The New York Narrative Binge: “Jessica Jones”

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Krysten Ritter filming "Jessica Jones" on March 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Sands/GC Images)

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, professional sluether. 

When you say the word “Marvel” you don’t exactly think Jessica Jones; Iron Man, Thor, or the Hulk tend to come to mind. The latest Marvel Netflix binge-worthy collaboration, “Jessica Jones,” doesn’t have an Avenger in sight but is one of the most unexpected treats of the year.

A relatively new character for Marvel— her first appearance was in 2001 opposed to someone like Spider-Man, who’s debut was in 1962— Jessica is a hard drinking, foul mouthed, failed Superhero turned Private Investigator. Residing in Hell’s Kitchen alongside her future Defender teammates, Jessica takes cases so she can buy whiskey and pay the rent. Krysten Ritter (“Dont Trust the B*tch in Apt. 23”) tackles the complex role of Jessica resulting in the the doe-eyed actress giving us one of the most perfectly flawed characters we’ve seen in a long, long time. “Jessica Jones” is the second of four installments in the New York City street level Superhero series from Marvel and Netflix, eventually leading to a team up series of The Defenders.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Jessica (Ritter) feels our pain about taking the subway…

We meet Jessica in a broken down state of half drunk and generally annoyance. Bordering on stalker territory with the beyond studly Luke Cage (Mike Colter, more on him later…), rarely sober she’s pushed anyone close away. Her best friend, former child star turned successful radio show host— got that?— Trish (Rachael Taylor), hasn’t seen her in months. While Jessica’s abilities are super strength, sleuthing, and flying she’s rarely in her right mind to do so resulting in her flight turning into a jagged jump and overthrowing her strength on simple daily tasks.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

The Purple Man himself, Killgrave (Tennant)

We learn that Jessica just wants to help people and early on we find out why: Killgrave. A mysterious sadistic figure from her past he has the ability of mind control and while previously enchanting Jessica, he took advantage of her abilities resulting in horrific and eventually murderous behavior. David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) portrays “the Purple Man,” as he’s referred to in the comic lore (he’s also always in monochromatic shades of purple on screen) with such psychological terror in his performance you’ll squirm and hold your breath every time he comes into frame. Thank you, Marvel, for giving us the ideal villain in the most subtly scary way possible.

We see Jessica reacting to her Killgrave related PTSD only keeping in contact with cutthroat lawyer Jeri Hogarth who brings her high paid corporate PI cases. Hogarth is portrayed in the most fantastically icy way by Carrie-Anne Moss (“The Matrix” trilogy); the character was gender swapped from the comics which fits perfectly for the world Marvel and Netflix has created. Hogarth bring’s Jessica her next case, a missing girl who’s parents were referred to the PI by the Purple Man bringing him back into Jessica’s life against her will. This is the shorthand premise of the show— anything further goes into spoilery territory.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Jessica (Ritter) proving her point…

The source material for the show is unlike anything Marvel has tackled before. “Jessica Jones” stems from Marvel’s adult rated comic series, Marvel MAX. While “Daredevil” was the darkest we’ve seen them get, “Jessica Jones” takes it a hundred and fifteen steps further with an even grittier version of a Superhero. Graphic sex scenes, adult language, violent death scenes, and a very real sense of terror are all seen throughout the season. Fun, right? Turning this from a standard Superhero program to a full blown psychological thriller while being balanced and refraining from being contrived or trying too hard.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Killgrave (Tennant) enjoys a cup of Joe in Union Square just as much as you do. 

The show excels visually with gorgeous blurred yet focused cinematography and well crafted camera work. The overlying theme of purple from neon faded lights in the dirty New York City streets to a shimmer of purple in Jessica’s raven hair gives a Noir touch that is reflected in the stunning introduction. Sean Callery’s score amps up the Noir enhancing the overall visuals. New York City is used to it’s full potential from the streets of Alphabet City doubling as Hell’s Kitchen to the West Side Highway’s beautiful eeriness. Old school tactics while on the case like jotting down clues on a a pad over notes in an iPhone is refreshing; it’s one of the few series that doesn’t rely so much on technology.

The costume especially adds to the series cinematography as Jessica is anything but a fashion plate. While her layered bouncy hair commercial haircut is what dreams are made of, Jessica’s attire consists of masculine henley’s, a perfectly beat up leather jacket, the same pair of light wash jeans, and combat boots. It’s the right level of anti-fashion fashion fitting right in with the serious tone of the show. Be sure to check out an interview with fantastic costume designer Stephanie Maslansky.

