“Jessica Jones” is the darkest, sexiest thing Marvel Entertainment has ever done.
Yes, for gritty thrills, it surpasses the studio’s movies and its network and streaming shows. “Jessica Jones” (released Nov. 20 on Netflix) intimately probes what lies in the shadows of failed heroism, and maps the psychological battle that follows.
Maybe you never got around to reading the Marvel Max line of comics that inspired the show, so maybe your expectations were low. Even “Jessics Jones” villain David Tennant, who plays Kilgrave, admitted that he was unfamiliar with J.J., despite growing up as a big Marvel fan.
So if your expectations were low due to a lack of familiarity, that’s understandable. But one episode in, you'll begin to understand this moment: “Jessica Jones” is that Big Bang moment that sparked a meaner, edgier and more seductive Marvel universe.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Maybe you’re saying, “Well, didn’t Daredevil establish that tone?” Indeed, “Daredevil” pushed PG-13 to PG-15. But when you watch “Jessica Jones,” you'll see they’ve kicked it up a notch.
Here are five takeaways from “Jessica Jones”:
1. The depth of defeat.
As the title character, Krysten Ritter wears defeat on her face and weathered sleeve. While we glimpse of her backstory to the time where she thought super-strength meant she could try being a hero, we mostly see the results that lead her to realizing she’s no Avenger: She’s failed. Her powers betray her when she comes into contact with a villain (Kilgrave) who can control minds. When Kilgrave appears to be back, Jessica’s first instinct isn’t to come up with a heroic approach; the plan is just to run.
We slowly build up to a Jessica/Kilgrave reunion. In between, we see the effects of Jessica’s PTSD. She prefers to be alone. She hits the bottle hard and isn’t looking for friends.
The horror of Kilgrave is that he can be anywhere. Or anyone. He makes it difficult for Jessica to trust the few friends she has. But eventually Jessica knows that the only way to deal with Kilgrave is directly.
2. The supreme sense of self-ish.
Kilgrave doesn’t want the world or the Infinity Gauntlet. Heck, at times he might just want a sandwich and a good place to watch a soccer match. But it is how he goes about getting what he wants that makes him one of the scariest Marvel bad guys put on screen. His power of suggestion can’t be refused. His sinister ways are matched only by his calm, because he knows no one can say no to him.
Then there’s Jessica Jones – the one who got away. Singularly obsessed, he begins a slow hunt by watching her with other sets of eyes, and getting into Jessica’s head without using his powers.
3. Cage matched.
Unlike “Daredevil,” Jessica Jones” serves as a sort of “Defenders”-lite sneak peek. We simultaneously get our title character and a look into the next Netflix hero. Mike Colter’s Luke Cage is the opposite of Jessica in many ways, but he, too, shares special abilities he’d rather not embrace. An attribute that eventually links the two in a relationship that is more sensual and complicated than anything we’ve seen from Marvel. Cage gets a little action - enough to show that tough skin he’s famous for. He’s a man who has no interest in being a hero, but as Hell’s Kitchen continues to attract unknown evils, he'll get the hero call soon enough.
4. Coitus: Disrupt us.
Fully embracing the source material’s mature content, “Jessica Jones” doesn’t shy away from sex. Far from gratuitous, each sultry situation serves to escape the madness of Hell’s Kitchen. And the couplings make it clear: This is an adult show based on an adult comic that itself was not suitable for kids.
5. Sense of the big build.
“Jessica Jones” get us halfway to the eventual series about the street-level, antihero Avengers squad, “The Defenders.” “Jessica Jones” is poised to be a hit, and the pressure will be on Luke Cage to continue the hot streak. Once Iron Fist is cast and all four Hell’s Kitchen heroes have debuted, “The Defenders” – much like “The Avengers” on the big screen – could be a game-changer.
Much like Marvel and Netflix’s commercial team-up itself.