I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!
There is something disconcerting about how little of a superhero show Marvel’s Jessica Jones really is. It isn’t the darker, mature tone, of which Jessica Jones is the most mature of the Marvel Studios output, but more the fact that it doesn’t seem to fit in with anything else they have produced so far. It certainly doesn’t fit with the lighter, colourful movie universe and you definitely wouldn’t expect the Agents of Shield to show up anytime soon. Even Daredevil, which it is directly linked with through location and shared characters, feels different and disconnected, that still being much more about a man in a suit fighting crime.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, it’s just that at times you wonder what Jessica Jones is trying to be. Is it a series about a private eye? Because if it is, then it needs to delve into that more. Is it a series about a disgraced and shamed superhero? Because this isn’t touched upon nearly enough. Is it really about trauma and coping with past events? Because this is developed but at times handled quite badly. At some point, Jessica Jones needed to nail down exactly what it wanted to be about.
This lack of direction doesn’t hurt it too much but does make it quite a directionless series for the first few episodes. The series benefits from being on Netflix because the first three episodes are aimless, not sure what the tone, setting or direction of the series should be. If this was a weekly series it could lose the attention of less persistent viewers. It seems to want to be a procedural, with Jessica Jones getting fresh investigative cases each week but then they all seem to connect to the over-arching villain which undermines that aim slightly. When the series does decide to focus purely on Jones chasing her enemy, Kilgrave, the series improves but adds extra issues.
Jessica Jones is not the best character in the series at all. In fact, she is quite obnoxious. This isn’t so much down to Krysten Ritter, who plays her very well; gritty, grimy and violent with a huge chip on her shoulder, but more down to the choices she makes and the way she treats people. At times her actions make little sense, not giving a clear idea of who her character is and why she seems to reluctant to just be courteous rather than so dismissive. It is a classic case of mistaking “mean” for cool and at times it doesn’t fit.
The show’s saving grace is Kilgrave and the fact that Netflix allows Marvel to tell a very mature, darker story with this character at the center. His powers are suggestion and the fact that his commands must be followed. It makes for a very scary, almost unbeatable villain who uses his abilities in inventive ways. Some of the deaths are gruesome but delightful in their horror and you will watch through parted fingers as you cover your face.
The decision to tease the reveal of the bad guy was a good one, with suggestion, whisper and glances at David Tennant working very effectively until he is finally exposed in his “full glory.” Tennant is perfect here and couldn’t be further away from The Doctor who travels in time and space. It would be great to see this character reach the big screen, taking on Captain America or Iron Man (or all the Avengers, he is at least as charismatic as Loki).
The problem is that the show runs his story into the ground. The show follows the pattern of “captured Kilgrave – lost Kilgrave – captured Kilgrave – lost Kilgrave” and it gets tiresome seeing Jones come so close and then lose out again. It feels like the show could have been three episodes shorter or at least had another villain to occupy the interim episodes.
Not that there isn’t other stories, from Luke Cage’s introduction to the events surrounding Jones’ best friend Trish and her Mother, but these feel like they are setting up something in the future rather than pushing this season on effectively.
Jessica Jones is a welcome addition to the Marvel TV Universe though. When it is good, it is really good, with great action sequences, a decent story and a great villain. Unfortunately there is also a lot that could be ironed out for future seasons too.
Overall, Jessica Jones is not your usual Marvel product and that isn’t a bad thing. It uses it’s graphic, mature tone well, giving a great villain like Kilgrave a good platform. Unfortunately, at times it struggles with what it wants to be and feels directionless. Work to be done but a very good addition to the Universe.
Best Episode – AKA Take a Bloody Number: When you think things are coming to a head with Kilgrave, a great twist shakes things up.
Best performance – David Tennant as Kilgrave
Should there be another season? – Yes, there is plenty of life left in the show if they can give it a clearer direction.
Season Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)