DrDoom Reviews: Marvel's JESSICA JONES (Full Series)

DrDoom Reviews: Marvel's JESSICA JONES (Full Series)

Jessica Jones has been in development for quite some time, but it's finally here. How does Marvel's second Netflix outing fare? Having watched the entire season in one sitting (yes, really), CBM's DrDoom is ready to present his spoiler-free verdict! Check it out!

First introduced in the 2001 comic Alias, Jessica Jones may be the most dynamic and important Marvel character to debut in the 21st century. Her comic only lasted for a few short years, but it instantly became a fan-favourite and a critical success. Thus, when Melissa Rosenberg originally announced development of a stand-alone show called AKA Jessica Jones back in 2010 as a pitch for ABC, it quickly became a project that drew significant interest from the comic book community. However, the show never made it past the scripting stage, but was later revived for the landmark Marvel Cinematic Universe Netflix deal, where it became one of the shows that will end up funnelling into The Defenders.

After the release of the first season of Daredevil back in April of this year, Marvel Netflix has been a source of incredible enthusiasm from the fanbase. Matt Murdock's premiere season was met with universal acclaim, and is largely considered to be one of the best overall entries in the MCU canon due to its incredible performances, stellar writing and a dark tone that fit the franchise. Ever since, fans have been clamouring for more, and now, the sophomore entry for Marvel Netflix has landed in the form of the first season of Jessica Jones. So how does this long awaited Alias adaptation pan out?

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at this point, but Marvel's casting continues to be phenomenal with the addition of Krysten Ritter as the lead protagonist. An extremely versatile actor who has to manage several different character tones over the course of thirteen episodes, Ritter utterly embodies the role, delivering a powerhouse performance that will likely be talked about for years to come. Through her mannerisms, line delivery and ability to generate genuine pathos, Ritter has crafted a character who stands as one of the best in the entire MCU. She is helped by great writing, of course, but her unique flair for emotional truth in nearly every scene means that she carries the whole series effortlessly.

However, Ritter isn't alone, because she's matched against David Tennant as Kilgrave, who delivers a performance every bit as riveting. His carefully calculated movements and pitch of his speech showcases not just his remarkable talent, but also an actor who is able to focus on whatever particular element of the character that needs to be showcased at that moment. Kilgrave is able to move though sinister sadism, maniacal delight and even shockingly real empathy without missing a beat, and it's great to see that the show, like Daredevil before it, is so dedicated to crafting a main villain who is every bit as three-dimensional and compelling as the hero.

However, unlike Daredevil, not every member of the supporting cast fares as well. While all of the major players in Daredevil were fascinating to watch, Jessica Jones unfortunately suffers with a handful of its less important recurring characters. Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, Erin Moriarty as Hope Shlottman and Carrie-Anne Moss as Jeryn Hogarth all do well enough as parts of Jessica's world, but a handful of the smaller players, particularly Jessica's batch of neighbours, such as Malcolm Powder and the twins Robyn and Ruben, become aggravating and distracting as the season goes on.

From a writing standpoint, Jessica Jones does a great job of presenting its characters and generating a sense of forward momentum as the plot moves along. There's a real sense of rising tension as Jessica's hunt for Kilgrave gets more and more dangerous, leading to some truly powerful emotional scenes in the second half of the season. With all of the major characters getting tons of development and a handful of flashbacks that serve as excellent supplements to the main narrative, Jessica Jones knows how to keep its primary arc moving at a meticulous pace. While a couple of the plot twists are a bit too obvious, the narrative has enough raw emotional power to maintain engagement across all thirteen episodes.

Naturally, an entire season of a television show is bound to have subplots as a more substantial part of the narrative than a film, but Jessica Jones doesn't quite manage them as well as the main story. They mostly weave well into the primary arc, either reinforcing character development or serving as important bits of world-building, but a couple of them start to fall apart by the second half of the season. The subplot involving Wil Traval as Will Simpson takes a jarring turn that never quite feels earned from a storytelling perspective, and neither does it reach a satisfactory conclusion. As well, the subplot involving a support group for Kilgrave survivors becomes more and more tertiary as the story goes on, including whole scenes featuring these minor characters that add little to nothing of value. Given how sharp the writing is for the main plot, it's disappointing that a couple of the smaller stories seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Still, these narrative missteps don't wound the show's impact too deeply, particularly when they're offset by the show's impeccable sense of style. Shot composition and cinematography is in top form, and the action scenes have a distinctive aesthetic to them that stands in stark contrast to other MCU entries. While the focus is more on the psychological violence than straight action beats, the characters are always involved in ways that make sense. The show also has a great sense of visual storytelling, with many aspects of character and the setting being revealed via visuals and gesture rather than dialogue, although a sporadic voice-over commentary from Jessica herself is used to highlight specific moments. The handful of MCU connections are sparse but used intelligently, although those hoping for several cameos will likely be let down by the fact that there are only two.

Overall, Jessica Jones is a strong second outing for Marvel Netflix, but it's also not quite as fine tuned as the first. It's a great show filled with compelling characters, a dynamic plot and some truly shocking scenes of violence and psychological trauma, but some of the narrative edges aren't quite as carefully controlled as they should be. It's thought-provoking and even emotionally taxing, with the despair in the audience growing along with Jessica's as she is drawn deeper and deeper into the darkness of Kilgrave's mind games, creating a thematically rich experience that touches on some truly poignant subject matter. Just don't be expecting to be quite as floored as you were with Daredevil.

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