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From Under A Rock: Jessica Jones (Season 1)

March 3, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Jessica Jones (Season 1)  


The second season of Jessica Jones comes to Netflix in just a few days, and it seems like the perfect occasion to take a retrospective look at one of Marvel’s best products.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Ip Man. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Jessica Jones (Season 1).

Jessica Jones
Released: November 20th, 2015
Showrunner: Melissa Rosenberg
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones
Rachael Taylor as Patricia Walker
David Tennant as Kilgrave
Mike Colter as Luke Cage
Carrie Anne-Moss as Jeryn Hogarth

Aaron Hubbard: When I introduced Michael to Season One of Daredevil, I kind of hoped that his TV addiction and appreciation of the show would compel him to check out Jessica Jones. It didn’t, so now I’m using my own form of mind control to get him on board.

Michael Ornelas: Properties speak to their own merit. I liked Daredevil, but I still haven’t watched the second season and it felt too “comic booky” to convince me to dive into any of the other Marvel shows (I’ve seen every Marvel movie, by the way, but at some point it just feels like way too much). That said, watching Jessica Jones was a treat, and I will absolutely be checking out the second season next week.
Jessica Jones – Marvel’s Hidden Jewel
Aaron: Most Marvel products have an innate advantage with me. Superheroes are kind of my thing, and I usually come into their movies or shows predisposed to like it. Jessica Jones had no such advantage. I knew she was a private investigator with super strength and that was about it. But the show hooked me by the end of the first episode and kept my attention throughout. Jessica is one of my favorite characters in the whole MCU, mostly because she is so different from everyone else. She’s not inherently heroic like Captain America, or guilt-driven like Daredevil or Tony Stark. Mostly, she’s just trying to survive after dealing with traumatic events and doing the best she can with what life has thrown at her. She can be borderline unlikable at time, but for understandable reasons. And the dark sense of humor and bleeding heart are more than enough to balance it out.

Michael: Everyone told me that David Tennant is the best part about the season, and with all due respect, they’re wrong. Krysten Ritter was the heart and soul of this show, and I was more captivated when she was on screen than any other character. That’s not to say Tennant wasn’t amazing — I adore the former Doctor, and he was magnetic as Kilgrave, but Jessica Jones (and Ritter) kept me watching. I invested so deeply because she showed strength in the most trying of times. Her identity is distinct in an MCU full of witty, narcissistic heroes. She’s tough because she has to be, not because she has the privilege to be.

Aaron: She definitely has to be. While this is a superhero show and has more than a few unrealistic elements, the actual things that Jessica has dealt with are very real, and sadly very common. She is a sexual assault survivor, and while I think that rape as backstory is overused to the point of feeling creepy and exploitative, but Melissa Rosenberg handled the situation with care and with the seriousness it deserved. I think the true testament to Jessica Jones’ strength as a character is that I’m very interested in Season 2, even knowing that Kilgrave won’t be coming back. It was such a strong first season and a killer arc; I don’t know if they can top it, but I’m definitely curious to see how they follow it up.
Manipulation: A Real World Evil
Michael: Kilgrave’s power was so interesting to me, because it is the power of absolute manipulation. What he says, he gets. This may not seem “cool” or “badass”, but it sickened me more than any other Marvel villain because it has the possibility to occur to me in the real world. I don’t go through life worrying that Loki is going to open a portal from space and send aliens down to attack me. I do sometimes worry about unhealthy relationships and they impact they have on me and those around me. Kilgrave is the supervillain next door, in that regard, and seeing him abuse his power in so many ways made me hate him. The fact that Jessica was the only person who could stand up to him and resist his control gave her just as much strength to me as her “gift”, especially when taken metaphorically, with someone finally standing up to their abuser.

Aaron: When I first heard that Marvel was seriously adapting a concept as goofy as The Purple Man to their gritty, grounded Netflix series, I wasn’t sure what to think. I only really knew him from old Daredevil comics and one episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but I had never seen how Brian Michael Bendis used him in Alias (the comic book that debuted Jessica). Suffice to say, they knocked it out of the park. Mind control is very prevalent in Marvel Comics (telepathy being a common mutation in X-Men books), but rarely is the terror of that power fully realized. Here, we see it on full display with a man who uses it the way an asshole teenage boy would use it. Kilgrave is petty, mean-spirited, cruel, and unbelievably selfish. Which makes him the most monstrous and most effective pure bad guy that Marvel Studios has ever done.

