JESSICA JONES: The character, the comic, the show

by T. Mack

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This is a review of the Netflix Original Series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones. However, there is no way I can do a simple review of this show. I can’t even begin to talk about the series without talking (at least briefly) about Jessica Jones, the character and Alias, her origin comic.


Jessica Jones, THE CHARACTER

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In the comics, Jessica Jones went to school with Peter Parker. She crushed on him while he was busy pining for Gwen Stacey. Around the same time he got bitten by a radioactive spider, she was in a car accident involving radioactive material and received powers as well. Gifted with super-strength and the ability to fly, Jessica became Jewel, an unknown, ground-level superhero who looked up to the Avengers.

Not long into her career, Jewel had the unfortunate luck to come into contact with The Purple Man (a.k.a. Killgrave), a villain possessing the power of mind control without the benefit of a conscience to temper his actions. This is what happened when they first met:

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Jessica remained a captive of Killgrave for nine months. NINE months of complete mind control, being made to do and feel things she never wanted. Following her escape, Jessica left her superhero days behind her and became an alcoholic private investigator. Jessica is damaged. She has not recovered from her time with Killgrave. And though she’s tried to move on, there is still a part of her under his control. She is still afraid. She is still affected. She is still hurting. But also, a very small part of her is still a hero, even if she doesn’t know it. And it’s at this point that both the original comic series, Alias, and the new Netflix show pick up.


Alias, THE COMIC

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The comic series, Alias, begins after the backstory events I just described. When we meet Jessica, she is already a P.I. and a hot mess. Her comic and her life are dark, seedy and shaded. Hers is not the brightly colored world of primary colors like Spider-Man, Iron-Man, Captain America and the like.

Jessica’s world is far below that in a dark, hidden corner of existence. Her world–and her comic–is not suitable for kids. Things get going pretty quickly with a drunken one night stand that includes (implied) anal sex.

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The comic was published by Marvel, but fell under their Marvel MAX division, which was created for content specifically geared to adults. Alias helped launch the division and ran for 28 issues from 2001-2004. The basic set-up of the Alias comic becomes the foundation of the Netflix series, but almost everything else changes either subtly or dramatically. Even when the same characters appear in the show, they have different relationship dynamics or are presented in a very different light than their comic book counterpart. Even with all that change, I doubt very highly that fans of the comic will be significantly disappointed with this show.


Jessica Jones, THE SHOW

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The new Netflix original series, Jessica Jones, is 13 episodes (11 hours) of excellence in television. It is amazing, incredible and exceptional. You guys know I love me some TV. And while I enjoy a great many shows, very few manage to impress me on the level that this one did. Exceptionally well-acted, superbly put together, perfectly paced and extremely engaging, this is the most well put-together show I’ve seen in recent memory. (It’s amazing but Netflix is really doing television better these days than the actual television networks!)

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Let’s talk story first. Characters and events are not necessarily the same or even similar to what you find in the original comics, but that’s okay. We readers all know that they often have to make changes to our stories to make them work on the screen. What’s been done here honors the source material but brings it into the world that matches the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil. The story is coherent, well-told, intriguing and captivating. When we meet Jessica, we can see that she is clearly a mess. She’s rude, crude, antisocial, and damaged. But also, she seems to be a good person. There is mystery to her life and it’s presented in a way that makes us want to know the secrets and answers to all the questions. The show is immediately engaging.

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Then the attention that the show captures early on is held by the wonderful acting of the cast. I love it when I’m able to honestly say that a cast does not have a weak link. Jessica Jones really doesn’t have one. Krysten Ritter is terrific as Jessica, able to balance the character’s weakness and strength against each other perfectly. Rachel Taylor, Eka Darvill, and Carrie-Anne Moss are all superb in their supporting roles as well. I’m very excited to see more of Mike Colter as Luke Cage when his Netflix series hits the net in 2016.

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But I really, really have to gush here about David Tennant, who we all know is terrific. Right? We all know that already? Yes, I thought we did. However, even with that knowledge going in, I was unprepared for the sheer brilliance of his performance as Kilgrave (only one L here), the manipulative, mind-controlling, psycho creep who haunts Jessica’s life. I LOVE David Tennant. He’s my Doctor, you know.  Little known fact: his performance in the fourth Harry Potter film is what got me to discover and watch Doctor Who. Before that, I’d never even heard of that show. And I think I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel about Doctor Who. So I owe a lot to Tennant and his talent. And I appreciate him as an actor more than is healthy. But during this show, he made my body wage war against itself. How is it possible that a man can have you swooning and make your skin crawl at the same time?

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Oh, dear heavens, that character is such a creep! At least once, I had to pause the program and walk away because Tennant made the character so disturbing that I needed a break. He is quietly psychotic, horribly manipulating, and completely insane! My mother walked into the living room at some point and asked me, “What’s wrong with you? What are you watching that has you like that?” At the time, Tennant was on screen as Kilgrave and every part of my body was tense. I was squirming with discomfort and I can’t even imagine the look that was on my face. Tennant became Kilgrave. He brought the character to life, gave him depth, made him complex and imbued him with power not only to manipulate the characters sharing the screen with him, but also the audience watching. It’s worth the price of admission for that performance alone!

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Speaking of price…you will pay less for a month of Netflix than you would for a matinee showing of the lastest new release in theaters. This show is worth the price you’d pay for three months. Seriously, sign up and binge-watch this show immediately! Send the kids to Nana’s if you must. Tell your significant other to either sit down and shut up or leave the room. Because if you haven’t watched Jessica Jones yet, then you are missing out, my friend. And you need to rectify that situation… RIGHT NOW!

Rating: 5 SHIELDS!

5 SG Shields

Have you watched Jessica Jones? What other Marvel shows on Netflix do you love or are you looking forward to? Tell me your thoughts on the series in the comments.

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