MARVEL'S JESSICA JONES

Hogarth (Ann-Moss) and Jessica (Ritter) most likely making jabs at one another. 

Jessica isn’t trying to make you like her and that’s the point. She’ll say things like “Turn that thing on I’ll pull your underwear through your eye” giving us Ms. Ritter’s excellent balance of dry humor and drama. And who hasn’t used their computer simultaneously while being on the phone sitting on the loo? You know you have and Jessica’s a fan as well. Totally relatable. There’s a real sense of vulnerability in Ms.Ritter’s take on Jessica, dealing with the aftermath of being held captive by Killgrave that comes across wholeheartedly in her performance. This is easily the actress’ strongest performance to date.

MARVEL'S JESSICA JONES

Jessica (Ritter) and Trish (Taylor) having a moment.

The supporting cast gives us just as strong a performances as our titular hero. Jessica’s relationship with Trish is one of the more interesting aspects of the series, even over that of her romantic relationship with Luke.; it’s rare seeing a female relationship on screen that doesn’t have elements of jealousy. The two couldn’t be more opposite even visually: Jessica’s hair is dark and apartment dank and moody, Trish is blonde and a very positive person with a sprawling gorgeous Chelsea penthouse. In reality their friendship should have run it’s course and while a complicated relationship, it’s root is love and fierce loyalty.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Jessica (Ritter) and Malcom (Darville) at odds. 

Other players such as Ms.Moss’ hard as nails Hogarth give the series a very real feel with this being Marvel’s first project incorporating Gay characters into their story line. A great lesbian divorce drama subplot that is beyond enjoyable.  Jessica’s neighbors like my pal (the wildly talented and quirky) Keiran, and junkie turned friend Malcom (Eka Darville) strengthen the plot even more. Will Simpson (Will Travel), a somewhat dirty cop, also has serious shining moments throughout the series as one of the more unique characters introduced. That’s all we can say about him, just tune in and enjoy. Daredevil’s  Night Nurse herself, the wonderful Rosario Dawson, also makes a memorable appearance in the finale continuing the connection of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe.

MARVEL'S JESSICA JONES

Luke Cage (Colter) being all handsome and stuff. 

Arguably the most important supporting character introduced is Luke Cage, Jessica’s love interest and future Defender teammate. The casting of Mr. Colter couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only does he visually embody Luke Cage, his chemistry with Ms.Ritter jumps off the screen resonating their strong connection from the source material. While Jessica’s show, incorporating Luke Cage needed to be done the right way as he’s an incredibly vital aspect of her life, and thankfully, the series exceeded expectations here. There’s no Jessica without Luke, and visa versa. If you weren’t already excited about The Defenders series, you will be when you see their interaction.

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From page to screen: a nod to Jessica’s alter ego when a Superhero, Jewel, with Trish (Taylor) trying to convince her it’s a “good look.”

While a bit of a mind warp, the show balances all that Noir creepiness with the right amount of humor. There’s a funny bit about Jessica’s door that wont stay fixed and great lines like, “If I wear that thing, you’ll have to call me camel toe,”when Trish tries to get Jessica to don her signature comic costume (above). It can also be argued that while’s labelled a “Superhero” show, in reality, it’s not. “Jessica Jones” is much more a character piece with complex, layered, and rather flawed individuals. Even if you’re not a  fan of Avenging, you’ll beyond enjoy the show.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

Hunky, if not  a little crazy Simpson (Travel).

“Jessica Jones” also has a strong female presence throughout it that isn’t always seen on screen. While Marvel has been under heat for not having enough ladies in every project— an argument that quite honestly is not the fairest— Jessica proves that the powerhouse studio had faith that a relatively unknown female character can more than carry a show in their universe with ease and uniqueness. The casting of Ms.Ritter, besides being spot on, boasts well for the studio in that they didn’t feel the need to get a huge “name” as their lead. While having general success, Ms.Ritter is not the most well-known household name (big mistake there, folks) and Marvel has given the actress an incredible platform to showcase her talents on in which she’s fully delivered. The diversity of the cast also sets the series apart. Men, women, gay, straight, black, white…it’s all there and all believable. There’s no skirting gender, sexual orientation, or addiction in “Jessica Jones” something not seen on any other Superhero show to date.

Marvel's Jessica Jones

There’s that bouncy hair commercial hair again…

Season One of “Jessica Jones” is now available in it’s glorious entirety to stream on Netflix. You’ll dive, binge, and wish there were more than thirteen episodes. Enjoy.

All images courtesy of Netflix  and Marvel

© Copyright 2015 The New York Narrative. All rights reserved.

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