Michael: Let’s dive into some spoilers and just talk about the execution of some of the most enthralling visuals I’ve seen in the Marvel Universe. When Jessica walks out of the interrogation room at the police station, and all the cops are standing around with guns pointed at each others’ heads, I got chills. It was sickening, but it was also so creative. There are also all the times we saw the aftermath of Kilgrave’s mind control, like walking in on someone cleaning up after a murder, or watching hordes of people stop in place, weaponized and waiting for their next command. Stunning creative visuals to support what, on paper, is a mundane super power.
A Support Group
Aaron: As good as Jessica and Kilgrave are in the lead roles, this show has a lot of important supporting players. Which makes sense; one of the only ways we can ever deal with trauma is by sharing our experience with people we trust. Patricia Walker is a well-informed foil for Jessica as her more idealistic best friend, who would be a superhero if she could be. In many ways, she reminds me of what Lois Lane is in her best interpretations. Hogarth (played by a very welcome Carrie Anne-Moss) fits nicely in the spectrum between Jessica and Kilgrave. She’s exceptionally manipulative and used to getting her way, but can’t literally force it. And while she’s not exactly a nice person and is motivated by fame and money above all else, she is usually fighting for the greater good. And then there’s Wil Travel as Will Simpson (based off “Nuke” in the comics), who is what Jessica might have become without her moral compass. It’s really quite remarkable how well all the characters bounce off of each other, how they are shades of the same issues, and how they are rarely a true distraction from the main story.

Michael: You actually just stated the most important thing I observed about these characters: they are shades of the same issue. I feel every possible viewpoint was presented in these characters, with many of them working towards the best solution while others had selfish motives. I also loved Malcolm’s role in all that, Jessica’s drug-addicted neighbor. For those who haven’t seen the series, I won’t spoil his arc, but needless to say, he’s the most sympathetic character on the show, I think. The whole supporting cast (minus Robyn, the grating fraternal twin upstairs neighbor) was perfect, and brought this world to life.

Aaron: And then of course, there’s Mike Colter as Luke Cage. While I have mixed feelings on the Luke Cage show, Colter remains one of Marvel’s best casting decisions. He has a warmth and charm to him that makes you want to be around him and get to know him, even though you’re kind of aware he’s not telling you anything he doesn’t want to. Colter and Ritter have molten chemistry at times, and I like that their relationship is specifically built on sexual attraction and then becomes something more. Neither character should be opening up to other people or committing at this point in their lives, but they aren’t afraid to act on their instincts. When it becomes clear they care for each other, all the complications that entail make for a great romantic subplot. And I also loved that they took advantage of having Kilgrave and Luke in the same show and pulled out the appropriate swerve in the second to last episode.

Michael: I really liked the show, and will continue watching for sure. It still had some trappings of Marvel (the tone being very similar to many other things I feel I’ve seen before), but they took it to a much darker, realer place and I appreciated that. This felt like a series with something to say, and it celebrated the strong female lead in Jessica Jones. I’ll be back for more


Aaron: I’m actually really happy that I rewatched this series. The Marvel Netflix experiment has left me mostly bored the last couple of years, so it’s good to know this show is still as riveting as I remember it being. The plot does strain to reach the 13 episode length (I still contend most of these could be 8-10 episodes), but it handled it mostly well and had such a strong story that I cared even when I was seeing the mechanism turning a bit too slowly. This is strongly recommended.


Michael: I’m glad you put that on the list, because before I watched it, I viewed it as a chore. It turned out to be anything but.

Aaron: For as stuck in a rut as Marvel can be, they really can surprise you sometimes. Jessica Jones is one of their best surprises.

Are you excited for Season 2 of Jessica Jones, or has the Marvel Netflix experiment left you cold?

Next week:

Michael: The Queen fan in me has wanted to bring this to the table much sooner. A fun, kinda dumb 1980 sci-fi flick that, had it come before Star Wars, may hold a similar place in history as that iconic franchise, merely for its unique setting and visual execution.
Aaron: Star Wars borrows more than a little from the original Flash Gordon comics, so you may be right. I’m looking forward to this.


What’s your favorite Queen song?

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Jessica Jones is, for our money, the best Marvel Netfix show. Jessica is a very different sort of hero and Krysten Ritter has a truly star-making turn as the alcoholic, sexual assault survivor P.I. David Tennant's Kilgrave is a truly despicable villain and his mind control is the most terrifying power in the MCU, because it feels like an extension of real life manipulative masterminds. The supporting cast is great, with Rachael Taylor, Carrie Anne-Moss and Mike Colter all playing compelling characters. This gets close to top marks from us both.