Jessica Jones

⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 2 reviews.

tl;dr: A dark and depressing look at addiction, abuse and guilt wrapped up in a surprisingly entertaining superhero show. The first season is astounding; the second struggles finding the light outside of its immense shadow.

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Marvel Cinematic UniverseMarvel

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

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.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I mean they've definitely ramped up the pacing. If season one was all mind games, season two is all explosions. From the introduction of a new super only to kill him off in moments, and then the death of Will from last season, it felt like it was going to be a very bloody season. It some ways it was, in others it just kept the action amped to distract from the slightly dull plot lines.

Trish, in particular, feels like a pretty irritating character by the end of the season. At the start she's just irritatingly involved and still wrapped up in the whole Kilgrave affair, but as the season progresses her descent into addiction is just a bit annoying. We already did a better addiction plotline with Malcolm in season one, on top of which the "revelation" that Trish just wants power and is jealous of Jess feels like drama for drama's sake. I really didn't like where they took her character this time around.

Not every plot was predictable or boring though. Hogarth has an interesting destructive arc that gives her some fun plotlines and the whole "superhuman can heal you; psyche we robbed you" twist was heartwrenching and brilliantly acted on her part. The subsequent revenge plot... damn! Netflix MCU goes to some dark places and this was one of them. I'm also a big fan of Malcolm's evolution as a character. I really like the idea of him becoming a PI and think the writers did right by his character.

And, I guess the mum reveal was interesting and presented Jessica's character some subtle new psychological issues, but I still don't know how I feel about it. The whole "she's been in hiding for years and is too unstable to be out in public" is a stretch of a plotline and it never quite feels believable. I like that she's threatened with the Raft though, that's a neat nod to the movies, and ultimately the plot thread she sends Jessica done is very interesting. Plus, it's an excuse to get Kilgrave back for an episode or two, which is so much fun.

And therein lies the rub. Even with the big, explosive ending of Trish shooting Jess's mum and then getting the powers she craves, Kilgrave is still the most interesting part of that plotline. Whilst Hogarth and Malcolm get some great character development, and I really liked the introduction of Oscar and even the death/redemption of Will, the main plot that these all revolve around is just a little weak compared to what came before. I don't really know how you follow a villain like Kilgrave and they didn't create a bad second season. It's just a bit of a let down in comparison.

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