(Original post at The Boar)
Welcome to the Jessica Jones series blog! Join me once a week to discuss one of the breakout shows of last year- if you can avoid binge watching the entire 13 hour season in one sitting. Damn you, Netflix.
Meet Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). She’s hard-drinking, unapologetic and the hero Hell’s Kitchen needs (well, one of them- thanks el grande avocados!). One episode in and I’m already a little bit in love with this series, so you’ll have to forgive me for gushing, but Marvel’s Jessica Jones has one of the best pilots of any show in 2015. Watch it. Be amazed.
Jessica Jones is a former superhero turned private eye, working in the seedy underbelly of New York and attempting to live with her PTSD. She’s magnetic, played with effortless contempt by Ritter whilst never lacking appeal. The episode also features the debut of another promising character, Luke Cage (Mike Colter), whose own Marvel series will hit our screens this year. Their sexual chemistry is already obvious- whether this evolves into an emotional connection over the course of the series will be interesting to see.
If the title of the episode (‘AKA Ladies Night’) didn’t give it away, Jessica Jones is about women (though there is a notable absence of WOC, something that needs to be fixed in a potential season two to make New York look a bit more like, well, New York). We’re given promising insights not only of the titular star, but also Jessica’s talk host friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) and steely lawyer Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss).
Although it’s a little early to make sweeping statements, the quality of writing for female characters already feels strong.
If its racial representation improves, then Jessica Jones could turn out to be a great feminist show, particularly with its subtle representation of every day microaggressions, like Kilgrave’s order for Jessica and Hope Schlottman (Erin Moriarty) to ‘smile.’
Perhaps the most important aspect of this stellar first episode was its treatment of trauma. Jessica is a survivor, living with the aftermath of Kilgrave’s (an unrecognisably disturbing David Tennant) prolonged mind-control. The show doesn’t shy away from detailing aspects of Jessica’s PTSD, and importantly, it explicitly names the disorder. Jessica lives with her pain- her insomnia, her alcoholism, her visceral flashbacks of Kilgrave’s face and touch.
At one point, she is literally forced to relive her rape through Kilgrave’s proxy Hope in perhaps the most powerful sequence of the episode, when she drags her missing client from the bed she has been ordered to remain in. Kilgrave, even as a nebulous hallucination, is terrifying because of the ubiquitous problem he represents- a willingness to ignore consent. He destroys lives long after he’s done with his victims, and it’s this that makes me think Kilgrave could shape up to be the scariest Marvel villain to date.
Throughout the episode, what makes Jessica remarkable is not her abilities (though they’re pretty damn badass), but her goodness.
She’s an important illustration of the Good Is Not Nice trope- belligerent, sarcastic and caustic to deal with, yet a good person at heart.
She makes the selfless choice and embroils herself in Kilgrave’s schemes further to save Hope’s life, even though every bone in her body is screaming at her to run. When Hope Shlottman’s father begins to obsess over her newly shattered door, she understands she is a surrogate for the daughter he’s unable to safeguard, and allows him to continue.
All in all, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and her talented cast and crew have delivered a fantastic first episode- explosive, dark, and even funny at times (Jessica’s searing disdain for everything from amateur New York auteurs to the idea she might have lazer eyes is unexpectedly hilarious). Jessica Jones has huge potential, and I’m eager to see what else the series has in store.