Friday, January 8, 2016

TV Review: Jessica Jones Season One (2015)

Jessica Jones Season One (2015)

This second offering from Marvel and Netflix offers viewers Jessica Jones, a down-and-out private investigator who also has superpowers. She is very low-key about her powers, only using them in rare and necessary circumstances. She wants to keep off the radar of police and media, mostly because she is full of guilt over past indiscretions. Her main indiscretion happened when she was under the control of Kilgrave (David Tennant in a fine performance), someone who also has superpowers. His power is mind control. If he tells someone to do something, they do it. She was in his thrall for a long time, doing his evil bidding until he was allegedly killed. Turns out he wasn't killed. He shows up again to make her life a living hell. He starts manipulating people around her to get to her. She has very few friends (mostly neighbors and one or two random acquaintances) but she has plenty of guilt, which Kilgrave exploits to the max.

The show is a psychological thriller with superheroes thrown in. In addition to Jessica Jones, Marvel's Luke Cage shows up. At first, I thought his was a cameo appearance to spark interest in his series coming in 2016. He did turn out to be a more significant character for the story which was a nice and satisfying surprise. Viewers don't see much of Kilgrave in the first few episodes (much like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil) which seemed like a waste of the great David Tennant. He is more prominent later in the series, another nice and satisfying surprise (again, much like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil).

The show does a good job having the noir styling of a thriller. Jessica is a hard drinking and very flawed hero, almost to the point of not being a hero at all. Often, she only does the right thing at the very last moment and because she sees no other options available to her. I found this a bit unappealing and almost quit the series half way through. At that point, she finally admits the big thing she did while under Kilgrave's control. Her confession was almost completely forced by circumstances, which in my opinion made her barely a decent human being, certainly not a hero. I stuck it out to see if she would hero up, and was mostly satisfied with the results. Noir isn't an upbeat genre so a viewer's expectations need to match.

The show also tries to be very edgy, with mixed results. The sexual content was about a third of the time just exploitation, making it not edgy but in fact exploitation. Violence is also occasionally graphic, but not needlessly so as the sex. Kilgrave's psychological manipulations are interesting though often harrowing (my wife couldn't watch because of children in jeopardy). Jessica is, by design, a flawed character. She's almost too flawed for my taste (the reason I almost quit watching). She had enough appeal to carry me through the series and I'd watch a second series with her as a central character.

This show isn't as great as Daredevil was but is worth watching. As I write, it is only available through Netflix streaming service.

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