Hi everyone! Welcome to our daily coverage of Marvel’s Jessica Jones. We’ll be reviewing one episode a day for the next 13 days until we’ve reviewed the entire first season. I’ll be reviewing the first half of the season, and Grant (who handles the weekly Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reviews) will cover the second half.
The series isn’t available on Netflix until November 20th, but I had the chance to attend the premiere event in New York City and got to see the first two episodes early. That being said, there will be spoilers in these reviews, so if you’re hoping to go into the show completely blind, I urge to you bookmark this page and come back once you’ve had a chance to watch the episode. My brief, spoiler-free impression: it’s great, get excited.
Unfortunately, that’s really all I can say without getting into spoiler territory, so without further ado:
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!
The first episode of Jessica Jones wastes no time in establishing the tone of the show. Right out of the gate, we’re treated to a title sequence that rivals Daredevil’s in terms of beauty and creativity. And, just like Daredevil’s, the show’s opening titles provide a great sense of tone for the show. The artwork is the same patchy, water-color style we’ve seen from the posters, accompanied by enticing jazz music that’s heavy on the Hi-Hat. That same jazz-influenced music permeates the rest of the show as just one of dozens of Noir elements used to inform the show’s tone.
In fact, those pulpy, detective fiction tropes are perhaps my greatest complaint with the show so far. The hard-drinking loner detective, sitting in a run-down office sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong has become such a cliche in film and TV that it’s occasionally hard to take Jessica’s (Krysten Ritter) narration about “looking for trouble” seriously. The noir-genre tropes are definitely leaned upon more heavily in the first episode than the second, so there’s a chance that the decision to check off so many boxes on the Noir-genre Bingo card early on was just to set expectations about what type of show this will be.
The first episode focuses on Jessica’s search for Hope, an NYU student who randomly decided one day to quit the Track and Field team (of which she was captain), move out of her apartment, and cut off all contact with her friends and family. As Jessica investigates the case, she notices striking similarities to her own traumatic experience with Kilgrave (David Tennant), a man who can influence the desires of those around him.
While we don’t get the full details of her trauma, we see enough brief flashbacks and references to guess how horrible it might have been, and the effect it had on Jessica is on full display. This is where Ritter really shines in her portrayal of Jessica Jones. When dealing with jerk clients blaming her for telling them their wife is cheating, Jones speaks with a flat affect—a tone that lets people know she’s heard their shit before, and she doesn’t care. However, as she makes the realization that Kilgrave is the one behind Hope’s abduction, Jessica’s apathy is replaced with terror and panic. Coming on the heels of a scene where Jessica lifts a man’s car off the ground and laughs as she threatens him with her “laser eyes”, seeing her be truly afraid is extremely disconcerting. Without appearing in a single scene of the first episode, Kilgrave makes himself known as someone to fear.
Jessica is so afraid of what Kilgrave can do, she actually decides to cut her losses and get on the first flight to Hong Kong, where he might not be able to find her. It’s only after a conversation with Patricia Walker (Rachael Taylor), her estranged friend (and most likely something more), that Jones realizes she’s the only person who has any chance of helping Hope and decides to stick around. She manages to find Hope, alone in a hotel room laying in her own urine as Kilgrave told her not to move, and returns her to her parents.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Hope is free from Kilgrave’s influence. In a shocking and, frankly, horrifying ending to the episode, we get our first glimpse at the real extent of Kilgrave’s powers, and we know that the danger for Jessica has only just begun.
Now, one character I haven’t yet mentioned in this review so far is Luke Cage (Mike Colter). After a flirtatious exchange with Jessica in his bar that serves to show off the two actors’ incredible chemistry, Luke takes Jessica home for the night and the two have sex in what is without a doubt the most graphic scene Marvel could possibly show. In fact, it may be the most graphic sex scene any series could show without actually containing any nudity. There’s a connection between the two characters that hasn’t yet been revealed, and Colter has more to do in Episode 2, but the small role he plays in the first episode has all but confirmed that Mike Colter makes a phenomenal Luke Cage.
Overall, the episode is packed with well-written characters, the feel of a lived-in world, and the promise of a completely terrifying villain. While the wonderfully choreographed action scenes we loved in Daredevil are absent here, they’re replaced with a sickening sense of dread and fear. Stellar performances all-around make minor squabbles with over-used genre tropes easy to ignore.
4.5 whisky bottles out of 5. Marvel’s sophomore Netflix show is off to a strong start.
Another character I didn’t mention in the review is Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss), who adds to the show’s complex portrayal of sexuality. As only the second openly gay character in the MCU (The first being Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Joey Gutierrez), the television side of Marvel is certainly more diverse than the film side.
Speaking of complex sexuality, the heavily-implied previous romantic relationship between Jessica and Trish is a compelling aspect to their friendship that feels wonderfully organic and realistic.
While this show is without a doubt several shades darker than Daredevil, it’s also not without its humor. Ritter’s sarcastic humor is in full force.
The best exchange of the episode is between Jessica and Malcolm (Eka Darville), Jessica’s drug-addicted neighbor.
Jessica: I need some money.
Malcolm: You can have my TV.
Jessica: Thanks, but you hold onto it.
Malcolm:……I stole it.
Jessica: Yeah, I figured as much.
Check back tomorrow for my review of the second episode, and be sure to catch the first season of Jessica Jones on Netflix this Friday!