Heavy. In one word, that is how I would describe Jessica Jones. Everything about Netflix's second superhero outing is heavy. The action, the script, the drama, the suspense, the light levels: all weigh about the same as an ocean tanker. The result is a very clever, addictive TV show that will leave you more than a little flattened, both emotionally and physically.
Jessica Jones has always been a bit of an odd character, with more in common with old noir detectives than the caped superheroes she is set against, so the foreboding tones and motifs that the show is laced with are wonderfully true to character. Whilst Jess clearly has powers, and little compunction in using them, her abilities are not really the focus here. Instead, the masterfully played Kilgrave takes centre stage, a clever decision that somehow emphasises his cunning and malice. By focusing so heavily on Kilgrave the show writers leave us, the viewer, feeling almost like we, too, are under his control. As said, the result is quite draining, so much that we actually ended up taking a nearly two month enforced hiatus in the middle of the season just to recover.
On top of the clever pacing and cinematography, the characterisation in Jessica Jones is top-notch. Every character, no matter how small, feels real and coherent, with the one possible exception of Will who always felt a little forced. His introduction was good, but by the end his motives had become a little strained, though it is a minor complaint in an otherwise top-notch ensemble. Indeed, the acting throughout the show is exceptional. Many have already praised David Tennant's portrayal of the Purple Man but he really is stunning; Tennant has an uncanny ability to create characters that equally revolt you and invite sympathy, an ability he uses extensively with Kilgrave. Far from stealing the show though, Tennant is supported by a perfect rendition of the comics hero in Krysten Ritter, who embodies Jess so perfectly I can't imagine anyone else taking the role. Similarly impressive are Rachael Taylor and Mike Colter, both of whom I look forward to seeing more of in the future. However, for me, Eka Darville was stunning. Malcolm's ascent from addict to caretaker was an incredibly poignant subplot that was acted wonderfully from start to finish and ended up becoming the show's moral anchor. His is definitely a name I will watch out for in the future.
On top of all that, Jessica Jones manages to take a superhero franchise and weave one of the most poignant tales I've watched in a long time. By the close of the season the hero tropes are appearing with increasing pace, but for the first half is much more a story of the dark parts of the human psyche. The obvious plot, done extraordinarily well, is that of domestic abuse and the extent to which both abuser and victim will go to convince themselves there's nothing wrong. Despite seeming to be on top of things, Jones' alcoholism and tendency to play straight into Kilgrave's hands highlights that she hasn't escaped his abusive control as much as she thinks. In turn, Kilgrave delivers a scary look into the mind of someone who feels somehow deserving of both his powers and abuse of them. But far from just focusing on abuse, Jessica Jones also delves heavily into the concepts of grief, mourning, guilt, addiction and consent. There's a huge amount here, layered on top of each other, to fully do justice to but I can say that it is a monumental success in almost every way.