sounding contrived. Ritter, with all the depth she pours into the role, initially saves the show from that, before the story that unfolds takes the weight off of her.

Jessica earns money for booze through private investigation work. She also has powers, namely super strength. The show doesn’t throw these in our face, but finds creative ways for her to use it that are almost mundanely real. But she’s often too drunk to be running around in a cape, not that she’d even want to sober. Simply with her as the lead, Marvel has created something that genuinely feels different without it trying to feel different (looking at you, Daredevil). There are vague references to the larger universe, but one of Jessica Jones‘ greatest strengths is just how much it stands on its own.

Another is its villain, who outdoes every other in the MCU (yes, even Loki). His name is Kilgrave (David Tennant), because comic books aren’t subtle. He has the power to force anyone around him to do his will simply by verbally commanding it. The show immediately makes him terrifying from the shadows, as he and Jessica have a forced history. In the pilot, he also has a girl, who he also raped by way of his powers, murder her parents. Tennant is nothing short of outstanding, chewing the scenery every chance he gets while still grounded by the real-world horror that manifests around him.

Through him, Jessica Jones gets to have a serious conversation with its audience about guilt, consent, and, ultimately, rape itself. Only a show featuring women as powerful as this one could pull it off. This is unquestionably a feminist series, but still avoids feeling contrived. Again, this is a superhero series, with powers and freak accidents and superhuman pills and stuff.

The supporting cast is universally pretty strong as well. Mike Colter plays Luke Cage, another superhero (who’s own Netflix series is set to debut in 2016) that take up a romantic interest in Jessica. Of course, the show never has our hero rely on him too heavily. He just compliments her very well, as any true significant other should. The only relationship that can bring Jessica to her knees is with her best friend and pseudo-sister Trish (Rachael Taylor). This bond between two woman is the driving emotional force once the battle against Kilgrave intensifies.

Another standout is one of Jessica’s biggest clients, Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss). As the head of a big law firm, she contributes a lot of Jessica’s war on Kilgrave. Moss plays her appropriately coldly at first, but opens her up later in the season without betraying the character.

All of this comes together to make what is without a doubt one of the best new shows of 2015. This cast with these writers portraying these themes blends so wonderfully. There are serious performances here and serious issues explored, all while never sacrificing its sense of fun. In a time where superheroes are only getting bigger on the small screen, Jessica Jones comes out of nowhere and puts them all to shame. Cheers to you, Marvel, for proving you are far from out of tricks. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

 

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