Jessica Jones doesn’t like people much. Jones drinks bourbon like a fish and only eats after a long night of bed breaking sex. She doesn’t care what you think. She doesn’t care for costumes. She is a cynical loner who has no need for heroism worship. Best of all, she kicks butt, takes it well and keeps on coming back for more. Jones is the first truly relatable superhero.
No offense to the world’s greatest heroes, but as much as the world can adore the more popular Marvel toughies, it’s hard to stand next to them as equals. I couldn’t drink a super serum today and become Captain America. When I get mad, I don’t shred my clothes and become a gigantic green rage monster. Tony Stark isn’t superpowered but his bank account sure is. Thor isn’t even human. While Black Widow is human enough, they don’t make look that way in Avengers films.
Jones, as played by the tough and witty yet vulnerable well of sorrow Krysten Ritter, is just another lady looking for work from the first time we see her on screen in the new Netflix series. She is taking pictures of a cheating husband for a stash of cash as a very good private investigator. Soon enough, we find out she can manhandle people and easily pick up furniture. Okay, so she is kind of superhuman when it comes to strength but the show never lets that distract from the main chunk of meat of the plot.
The thing is, Jones used to fight crime. She tried to do the right thing but when she ran into a manipulating mind controlling baddie called Kilgrave(David Tennant, channeling Tom Hiddleston’s Loki here with his devilish portrayal here), something terrible happened and she went off the radar. Someone died and she didn’t feel like being a hero anymore. A somebody that wanted to be a nobody.
She’s having a good old time being empty and full of cheap whiskey until Kilgrave returns to send her a message in the form of a missing young woman. The search for her and resulting find sets off a cat and mouse chase between Jones and Kilgrave, pulling her back into the world of a man who broke her years ago.
Jones’ sister Trish(Rachael Taylor), a popular talk show host, gets involved with the hunt and Taylor and Ritter have amazing chemistry as sisters. The writers pay careful attention to all the subplots in this show and the characters are anything but cardboard cutouts.
The major find and standout here is Mike Colter, otherwise known to TV fans as Lamont Bishop from CBS’s The Good Wife. He has a true breakout role here as Luke Cage, the love interest in Jessica’s life that eventually gets sucked into the Kilgrave hunt. A loner with impenetrable skin and superhuman strength, Cage shares a lot in common with Jessica, the least of which being a freak among normal’s. Here is a superhero who puts on a t-shirt and jeans and is ready to rock. He will instantly become a hero to millions of men across the world. Best of all, Colter has found himself a role that he was born to play. He doesn’t overplay the complexities of Cage and has a lot of fun with the action sequences.
Ritter and Tennant are perfectly matched here. Ritter is a veteran actress who most TV addicts know as Aaron Paul’s doomed girlfriend on Breaking Bad. She tosses everything you think you know about her and produces a signature role here as the centerpiece of the action. She doesn’t overdo the dramatic parts of Jones or treat the role too light. It’s a well balanced and fully realized performance that sets the 33 year old up for a long run. Just like Colter, she has scuffled around Hollywood in supporting or bit parts. Now she is at the front of the line, thanks to Marvel’s once again beautiful casting.
Tennant has a whole lotta fun as the bad here, a man who can tell you to shoot yourself or walk off the ledge of a building. When we first see him, he walks into a family’s apartment and promptly orders them around. He tells the kids to hide in the closet and pee in their pants while demanding the wife to feed him. Draped in a purple suit, he is a seemingly feeble man who you don’t realize his power until its too late. The actor, like the rest of the cast, doesn’t overplay the role even when it begs him to try.
The rest of the body of this show’s cast is well filled out. Carrie Anne Moss, Will Traval,Clarke Peters, Eka Darville, Robin Weigert and Erin Moriarty are all very good here, filling out parts with nuanced work instead of campy foreplay.
The show is uncompromising and goes in a number of directions. Right when you think it’s tapped for a certain direction, it pivots out and moves elsewhere. There are many great moments, such as a romantic tryst involving a moving bus. A room full of cops pointing guns at each other. An interrogation device that grows more thrilling by the moment. These people don’t need suits to exhibit their powers. Their own given bodies are painful enough reminders of the damage they can hide and the war they can wage.
Like Daredevil before it, Jessica Jones uses its 13 hours to fully flesh out a story while also introducing and building characters viewers will want to see more of. Colter’s Cage is getting his own show in 2016. Jones will most likely show up in that series. Both will come around future Marvel projects. Kevin Feige and company have composed a seamless system of original character construction. They put out the flames of a terribly failed cinematic attempt of Daredevil but going bare bones with Charlie Cox and telling a true origin tale. With Jones, they have finally delivered a female superhero worth rooting for and getting close to.
All thanks to the wonderful work from creator Melissa Rosenberg and her gifted group of actors. The fight choreography is extremely well done as well, never moving the camera too quick or getting too close to the action. It’s more of an adrenaline placement of action than a nervy twitch. Seeing Jones and Cage toss people around like rag dolls never gets old because it’s handled realistically. Well, as realistic as watching a nurse try to administer meds to Cage and having the needle get bent in half on top of his skin or him taking a circle saw to his abdomen to prove a point.
Jessica Jones mixes real world terrors and fears with the geeky Marvel superhero fun we have come to expect. Daredevil started something original and cool earlier this year. This new series improves upon that show and raises the bar. When Daredevil returns this summer and introduces Jon Bernthal’s take on Frank Castle, the engine will keep on roaring.
In case you forgot, all 13 episodes went live on November 20th. No waiting. No sitting around for six days. I won’t just recommend you watch Jessica Jones. I’ll urge you to. It’s extremely well done and you don’t have to know a single thing about these comic book characters. It’s better if you meet them like a stranger on the street. A stranger that can toss you a couple of blocks if they wanted to.