The Jessica Jones TV show is another piece in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a Netflix Original that follows on from their previous Marvel foray Daredevil.
While Agent Carter is the first Marvel property to have a female lead, the Jessica Jones TV show has the distinction of being the first one with a superpowered female lead. She’s an actual female superhero. Well, sort of…
Unlike most of the Marvel Film & TV productions, this is a character that most non-comic book fans will never have heard of. It’s based on the early noughtie’s Marvel Comics series Alias (also the name of a fondly remembered JJ Abrams show) from creator Brian Michael Bendis, that centred on Jessica Jones, a former superhero and turned private investigator.
The series was part of the Marvel’s MAX comics, a line that specialised in mature content. It allowed creators to explore themes and subjects that were difficult to cover in mainstream comics, such as the mental and sexual abuse suffered by Jessica Jones in her past.
The Jessica Jones TV show reflects the same approach, and like Netflix’s Daredevil TV show before it, is decidedly not for kids.
The show follows Jessica in her work as a PI, slowly revealing her superpower of super strength, but also why she is such a cynical – even nihilistic – person. It wasn’t always this way. While not quite the former superhero (Jewel) of the Alias comic, she had decided to use her powers for good – until a run in with Killgrave, played with chilling intensity by former Doctor Who David Tennant.
Based on the comic book character Purple Man (see above – his look wisely adapted to a fondness for purple clothing), Killgrave is a sadistic and manipulative supervillain, whose power is to verbally control anyone who he speaks to.
Killgrave took control of Jessica, making her do things for him that she now abhors. Jessica is suffering from PTSD following this harrowing experience, and she is constantly trying to numb her overwhelming sense of guilt.
The overriding arc of the series is Jessica confronting this (unwillingly at first) both figuratively and literally as she organises against Killgrave.
A show like this lives and dies on the strength of the leading actor. Playing Jessica is Krysten Ritter, who you may recall playing a small role of a rather unfortunate character in Breaking Bad. She’s great as Jessica, a really engaging presence who pulls you through this character’s journey.
British actors have done well in Marvel films and TV shows (eg. Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, even Paul Bettany as Jarvis/Vision), and David Tennent is no exception. His Killgrave is possibly the most terrifying MCU villain of all, as he is less about pantomime theatrics than chilling and believable sadism.
Also in the mix is the popular Marvel character Luke Cage (soon to have his own Netflix show), a black superhero who has also been a supporting character in Jessica’s comic book appearances. If you’ve ever wondered how two superstrong superheroes have sex, your curiosity will be answered – the makers clearly revelling in the opportunity to film a superpowered sex-scene.
Over the 12 episodes of the Jessica Jones TV show, the ensemble cast of characters (there are many more than I have mentioned) are really allowed to shine, and the story weaves a complex web of intrigue.
I was hooked on this show from the beginning. Jessica Jones is not just a great Marvel TV show – it’s simply a great TV show.