Thoughts on Jessica Jones

Jan 5, 2016

Thoughts on Jessica Jones

Jan 5, 2016

The first paragraph of this post has been updated with new, accurate release information for Daredevil, season 2.

Happy New Year everyone! Lots of exciting things coming up in 2016, with season two of Daredevil on Netflix at the top of the list. And, speaking of which, it appears that Daredevil now has a release date. Mark your calendars and prepare to spend March 18 glued to the television screen. While you’re at it, I also suggest you check out last week’s feature in Entertainment Weekly.

However, that’s over three months away, and there are still some dangling threads from 2015 to attend to, such as Jessica Jones, the second Marvel television series to hit Netflix. As you probably all recall, Jessica Jones premiered on November 20. Since it’s been over a month, I’m going to assume that everyone who intended to has seen the show by now, as there will be spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned! As always, please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section (which is now working again after misbehaving for a few days).

Jessica Jones managed to grab my attention right from the start, and around six episodes in, I was thinking to myself: “Damn, this show might actually top Daredevil!” On the one hand, I was happy to be watching high quality entertainment, but as a Daredevil fan I kind of like to think of my favorite character as the one to beat. 😉 In the end, I found that Jessica Jones failed to sustain that level of excellence past the midpoint (more on that below), and I still rank Daredevil as the better show, even taking my own personal bias into consideration.

The good

Just like Daredevil, Jessica Jones is a fantastic looking show. The lighting, the clever use of color and the shadowy interiors mixed with the sharp contrasts of daytime Manhattan, gives this show a particular look that is right up my alley (the liberal use of purple, my favorite color, doesn’t hurt). After Daredevil, we expect nothing less than a high quality production from the Marvel/Netflix team, and that’s what we get.

In terms of the tone of the storytelling, Jessica Jones is easily as dark as Daredevil; perhaps even darker. There is less physical violence – which says a lot about Daredevil since its sister show also contains its fair share of blood and gore – but the psychological horror hits just as hard. Few things are more frightening than the loss of individuality, which goes beyond simply losing control, and Kilgrave is a truly menacing villain.

Krysten Ritter, who stars as the title character, is absolutely crucial to the success of this show, and for getting the tone just right. I will admit to being skeptical when she was first cast, but her ability to balance tough and vulnerable blew me away. Her Jessica is a character you find yourself rooting for, even as she neatly avoids becoming too likable. Not only does she have enough skeletons in her closet to fill a cemetery – with the restless demons to match – she often comes across as dismissive and abrasive in her daily encounters with others. We can easily empathize with her, but she’s never too eager to woo her audience and that’s quite refreshing.

What is also refreshing overall is the prevalence of female characters, with a diverse range of personalities, and agendas. Jessica is not the only one to be rough around the edges, Carrie-Anne Moss’s (gender-switched) Jeri Hogarth is cold-hearted and reckless enough to easily be mistaken for a bona fide villain, though without losing so much of her humanity that she devolves into predictable cliches. Trish Walker, whose character gets an interesting upgrade, is more typical as the best friend to cheer Jessica on, but she too turns out to be more than meets the eye.

Other minor characters turn in compelling performances. Not every subplot is well-executed – more on that below – but I found myself really enjoying both Malcolm’s and Robyn’s character arcs. I would imagine Robyn to be quite controversial, but I found her later appearances as oddly enthralling as her earlier ones were annoying.

David Tennant as Kilgrave obviously turns in a top-notch performance as a power drunk psychopath in search of his own twisted version of love. Daredevil’s Fisk was easier to sympathize with, but Tennant does deliver those additional layers of complexity that make this version of Kilgrave more interesting than his comic book counterpart.

The not so good

My single biggest issue with Jessica Jones, as much as I genuinely enjoy its many strengths, is that it’s about three or four episodes too long. It’s a rare thing to find any season of a television show that doesn’t hit an occasional rough patch with scenes or subplots that drag on too long, or fail to pack the intended amount of punch. Daredevil is certainly no exception. But, unlike Daredevil, Jessica Jones seems weighed down by the sheer number of episodes to fill. This causes Jessica’s ongoing rat and mouse game with Kilgrave to stretch on for perhaps one twist too many, and lose steam along the way. We’re also left with subplots that feel like filler. I found Trish Walker’s backstory and common history with Jessica compelling, but did we really need to check in with Trish’s mother in the present? There were obviously other ways to make sure that Jessica got that tip about who may have been responsible for her gaining her powers.

