FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Jessica Jones
Marvel’s first show headlined by a superpowered lady is here. Jessica Jones has just dropped on Netflix and we’re rushing about like a dog chasing its tail to get you a first impressions review. We’ve watched the first two episodes for you, and we’re here to let you know that it’s pretty good. Read on for the hot details.
As this is just a first impressions, it can’t attest to the quality of the whole series. Taking the first two episodes on their own though, Jessica Jones is a compelling slow burn of a series. In that respect, it somewhat mirrors its Netflix sibling Daredevil, though it’s probably advisable not to compare the two shows that much. Jessica Jones is its own beast, mixing wisecracking humour, interesting relationships and an undercurrent of paranoia.
Episode one covers a lot of ground. There’s Jessica Jones herself, who Krysten Ritter portrays excellently as a woman who has closed herself off and built a hard shell around her to protect from a menace in her past. In a lot of ways that menace feels like an extra character in itself in the first episode, even though we’re only given scant details about what exactly happened.
Otherwise, it does a good job of setting everything else up. Jones is a hard ass private investigator with “methods” (read: superpowers), there’s a ruthless lawyer and a mysterious guy who owns a bar (Luke Cage, if you’re interested). Much welcome moments of wry humour pepper the episode, an unexpected addition for those of us who were expecting Jessica Jones to mirror Daredevil‘s tone.
Incidentally, Ritter’s Jessica Jones and Mike Colter’s Luke Cage have on-screen chemistry to burn here, selling the hell out of their mutual attraction. It’s not entirely clear to begin with, though, why Jones is keeping tabs on Cage, which might confuse viewers going in cold. Within the comic book source material, which this series is apparently drawing heavily from, the pair have developed a serious relationship.
For the first couple of episodes though, Luke Cage is really the B-story. Our main arc is the abduction of a student athlete, a crime Jones quickly comes to suspect was perpetrated by a terrifying figure of her past. Episode one closes with a morbid yet gut-wrenching sucker punch that’s unsettling even if you spot it coming.
Jumping over to the second episode, Jones is hellbent on proving the existence of her old menace in order to save one of his victims from jail. It’s fun to watch Jones go about this, even if there’s nothing too ingenious about her investigations. Despite her bristly exterior (she silences a pretentious performance artist by threatening to pull his underwear out through his eye) Jones is clearly a good person who’s driven to help people.
It’s also not until episode two that we get any real action, which may or may not be a problem for you depending on your taste. When the show finally gets its superhero on – a bar fight where Jones and Cage show off their skills – it’s a cathartic addition but does not feel essential. Jessica Jones is a show about characters, which sounds like a stupid thing to say. Put in other words, it’s a show where action doesn’t need to be front and centre, given the depth of its characters and their relationships.
Who are these characters though? Jessica Jones herself is a worthy lead here, all hard exterior but ultimately a good person dealing with a serious trauma underneath. Her sometimes best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is vital in this regard, bringing out both the paranoid victim and caring do-gooder in Jones. The first two episodes don’t give Trish a lot to do on her own, but we do see her learning Krav Maga. She might well evolve into her comic book alias Hellcat at some point.
Beyond this, Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity from The Matrix) plays an attorney who provides Jessica Jones with the brunt of her PI work. She’s powerful and ruthless, as women in high positions are often portrayed on television. At this point it’s hard to say what ways she’ll be a part of the show going forward.
Mike Colter as Luke Cage is a powerful screen presence. He’s honourable, decent and charismatic, but has secrets only hinted at in our first few episodes. There’s also a reason Jones has her eye on him, which we won’t spoil for you here.
Finally, there’s David Tennant as the mysterious Killgrave. Through episodes one and two, Tennant gets very little screen time, outside of Jones’ brief traumatic flashbacks. Talked about in hushed tones he manages to come across as a sinister and unstoppable force. When he finally appears on screen, he’s exactly as powerful as Jones has been saying all along.
Give this show a try for no other reason than to see Krysten Ritter disappear into her character. The comparisons to Daredevil will be there from day one, but this is a fundamentally different show with arguably a more complex lead character. We’ll definitely be watching to the end.