Jessica Jones: Superhero of the Century


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Caroline Albacete '17, Assistant Editor

Let me preface this review by saying two things. One, there will be spoilers for the show, so be warned. Two, though the Netflix series might be based off a comic book superhero, it deals with mature and somewhat controversial themes that ensure that the TV show would have at least a PG-14 rating if it were actually broadcasted on television. It has bloody, gory violence. It’s not Game of Thrones level, but it’s not wholesome family entertainment. That being said, the show is fantastic and definitely worth a shot. Here’s why:

Netflix/Marvel’s newest collaboration, Jessica Jones, takes place in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in the aftermath of the alien invasion of the city (basically, it takes place chronologically sometime after the first Avengers movie). It follows the protagonist, Jessica Jones (played by Krysten Ritter), an individual “gifted” with super-strength and, as she puts it, “guided falling” (basically, she can leap really high for extended periods of time – almost flying, but not quite), who works as a private investigator. The first case we see Jessica take, one in which she searches for a missing girl, brings her in contact with an old and sly enemy from her past: Killgrave (played by David Tennant), a villain who can control the minds of others through verbally issued commands. The rest of the season is split between revealing Jessica’s past with Killgrave as he taunts her in the present while she hunts him down with the help of several dedicated friends, including Jessica’s best friend and renowned talk show host, Patricia Walker (played by Rachael Taylor),Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter), a “gifted” bar owner with connections to Jessica’s past; a tenant in Jessica’s building and one of Killgrave’s victims,  Malcolm Ducasse (played by Eka Darville), and a prickly and proud lawyer,Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss).

Jessica Jones deals with complex themes and issues head-on. From the very beginning, it illustrates the importance of independence, control, and autonomy. We learn through flashbacks that Jessica has suffered terrible trauma after the death of her family in a car crash. It’s later revealed that Killgrave gained control of her mind and body and forced her to stay by his side for some time, which leaves Jessica suffering from the memories of what he did to her and what he made her do. Throughout the season, Killgrave and Jessica discover it’s a game of who has more complete control over the situation. Killgrave has a deep obsession with Jessica, as she’s “the one who got away”, and is constantly trying to get her to “love” him as he believes he loves her. Jessica, of course, could never do even bear the sight of him after everything he put her through.

Jessica is introduced as a tough, cynical character, who can take and throw a punch. It’s refreshing to see that Marvel’s first independent female superhero isn’t a flowery Supergirl type of character. There’s nothing wrong with that stereotype, but it’s a relief to see a female superhero given the same treatment as a male would receive – she’s been through a lot, and it’s shown to have affected her to the point that she gets to have the same suffering and brooding exterior as Batman or Daredevil. She’s a realistic, human character who wears the same pair of jeans day after day and isn’t overly optimistic or perky. Jessica Jones has a wonderful cast of female characters. There is Trish Walker, former child star and currently renowned radio talk show host, who suffered her abusive mother and past eating disorders but now controls her own life and takes risks to save Jessica’s life, along with excelling in martial arts. Together, the two best friends work to find and defeat Killgrave. Then there’s Jeri Hogarth, a “no nonsense” lawyer who is in the process of divorcing her wife. Most of her cases revolve around successfully defending the helpless. Her personal life does not run as smoothly as her career, as her divorce drags on through most of the season due to Killgrave’s interference. Jeri occasionally works with Jessica on her cases, and the largest case they take on together features one of Killgrave’s victims.

While the show features other fantastic female characters, it also hosts a wide variety of male characters who assist Jessica and deal with their own issues. Malcolm Ducasse, undoubtedly the star of the male cast, is a junkie barely scraping by on the streets of New York City. Later it is revealed, however, that Killgrave is the cause of Malcolm’s addiction and has been forcing him to spy on Jessica. Throughout the season, he helps Jessica find Killgrave and Malcolm struggles with his addiction and faces racism. Luke Cage, Jessica’s love interest, also deals with racism, though not to quite the same extent as Malcolm. Luke ends up with Jessica when they reveal their “gifts” to each other, and Luke’s character embodies the theme of forgiveness as he learns about her past and what effect she has had on his life, albeit while under Killgrave’s control.

Lastly, Killgrave is revealed early on to have an incredible but terrifying power: mind control. His actions have proved his maleficence over and over again; Killgrave freely and remorselessly controls others and forces them to commit murder, he repeatedly sexually abuses Jessica, and he then creepily obsesses over her. Killgrave is introduced as a monster, but the show repeatedly tries to redeem him – he had a terrible childhood, he was basically a science experiment, he “can’t tell when he’s controlling someone” – only to prove, time and time again, that there is no redemption for him. While most other shows would give him a tragic backstory to account for his attitude, Jessica Jones maintains the rule that no matter how tragic the history, the villain remains fully accountable for every action he takes.

Jessica, by contrast, proves what it means to be a hero. She struggles and strives to be better, to have morals, and to help people despite her reservations. Jessica is cynical; she doesn’t see the best in people and she doesn’t easily trust them, especially after Killgrave. Jessica does not believe in herself all the time but knows that she can make a difference, causing her to face her fears and march on. Killgrave is her worst nightmare, and when she hears he is back in town, all she wants to do is run away. However, running would only cause others to suffer because of Killgrave’s mission to get her back, so Jessica faces him, despite her fears and reservations. She continually stands and fights but remembers to refrain from empty violence and senseless murder, which would make her the same as Kilgrave.

Jessica Jones has a lot going for it: the plot’s powerful central idea of self-control, the incredible relationships and friendships, and the show deals with difficult matters in a straightforward and honest manner. Jessica Jones is a terrific addition to the Netflix/Marvel universe and deserves as many stars as possible.