I have to admit to letting out a squeal of delight when Simpson said “Give me a red,” but any excitement was quickly put to rest by the fact that this new composite character just doesn’t make sense. I know there are people out there who are busy analyzing what exactly Simpson has to say about things like masculinity, but I think that’s giving him too much credit. I think that actor Will Traval does a commendable job with the material he has had to work with, but at the end of the day, this new take on Born Again villain Nuke is simply ill-conceived. When I was watching the show again with a group of friends, I found myself having to explain Simpson’s motivations, based on what I happen to know about Nuke from the comics, since these are far from obvious to the more casual MCU fan. I found Simpson to be a distraction that doesn’t actually add anything to the bigger story.

In closing

The above quibbles aside, I enjoyed Jessica Jones a lot, and consider it one of the best things to come out of the MCU thus far. These creators have taken a lesser known Marvel character and made her relevant to thousands of viewers who had probably never heard of her. Most of the characters are very well-acted, and give us a psychological thriller that stays with you. One of the most poignant scenes for me comes in the very first episode, when Jessica traces Kilgrave’s latest victim Hope to the restaurant where she remembers having dinner with him in the recent past. Her realization, the reactions of the waiter, that impending sense of doom… It’s a great scene.

This series also introduces us to Luke Cage, with whom Jessica starts a relationship, despite her better judgement in light of her tragic history with Luke’s late wife. Mike Colter gives us a take of Luke’s character that has definitely whetted my appetite for whatever is to come when he gets his own show.

Finally, I must admit that I had hoped for a Matt Murdock cameo. Not a Daredevil one, that wouldn’t have been a good fit for this particular story, but something very minor and law-related would have been nice. For instance, one super short scene where Matt and Foggy are briefly seen taking Jeri’s girlfriend’s self-defense case would have been perfect. At the same time, you have to respect the decisions that were made.

What did you guys think of Jessica Jones?


  1. Mike Murdock

    I think your comments are fair. I was OK with episodes that didn’t focus on Jessica vs. Kilgrave. Daredevil had an episode with Stick that was clearly setting something else. It spent quite a bit of time diving into the background and history of Matt Murdock (although I think they did a better job). So the Simpson plot, which I think could be a set up for season two, is fine with me. I wish it were better executed, but I wasn’t opposed to them having the episodes. That being said, it would make sense to have a shorter season all well-executed if things might sag otherwise.

  2. Steven

    I did not get past the first two episodes. It just didn’t hold my interest.

  3. sacha

    I liked it. That said, I did find it to be about 3-4 episodes too long. It felt like they should have wrapped it up by ep.9/10 tops. Also, I thought that the action sequences were poorly executed which took me out of those sequences. The scenes that had JJ using her jumping powers looked terribly pieced together and a bit cheap. Another little thing that bugged me was how she struggled with overpowering the average human when she had super-human strength…but had no trouble at all busting very sturdy chains and padlocks.

    Despite that, the show was good and overall enjoyable, just not as well paced and well written as DD. Hopefully that will do even better on the next one.

  4. Tate

    My wife and I burned through it the weekend it premiered. We both enjoyed it overall, but I haven’t had the slightest desire to revisit it. I’m sure I/we will someday, but Daredevil was an immediate re-watch. I agree with most of your criticisms, though I’d argue it was about 5 or 6 episodes too long. I think this commitment to 13 episode seasons for all these characters is going to hurt re-watchability. Even Daredevil I think could’ve easily been edited down to 12 great episodes. Jessica Jones got way too repetitive with its supporting cast. The annoying neighbor brought the show to a grinding halt whenever she was on screen.

    Still one of the best things Marvel has produced, but nowhere near the overall quality of Daredevil. Tennant was easily the best thing about the show, and I fear that if/when a second season is produced it will reveal that he was indeed carrying the show and his absence will be greatly felt.

    And yes, they had the perfect setup for a Murdock & Nelson cameo at the end and they totally blew it. In fact as much as I love Rosario Dawson’s Claire, her showing up to be a main player in the final episode felt way more shoehorned in than a Murdock cameo would have.

  5. Kate

    I agree with your assessment! Tennant and Ritter were great. It could have been a bit shorter. And the annoying neighbor made me cringe every time she came on screen.

    What I really, really wondered was why, after seeing how awfully Jeri was treating her poor wife she was divorcing, the secretary would EVER want to date her. The thing that also bothered me about the secretary (sorry, I forgot her name! Blond Lady with Bad Taste in Bosses, BLBTB for short … shorter) is that, after all is said and done, NOBODY tries to help her get out of jail or even seems to care. Not Jeri, not Jessica, not Luke, no one. Her actions in trying to save Jeri constitute the clearest, most honest example of self defense in the show, and she’s still on the hook at the end, with no help in sight! I agree with you guys — that would have been the perfect moment for a couple of avocadoes-at-law to make a cameo.

    And Tate’s right; I re-watched Daredevil twice, some of the episodes many, many times. With JJ, maybe I’ll rewatch it … someday. Maybe I’ll just skip ahead to the scenes with Tennant in them.

  6. Rachel

    Hi Christine!

    At first it was ok but the more and more I thought about this show, the more it actually frustrated me. One of the things that really bugged me was the characterization of Jessica Jones. I actually really liked Alias (having read it years before) but as I watched it I suddenly realized that this show bears absolutely no resemblance to the character in Bendis’ series. I found Jessica in the show incredibly unlikable to the point where she’s really a jerk and she was never that in the comics. She was tough, hardened but also vulnerable and caring when she needed to be (case in point is the Rebecca, Come Home arc). At 28 issues, Alias would have been a better source material to adapt. I can understand them not being able to use Captain America or Scott Lang or even Matt (who appears in the first issue as JJ’s lawyer) but the least they could have done was get her right, her motivations, who she is and I walked away feeling short-changed by writers who I think missed the point of the character (reminded me of MoS in some ways including the neck-snapping). There was just no realization of “these guys know what they’re doing” that I got when I watched Daredevil.

    With DD I think they were able to get Matt Murdock so right – the good and bad in his character. The obsessive drive, the “devil inside”, the roguish charm, that sexiness, his perseverance, intelligence, the bleeding heart, the doubts and the struggle to do good and even hints of that dry Murdock wit – so much that the other things didn’t matter to me (like haircolor, not so perfect final costume and etc.) because for me that was the Matt I read in the comics and even more.

    But with JJ, I felt that her character was reduced to a cliched stereotype of female anti-hero. Even worst is that there’s an overall feeling that the show kinda lost its way and didn’t know what it wanted to be, what story it wanted to tell and how it wanted to tell it midway. Its frustrating because Alias was such an emotionally rewarding book (for lack of a better term) despite the slow pace.

    I absolutely agree with you that they could have edited it out to 6 episodes. Focused tighter of storylines and main characters. There’s an inclusion of Simpson and took me a while to even realize that what I was seeing was the adaptation of Nuke because the execution was just done so poorly. There was just not that many things I liked about it. I binged DD maybe 4 times (will be binging again before season 2) but I couldn’t finish Jessica Jones.

  7. Luzita

    I enjoyed JJ but agree with your observations on how it started strong but then lost steam. It’s ironic because, while I liked JJ right away, I wasn’t sure I liked DD at first. I actually stopped watching DD after the first couple of episodes and watched JJ instead. (Didn’t watch either until this year.)

    I think I had trouble with DD at first because, though I liked Charlie Cox, wasn’t crazy about some of the other actors and the show was darker than I expected. My biggest problem, I think, is that I didn’t understand the nature of the character. Though I now think his no-kill moral code is one of the things that makes him so fascinating, that code wasn’t clear from the first couple of episodes. After all, he throws that Russian gangster off Claire’s roof. So my initial reaction to the famous corridor fight scene at the end of Ep 2 was, why the heck doesn’t he just shoot these people! He’s trying to rescue a kid and he’s ludicrously outnumbered, so why not use a gun? This is nothing but a bunch of punching and kicking for the sake of watching martial arts!

    Fortunately I eventually gave the show another shot and totally got sucked in. Although I still like Jessica Jones, I am now obsessed with Daredevil.

  8. Nora

    Hello Christine,
    do you think we are going to see the White Tiger in JJS2? Jessica mentiones her as another private investigator when she tries to refer the Schlottmans to her.
    Greetings, Nora

  9. Nora

    Another observation about the difference between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage: In Jessica Jones her powers were just another feature of her character, but not essential for the plot. Her powers were mostly irrelevant, sometimes useful, sometimes a hinderance. But she had to outsmart Killgrave. This is in my opinion the best and most interesting way to handle a superhero story.
    In Luke Cage in the latter episodes all were about outpowering Diamondback, a bit like in The Incredible Hulk. In the end he meets an even bigger hulk. I find this always a bit disappointing, since we know for a fact that the hero is not going to loose.
    I sincerely hope that in Iron Fist and the Defenders we see our heros outsmarting the opponents, not outpowering them.

    • Donald M. Reif

      At least the second season of Luke Cage compensated for that by giving him Bushmaster and Mariah to give him a physical challenge plus a villain who matched him intellectually.


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