Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jessica Jones: Non-Spoiler Review of Episodes 1-6

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Just this past Friday, Marvel Studios expanded the Netflix corner of its Marvel Cinematic Universe with the addition of Jessica Jones, a series focusing on superhero-turned-private-investigator Jessica Jones.  Jessica has super strength and the ability to jump really high (and then fall), as well as a degree of super-speed and maybe a minor healing factor, abilities which she puts to good use as a private investigator attempting to make a living in Hell’s Kitchen.  This series comes on the heels of the very-well-received Daredevil, and the two characters couldn’t be more different.  Matt Murdock hides his abilities and only displays them at night, hiding his identity behind a mask; Jessica Jones doesn’t have a secret identity to protect and instead displays her abilities in the open and uses them in the course of her work.  Matt Murdock is driven by a desire to save the city by becoming a symbol to push people into behaving better; Jessica Jones is driven by a desire to earn a living.

The differences between the two do not stop there. In terms of the series themselves, Daredevil more than earned its “TV-MA” rating with a level of graphic violence and gore without equal thus far in the MCU (can you say, “SUV door decapitation”?).  By contrast, the first half of Jessica Jones is relatively light on violence—there are a few fight sequences, but they are relatively tame, even by comparison to a network TV series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—but still more than earns its own “TV-MA” rating.  In Jessica Jones the mature content is much more sexual in nature.  There is a substantial amount of profanity as well—the source comics seemed to thrive on dropping at least one “F-bomb” in every panel!—but I don’t think it’s that much more than Daredevil.  I did make an incomplete list of scenes with potentially mature sexual content if anyone is interested, but for now I will suffice it to say that the odd-numbered episodes (1, 3, 5) have quite a few sex scenes.  They are not graphic—only a couple scenes show more nudity than you would see at a swimming pool, and even then it is still either with some clothing on or from the back—but they make it very explicit exactly what is going on.  However, I have noticed that the level of mature content has been diminishing as the series progresses, with the last couple sex scenes between Jessica and Luke (I really don’t consider that a spoiler—he’s the love interest, after all!) being nothing more than the clich├ęd before-and-after shots with the act itself implied.  I’m writing this before watching the last 7 episodes, but I suspect that this will carry through the rest of the series, with the act itself being implied going forward, at least when the couple has done it already.  But that’s probably more than I really needed to say on the subject.

Well.  That was quite a detour!  So… speaking of terrible segues, let’s get back to the non-spoiler review!

In terms of Jessica Jones itself, I am really impressed so far with this series.  It does a good job of living within the Marvel Cinematic Universe—there are a number of references to the Avengers, and one which may or may not be a reference to the Inhumans, alongside a couple of clever Easter eggs in the sixth episode—but it is still very much telling its own story.  Thus far it has not made any Daredevil connections, but I fully expect them to happen in the second half of the season.  The hero and villain both have powers, but they are completely different in nature, which I think makes the story more compelling, in contrast to the numerous MCU offerings where the hero and villain are carbon copies of each other.

Jessica is a very complex character, particularly as her back story is filled in through a couple of episodes.  There are not a lot of flashbacks, but those that appear work into the story very well in fleshing out how she came to be where she is now.  I really like how her character expands as the series progresses.  At the beginning of the series she keeps everyone at an arm’s length, refusing to get attached, but even at that early stage you can still see the attachments there.  Then over time those relationships are developed further and we discover that her character is much more complex than she lets on, particularly when it comes to Luke Cage and her feelings toward him.

The villain himself, Kilgrave, is introduced relatively quickly, though we don’t really see him in person until the second episode.  The first half of the season gives him some character development, but its focus is more on Jessica’s continued recovery from her first encounter with him, something which is made all the more difficult by his reappearance now.  However, Kilgrave does have a very interesting arc in episode six which makes him much more interesting.  If you remember from my expectations post on Thursday, I expect him to be a villain along the lines of Heath Ledger’s Joker: an enigma who thrives on chaos.  And while I still hold to that, I think he may be a little more developed in this series than I was expecting; the second half of the series will hold the key to that question.

Overall, I highly recommend watching this series if you have not already done so.  Jessica is not your stereotypical superhero or your stereotypical female protagonist, and I think that is what makes her so interesting.

What do you think of Jessica Jones so far if you’ve started watching it already (remember, no spoilers!)?  Do you like all the shared universe references they’re throwing in?  Let me know in the comments!

As a reminder, you can expect my review of the first episode, “AKA Ladies Night,” to publish tomorrow morning, followed by my non-spoiler review of the second half of the series some time on either Tuesday or Wednesday.  Then starting next week you can expect a review of another episode every Monday until I get through the whole series, which will be around 3 months.

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