There will be spoilers here, so be warned..
In right around a 24 hour period I binge watched the latest Netflix original series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I didn’t do it alone, my girlfriend and a well-stocked selection of snacks made the trip to Hell’s Kitchen with me. And where her and I differ a lot on our thoughts on different TV shows… don’t get her started on Peter Capaldi as the Doctor… in the case of the P.I. with PTSD we seem to be in agreement.
The first thought that comes to mind when thinking of the series is doing magic. Do something flashy with one hand and no one will notice the subtle move with the other. In classic noir detective style Jessica Jones is a train wreck who treats everyone as if they’re dirt. Krysten Ritter plays the character as so unlikable in a lot of ways that by the time you are finished with the series you’re still not sure if you like her. In the old saying about easier to attract bees with honey rather than vinegar… Jessica chooses extra super-strength vinegar every time. This is so noticeable that it distracts you from seeing the subtle things the show is setting up. And a lot of that setting up has to do with Kilgrave.
The writer’s did something unique with Kilgrave. The showed us the monster and then revealed him to be a man… a monstrous man. They say the best villains are the heroes of their own story. Vincent D’Onofrio brought that to Marvel’s Daredevil as you could see what drove Wilson Fisk and could even empathize with him at times. David Tennant’s turn as the Purple Man takes that a step further. You start off fearing the power of Kilgrave because of how much Jessica fears him and the short examples we get to see. But the more time Tennant is on the screen the more we start to connect with Kilgrave. From his point of view this is a love story. He is willing to do anything to win back the woman he loves. This is his equivalent of the grand gesture we applaud in romatic comedies. The standing outside the house with the boombox of his head moment… his just would involve actually mind controlling Peter Gabriel and his band to show up outside her house and play In Your Eyes live.
By the time Kilgrave has bought the house and painstakingly refurnished it to how it was before Jessica’s accident, you find yourself almost pulling for the guy. Here he is trying to connect with her without his powers. For her to want to be with him. But all of this was the big flashy movement to distract us. To keep us from putting together why he always used the people around her and never just came up and compelled Jessica to come with him. Because the real reason was a game changer and if we knew it too soon, nothing else would have worked. But Tennant sold it. He made us believe that the coin had gone into the right hand and vanished. His Kilgrave is the magic that makes Marvel’s Jessica Jones work.
Besides being in awe of Tennant’s performance, the other big thing I took away from this is a real excitement for the Marvel’s Luke Cage series. Mike Colter can carry a series without a problem. His performance as Luke is exactly what it needed to be and then some. He showed the character had heart and power. That he is a good man with a dangerous past and a dark side. And you want him to be with Jessica and at the same time you feel for the loss of his wife that complicates everything. Cage was weaved in and out of the series enough to make you want to see more of him and to help move everything along but not so much that it became a shared series. The show still belonged to Jessica, but she was definitely better when Luke was there.
Outside of the three stars, the supporting cast in the series was good and their arcs all very unique. Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker felt like a character that we will probably see a HELL of a lot more of if there is a season two… and come on, we know there will be. But I think the role that stood out the most of the supporting characters was Malcolm played by Eka Darville. From an over-the-top druggy that you would pity to someone who helps others and has Jessica’s back. Malcolm’s story is subtle and you may not notice it as it happens, but he gets the last words of the series and I think that was very appropriate.
Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth felt like someone we were supposed to like and was supposed to be an ally, but she did a lot of bad things and was only interested in herself. The role felt like a stereotypical corrupt male lawyer. And since the character from the comics was male it makes me wonder if the part was originally written for a male and then to get away from the stereotyping they switched it. Freshening up a cliche part by swapping gender. It seemed to have worked.
That brings us back around to the main character. It’s hard to like Jessica. She’s a good person who has been through hell and has put up defenses that would make Fort Knox jealous. But she also consistently makes bad choices, treats everyone around her horribly and puts a lot of people in harms way. She may be the series hero but she is not very heroic. Her crusade to save Hope cost many people their lives and ended up failing and leading to Jessica doing what everyone said needed to be done in the beginning. How many people would still be alive if she killed Kilgrave when she had the chance early on? What was gained by her trying to take him alive? Her actions were selfish… in trying to save Hope she was really trying to redeem herself and prove to the world that the life she took wasn’t her fault…
But that is good story telling. Not everyone gets redemption. And sometimes revenge is very empty. Ritter played the role very well, it’s just a role that is very hard to like. And in the end, the final moment between Jessica and Kilgrave… I didn’t cheer the outcome. I felt a sense of relief and a tiny bit of sadness. There is not redemption arc or character growth for Jessica Jones, no happy ending. Maybe that’s for season two. For now, she will just keep going on because she doesn’t know anything else and her only true friend will be at her side… it’s called whiskey.