I was never the hero that you wanted me to be.
Warning: Minor Spoilers
The first thing you need to know about Jessica Jones is that it’s unlike any other superhero film or series. The female title character isn’t just a sex symbol in spandex who happens to have superpowers and punch stuff sometimes. She’s an actual conflicted, comprehensive, and deeply flawed person who changes dramatically over the course of the first 13-episode season, released on Netflix this past Friday.
Jessica (Krysten Ritter), a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, finds out that her former abductor survived the bus crash that she was so sure had killed him. Kilgrave, a mind-controller, is back in town, and desperate for Jessica’s attention. His obsession leaves a trail of broken bodies and lives for Jessica to find.
Kilgrave, played masterfully by David Tennant, is the most legitimately disturbing villain I’ve ever come across. Tennant sends out his usual sassy, bubbly vibe, full of cheeky smiles smoothed over with an appealing accent. But his character also kills and rapes people. Imagine that insanely charming yet mildly creepy guy who wants to date you. Now imagine he can make you date him, with just a few simple words, and he’s prone to violence. That’s Kilgrave. He always gets what he wants, the ultimate scary, privileged white boy.
Jessica’s story is, overall, one of recovery from abuse of all kinds. In the first episode, she’s a heavy alcoholic with no friends and horrible social habits. By the end of the season, she’s still a slightly antisocial mild alcoholic, but at least she’s beginning to reach out to the people she cares about rather than pushing them out with a brick wall of guilt. And most importantly, she’s overcome Kilgrave’s powers. He can’t control her like he used to.
Another great aspect is the sheer abundance of female characters, and none of them are static. If Jessica fills the guilt-ridden superhero archetype, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is the socially conscious best friend. She’s an integral part of Jessica’s life while simultaneously fighting (sometimes literally) for her own. Trish’s mother, however, is the other side of the coin. She’s emotionally and physically abusive, which is what started the insanely protective bond that Jess and Trish have. Though their sister-friend bond is incredibly strong, it’s still turbulent. It has its ups and downs, just as any real relationship does. Not a single character is just a throwaway. Even the secretary with a total of about ten lines is given a moral compass (albeit a questionable one) and a character arc.
Compared to Daredevil, the Netflix Marvel series about a blind vigilante lawyer, Jessica Jones is arguably darker. The show addresses the psychological results of abuse, rape, drugs, and prejudice unflinchingly head-on, much like Jessica herself. It also has just as much gore as Daredevil, with a frankly copious amount of sex. This is not one for the kiddies by any stretch of the imagination.
But the pure, psychological horror is completely character-driven. None of it feels unnecessary or cheap. Jessica Jones is a wild, mystery-crime story dragged through the gutters of Hell’s Kitchen and pulled into the fluorescent light as a gritty story of the human (or superhuman) will. Though Jessica has day-drinking, super strength, and sort-of-flying on her list of attributes, she should also add iron determination. And you should feel free to add Jessica Jones to your must-binge list.
Top-notch female characters
Astounding, intricate plot
Pretty violent, but with purpose
So much sex