I was all set to cancel my Netflix membership as I’d pretty much exhausted the stuff worth watching, and then I remembered Jessica Jones. So I was forced to binge watch my way through it in a few days so I wouldn’t have to pay for another month. “Forced” you understand. These are the traumas of my existence.
It’s a show well suited to binge watching, with no real episodic elements. It’s just one long story split semi-arbitrarily across 13 episodes, with character revelation and development eeked out gradually. It really was no chore to let the next episode start rather than reaching for the remote to make it stop. It does however do slightly odd things to your brain and I found my vocabulary and attitude drifting towards the rather more blunt end of the spectrum for a while. It doesn’t pull its punches at all. The titular character is a self-proclaimed mess of attitude, anger, bitterness, and poor choices. Those around her are marginally more well balanced, although given their backgrounds and experiences that’s something of a miracle.
The crafting of the characters and plot is exquisite. Like the finest stories it takes a relatively simple concept and plays it out to show its full consequences. Killgrave has the power to compel anyone to do anything he wants. What would someone do with that power, and what would that power do to them? What happens to the people he compels? It’s told from the point of view of one of his victims, but really everything is driven from Killgrave. It’s his actions, past and present, that drive the storyline and define Jessica’s character (although there are some other events in her past that clearly contribute). The show is about his superpower, not Jessica’s.
David Tennant was a perfect piece of casting for the role. He’s such a likeable actor, and for most watchers he’s so indelibly linked to the flawed hero of Doctor Who that it makes you look for the goodness. I found myself actually accepting his justifications for a fraction of a second before seeing through them. I was always looking for redemption, not least because that would be an “easy” solution to Jessica’s need for vengeance and to stop him hurting more people.
Standing up to the weight of that storyline and still managing to make the show about Jessica Jones is an impressive challenge, and Krysten Ritter delivered. Jessica Jones is a phenomenal character and Ritter gives her depth and humanity. She’s a long way from being a hero and doesn’t really want to be one. Frankly she’s not a terribly nice person, and again, isn’t really trying to be one, and yet she’s good to spend time with and maybe is even more of a hero because of her resistance.
There’s loads of pretentious pontificating that you can do about the show, because there are so many issues and ideas bubbling away. It’s about power, not just super-powers but about regaining power over your own life. Control, being a victim, choosing not to be. Knowing when to fight, when to run. What it is to be a hero, or a villain. There are so many fascinating elements to the series all wrapped up in a package that’s entertaining to watch. It’s an intense watch, an even more intense review to write, but it’s also a breath of fresh air.