by Coop Cooper
Netflix has consistently produced outstanding original series for a few years now, but its “Daredevil” series based off of the popular Marvel comic book character proved that superheroes can succeed on the small screen. Continuing that model, Netflix has released the entire season of “Jessica Jones” based on the Marvel comic “Alias” (no relation to the spy TV series starring Jennifer Garner). “Jones” is an outstanding comic book adaptation and a welcome antidote to the ridiculously lame “Supergirl” TV series on CBS which is currently polluting the airwaves and giving superhero shows a bad name.
Hard-drinking private investigator, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), slums around Hell’s Kitchen in NYC, taking pictures of cheating spouses and tracking down missing persons. Unbeknownst to her clients, Jessica has unique abilities that give her an edge in her work. When an accident leaves a teenaged Jessica orphaned, she discovers she has super strength and the ability to fly (jump?) short distances. Desiring to help people, Jessica tries her hand a superhero work on the street level, but is quickly captured and enslaved by ‘The Purple Man’ AKA Kilgrave (David Tennant), a obsessive, deranged villain with the ability to control people’s minds. After escaping Kilgrave’s influence as his unwitting bodyguard and lover, the traumatized Jessica struggles to make ends meet as a P.I. while avoiding the world of superheroes, but her conscience and bad luck keep pulling her back in. When Jessica discovers signs that Kilgrave has returned, she resolves to stop him once and for all, but she soon learns she can’t protect everyone she cares about from his destructive powers.
The Jessica Jones comic “Alias” has the dubious distinction of being Marvel’s first R-rated comic book. It’s dark and full of graphic language, sex and violence. The show retains the tone of the comic, but stops a tad short in the language and nudity department to earn what is probably the equivalent of a PG-13 rating. “Jessica Jones” explores what would happen to a character, who essentially has the same powers as Wonder Woman, if she suffered a severe trauma and chose a different path in life. She drinks, sleeps around, struggles to make ends meet and generally avoids taking responsibility for anything. She spends most of her time taking advantage of others in a rude, verbally abusive way, but every once in awhile her heart softens and she saves somebody’s life. Eventually, those good deeds add up and much to her frustration, she finds herself surrounded by people who care about her.
The majority of her support comes from her adopted sister Trish “Patsy” Walker (Rachael Taylor) who found fame and fortune as a child actor and radio talk show host, but is also a victim of her abusive stage mom (Rebecca De Mornay) and takes out her frustration through brutal martial arts training. Comic fans will note that Patsy eventually becomes the superhero – and sometimes Avenger – known as ‘Hellcat’. Jones also strikes up an on-and-off relationship with Luke Cage (Mike Colter), a bartender who turns out to have powers similar to hers. Cage, AKA ‘Power Man’, is the most recognizable Marvel hero in the show and will get his own series in 2016 where he will finally team up with his eventual partner, ‘Iron Fist’. I still have some of my vintage “Power Man and Iron Fist” comics from the early 80’s and finally seeing Luke Cage appear on screen was a big treat.
Kilgrave will most certainly go down as one of the most vile villains in the Marvel Universe. While his backstory is tragic, his revolting actions against Jones and those around her is difficult to watch. Tennant, who was arguably the best Doctor Who in the history of TV, has once again proven that his villainous turn in the “Harry Potter” movie series was no fluke.
Ritter is no Oscar-winner in the making, but her acting skills developed so well over the course of this series, I have no doubt she will quickly win a devoted cult of fans. Her supporting cast fit the bill admirably as well, but I hope Coulter’s acting improves a bit more if he is to headline his own series next year.
There are also a couple of nods to other the other Marvel properties in “Jones”. Daredevil/Matt Murdock never makes an appearance but is alluded to multiple times and ‘The Incident’, which was the alien invasion in the first “Avengers” movie, hangs over all the characters like a new 9/11. It’s also interesting to see the grim/frightened reactions of the minor characters when confronted with super-powered humans… like the doctor who keeps breaking needles while trying to inject an unconscious Luke Cage with medicine, then breaks a drill trying to put a hole in his skull to relieve fluid pressure. Her reaction: “Oh. He’s one of THOSE.”
Jones, Cage and Daredevil will team up in the “Defenders” miniseries in the near future, but “Jessica Jones” is available now on Netflix Online and is highly worthy of any superhero fan’s attention. It’s a must-see for Marvel fans and a clear message to D.C. Comics that not all of their properties (especially their female-centric properties like “Supergirl”) are being handled properly.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars