Given all the love for my review of “Daredevil” (thanks for the compliments; they mean a lot!), I thought I’d start reviewing “Jessica Jones”. However, this will be a little bit different, as you probably noticed in the title. You see, after a month, I’ve only managed to watch the first three episodes, so I figured I’d review this as I get through three at a time—for reasons I will detail below. (If you’re wondering why I called it “The Almost-First-Quarter Review”, it’s because I’ve spent my entire adult life—since 1998—as a math teacher, and 3 is not quite a quarter of 13. I strive for accuracy.)
First of all, let me explain why I’ve only watched three episodes so far, even though I binge-watched Daredevil over a weekend. There are a few reasons. First, I unfortunately have to work for a living, and by the time I get home after teaching teenagers all day, I’m ready to just hang out with my family, and this is NOT a family show. (More on that.) Secondly, I don’t find it as gripping as I did Daredevil…at least not yet. I knew nothing about Jessica Jones coming into this show; Marvel comics just aren’t my thing, with a few exceptions. I had at least read Daredevil, and watched the Affleck movie, which I still think gets a bad rap.
Finally, the most important reason: I find it difficult to watch. Why is it difficult? I’m so glad you asked. (Okay, maybe you didn’t actually ask, but allow me my entertainment.) So, pretending that you haven’t seen it yet, let me quickly summarize the show and characters.
Jessica Jones, wonderfully played by Krysten Ritter, is a private investigator who happens to have some limited super powers, thanks to an as-yet-unexplained accident. (I’m ignoring the comics here, since I’m reviewing the show.) She’s stronger than most people, but not on, say, Captain America’s level, or at least hasn’t shown that level yet. She has limited flight; “more like jumping and falling”, I believe is how she described it. She also seems to be more resilient than your normal person, although she does get beaten up. She apparently had a short-term, failed stint as a superhero, but we haven’t heard anything more about that yet. I’m only three episodes in, so I assume that it will get discussed more. She’s definitely an alcoholic, but we see why. I was greatly amused by her interactions with her loud upstairs neighbors; after recently moving to an apartment after fourteen years of owning a house, my wife and I are dealing with neighbors who seem to wear concrete shoes. I wish I could take Jessica’s approach to it. Jessica does not back down from a fight, and has already gotten into a few scrapes.
Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, owns a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, and Jessica seems slightly obsessed with him. We learn that, thanks to an as-yet-unexplained experiment, his skin is unbreakable. He also seems to be stronger than most, on par with Jessica. We haven’t seen much of him yet, aside from his loud, exuberant sex scenes with Jessica. Yes, Mom and Dad, there are sex scenes. There’s no nudity, except for Jessica’s back as she grinds away on top of Luke, but the moans of pleasure are loud and believable, and the acting definitely lets you know that they’re both into it. If you’re not comfortable with your kids watching that, don’t let them watch this show.
Rachael Taylor plays Trish Walker, a popular talk show host who also happens to be Jessica’s foster sister. Trish’s parents took Jessica in when her own parents died; they love each other, although that’s often expressed in begrudging fashion, at least on Jessica’s part. Trish is very supportive of Jessica, and her character is becoming more interesting to me. She had a pretty big story arc in the last episode, and I’m very curious to see where it goes. I won’t say any more for now about that, but Taylor is very good in this part.
Carrie-Ann Moss, of “Matrix” fame, plays Hogarth, a high-powered attorney who often employs Jessica’s services. From what I understand, Hogarth is in the comics, but is a man. They’ve (obviously) done some gender-flipping here, and have made Hogarth a lesbian, which is providing some smaller arcs for the story. I like Hogarth so far; she’s no-nonsense and comes off as a bit of a bitch, but possesses a shrewd intelligence. I hope there’s a lot more of her.
Erin Moriarty plays Hope, a young college student who is the latest victim of the main villain, Kilgrave. Jessica is trying to get her out of jail for the things Kilgrave made her do. I don’t want to give away more than that, though. Hope is more of a secondary character, but her story arc is driving the entire season thus far.
The last of the main characters—I’m ignoring the secondary ones for now—would be the “big bad” of this season, Kilgrave, played wonderfully by David Tennant. As a Whovian who loved Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, it’s hard seeing him as the bad guy, but he’s into the role. Kilgrave, in short, can control you with just his voice. He tells you to do something and you do it. In the past, he had Jessica under his power, and he made her do terrible things, which have mostly been hinted at. (The one big reveal so far could be a game-changer; I’m really curious to see where this goes.) Somehow, she’d broken free of his spell, and she thought he’d died in an accident, but she isn’t that lucky; he’s back and has his sights firmly set on her.
As I said, I find this show tough to watch. I can only watch one episode at a time, and even then, I have to take breaks in between. Jessica basically went through the worst kind of abuse you can imagine: Kilgrave made her do things she didn’t want to do, and she couldn’t stop herself. (We don’t know if this included forcing her to have sex with him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s revealed to have happened.) Her experience has really affected her in a powerful way, and Ritter’s portrayal of a PTSD-suffering abuse victim, who happens to have super powers, is amazingly realistic. That is why it’s hard for me to watch. I have several nieces, a sister, three sisters-in-law, and several other adult women in my life; as a teacher, there are many young women in my life. As I watch this show, my mind often slips to thinking about one of them being in Jessica’s situation, which kind of makes me nauseous. It’s extremely uncomfortable to watch, but I think is a good thing if it helps raise awareness of abuse and its effects. Maybe some viewers would be desensitized to this, but I’m not.
No, the show is not gripping; the pace is much slower than Daredevil, and they are taking their sweet time explaining Jessica’s background, powers, and pretty much everything else. Still, the acting is extremely good, maybe better than Daredevil; the fight scenes are nothing on that level, but they’ve made sense, given her skill set. She does get beaten up, so if you don’t like seeing a woman getting punched in the head, you might not want to watch this.
Jessica is a true badass; she’s not an assassin like Black Widow, but the fact that she’s started to piece her life back together after a crapload of bad stuff is impressive, as is her decision not to run when she realizes that Kilgrave is alive. Nobody could blame her for getting the hell out of Dodge, but she stays because somebody has to stop him, and she might be the only one who can. Badass. Total badass.
Overall, the show is good. I don’t love it like I did Daredevil, but I think it has the potential to be really good. I’m only almost a quarter of the way through, so there are plenty more episodes to watch. If you haven’t watched it, I do recommend it.
That’s all for now; I’ll review the next three episodes after I finish them.